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Mount Hor

HOR, MOUNT hôr (הֹ֥ר הָהָֽר, Hor, the mountain). A mountain on the border of the land of Edom at the foot of which the Israelites encamped on their journey from Kadesh to the Promised Land (Num 20:22, 23). It was at Mount Hor that God told Moses and Aaron that because of their sin at Meribah Aaron would die on Mount Hor in the sight of the people of Israel. The two men ascended the mount with Eleazar, Aaron’s son, and there Moses removed Aaron’s high priestly garments and put them on Eleazar; and Aaron died, 123 years old. This was in the fortieth year after Israel had come out of Egypt (Num 33:33-37). In Deuteronomy 10:6 it is said that Aaron died at Moserah, the site of which is unknown.

According to Josephus (Antiq. IV. 4, 7) Mount Hor was one of the mountains surrounding Petra, Jebel Neby Harun, a mountain 4,800 ft. high, c. half way between the S end of the Dead Sea and the N end of the Gulf of Akabah. It is the highest of the mountains in Edom. On the top is a tomb which is said to belong to Aaron, but the upper part at least is a Mohammedan tomb. Mohammedan tradition has it that this is the Mount Hor where Aaron is buried.

It is doubtful, however, that Jebel Neby Harun is Mount Hor. For one thing, it is in the middle of Edom and not on its border as was Mount Hor. It is also too far E of Kadesh. The mountain is moreover too high to witness from below what went on above and too rugged for the three men to ascend it. Moreover, since Edom denied the request of the Israelites to pass through its territory, and came out against Israel with a strong force of men, it is not likely that Israel would encamp at a mountain in the middle of Edom.

Jebel Madurah, a mountain c. fifteen m. NE of Kadesh, on the NW border of Edom, is a more likely site. Its topography is such that Israel could observe the ceremony on the top. It is on the direct route from Kadesh to Moab.

2. Another mountain peak with the same name (Num 34:7, 8). It was to mark the N boundary of Israel’s promised inheritance. Its exact location is unknown, but it was undoubtedly a prominent peak in the Lebanon range. Mount Hermon and Jebel Akkar, a NE spur of Lebanon, have been suggested. It was in N Pal. between the Mediterranean and the approach to Hamath.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(hor ha-har; literally, "Hor, the mountain"):

1. Not Jebel Neby Harun:

(1) a tradition identifying this mountain with Jebel Neby Harun may be traced from the time of Josephus (Ant., IV, iv, 7) downward. Eusebius, Onomasticon (s.v. Hor) favors this identification, which has been accepted by many travelers and scholars. In HDB, while noting the fact that it has been questioned, Professor Hull devotes all the space at his disposal to a description of Jebel Neby Harun. It is now recognized, however, that this identification is impossible. Niebuhr (Reise nach Arabic, 238), Pocoke (Description of the East, I, 157), Robinson (BR, I, 185), Ewald (Hist. of Israel, II, 201, note), and others had pointed out difficulties in the way, but the careful discussion of Dr. H. Clay Trumbull (Kadesh Barnea, 127 ff) finally disposed of the claims of Jebel Neby Harun.

2. Suggested Identification:

From Nu 20:22; 33:37 we may perhaps infer that Mt. Hor, "in the edge of the land of Edom," was about a day’s journey from Kadesh. The name "Hor the mountain" suggests a prominent feature of the landscape. Aaron was buried there (Nu 20:28; De 32:50). It was therefore not in Mt. Seir (De 2:5), of which not even a foot-breadth was given to Israel. Jebel Neby Harun is certainly a prominent feature of the landscape, towering over the tumbled hills that form the western edges of the Edom plateau to a height of 4,800 ft. But it is much more than a day’s journey from Kadesh, while it is well within the boundary of Mt. Seir. The king of Arad was alarmed at the march to Mt. Hor. Had Israel marched toward Jebel Neby Harun, away to the Southeast, it could have caused him no anxiety, as he dwelt in the north.

3. Jebel Maderah:

This points to some eminence to the North or Northeast of Kadesh. A hill meeting sufficiently all these conditions is Jebel Maderah (see Mount Halak), which rises to the Northeast of `Ain qadis (Kadeshbarnea). It stands at the extreme Northwest boundary of the land of Edom, yet not within that boundary. Above the barrenness of the surrounding plain this "large, singular-looking, isolated chalk hill" rises "alone like a lofty citadel," "steep-sided" and "quite naked." Here the solemn transactions described in Nu 20:22 ff could have been carried out literally, "in the sight of all the congregation." While certainty is impossible, no more likely suggestion has been made.

(2) A mountain named only in Nu 34:7 f as on the North boundary of the land of Israel. No success has attended the various attempts made to identify this particular height. Some would make it Mt. Hermon (Hull, HDB, under the word); others Jebel Akkar, an outrunner on the Northeast of Lebanon (Furrer, ZDPV, VIII, 27), and others the mountain at the "knee of" Nahr el-Qasimiyeh (van Kasteren, Rev. Biblical, 1895, 30 f). In Eze 47:15 ha-derekh, should certainly be amended to chadhrakh, a proper name, instead of "the way." Possibly then Mt. Hor should disappear from Nu 34:7 f, and we should read, with slight emendation, "From the great sea ye shall draw a line for you as far as Hadrach, and from Hadrach ...."