Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Geographical Coincidences in Scripture: Mount Hermon

In previous posts, I have been surveying some examples of undesigned coincidences in the Old Testament Scriptures (see here, here, here and here), and discussing their value in corroborating aspects of Biblical history. In this post, I want to introduce a geographical coincidence in Scripture.

Let us turn to Deuteronomy 3:1-9, which narrates Israel's defeat of Og, the king of Bashan:
"Then we turned and went up the way to Bashan. And Og the king of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. 2 But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not fear him, for I have given him and all his people and his land into your hand. And you shall do to him as you did to Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.’ 3 So the Lord our God gave into our hand Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people, and we struck him down until he had no survivor left. 4 And we took all his cities at that time—there was not a city that we did not take from them—sixty cities, the whole region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. 5 All these were cities fortified with high walls, gates, and bars, besides very many unwalled villages. 6 And we devoted them to destruction, as we did to Sihon the king of Heshbon, devoting to destruction every city, men, women, and children. 7 But all the livestock and the spoil of the cities we took as our plunder. 8 So we took the land at that time out of the hand of the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, from the Valley of the Arnon to Mount Hermon 9 (the Sidonians call Hermon Sirion, while the Amorites call it Senir)..."
Take careful note of verse 9, in which an incidental mention is made in passing of a certain Mount Hermon, which, we are told, is called Sirion by the Sidonians. This is a curious fact to mention, because Mount Hermon is very far away from Sidon. In fact, it doesn't even appear to have belonged to Sidon, but to the king of Bashan.

Let's flip over to Judges 18:1-7:
"In those days there was no king in Israel. And in those days the tribe of the people of Dan was seeking for itself an inheritance to dwell in, for until then no inheritance among the tribes of Israel had fallen to them. 2 So the people of Dan sent five able men from the whole number of their tribe, from Zorah and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land and to explore it. And they said to them, “Go and explore the land.” And they came to the hill country of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there. 3 When they were by the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. And they turned aside and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What is your business here?” 4 And he said to them, “This is how Micah dealt with me: he has hired me, and I have become his priest.” 5 And they said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.” 6 And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.” 7 Then the five men departed and came to Laish and saw the people who were there, how they lived in security, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and unsuspecting, lacking nothing that is in the earth and possessing wealth, and how they were far from the Sidonians and had no dealings with anyone."
Following the conquest of this city by Israel, its name is changed from Laish to Dan.

Pay careful attention to verse 7, in which we learn that the people of Laish lived "after the manner of the Sidonians." This suggests that this city, in early times, in fact belonged to Sidon and was most likely inhabited by Sidonians.

Now, let's put the pieces together. Consider again the first text we looked at from Deuteronomy 3, in which we read the incidental remark about Mount Hermon. Hermon, we know, was close to the ancient Roman city of Caesarea Philippi, which lay at its southwestern base.

The famous fourth century church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, in his Ecclesiastical History (book 7, chapter 17), informs us:
"At Cæsarea Philippi, which the Phœnicians call Paneas, springs are shown at the foot of the Mountain Paneas, out of which the Jordan flows."
Thus, we learn that Caesarea Philippi was the modern name of Paneas. Eusebius also places Dan/Laish in the vicinity of Paneas, at the fourth mile on the route to Tyre.

Thus, it would seem, that while Mount Hermon was geographically distant from Sidon, at its foot there was dwelling a Sidonian colony, who spoke the Sidonian language. This in turn illuminates for us why mention is made in Deuteronomy 3:9 of the Sidonian name for the mountain, which was Sirion.

The distance and disconnectedness of the texts from which this conclusion may be drawn again suggests a narrative based on truth, rather than a fictionalized account.

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