🔼The name Hermon: Summary
- Designated, Fishing-For-People
- From the verb חרם (haram), to designate or consign to the afterlife.
🔼The name Hermon in the Bible
The name Hermon belongs to a mountain on the extreme of the territory of the Amorites, on the east of the Jordan; the other extreme was marked by the valley of Arnon. The forces of Israel conquered this territory at the end of the wilderness years, as an interlude to the invasion of Canaan (Deuteronomy 3:8). At the time of this invasion, the area at the foot of mount Hermon appears to have been peopled by Hivites, and was known as Mizpeh (Joshua 11:3), and as the valley of Lebanon (Joshua 11:17). At the end of the campaign, mount Hermon remained the eastern-most point of the conquered area (Joshua 12:1, 13:11), and its area was settled by the half-tribe of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 5:23).
Mount Hermon was known for its proverbial beauty. The Psalmist exclaims that Tabor and Hermon shout for joy at the name of YHWH (Psalm 89:12), and that the dwelling together of brothers is as pleasant as the dew of Hermon, coming down upon the mountains of Zion (Psalm 133:3). The Groom of the Song of Solomon declares the Bride altogether beautiful, and invites her to come along with him, from Lebanon and from the summit of Senir and Hermon (Song of Solomon 4:8).
In Deuteronomy 3:9 we read that the Sidonians called this mountain Sirion, and the Amorites called it Senir. The Hebrews named this mountain Hermon, but it also appears to have been known as Sion (Deuteronomy 4:48).
We don't know much about the features of mount Hermon, apart from it being very beautiful. In Psalm 42:6, our name occurs in plural: חרמונים (hermonim), which usually indicates people who live there. The context, however, seems to call for a geographical location. The King James Version solves this conundrum by applying the word for land ("from the land of the Jordan") also to the Hermonites, and reads "from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites". Other translations and most commentators feel that this plural form reflects the multiple peaks of the Hermon complex, and insert words like "the peaks of" (NAS) or "the heights of" (NIV). BDB Theological Dictionary even proposes that the names Senir and Hermon are not different names of the same mountain but proper names of its different peaks, but there's no evidence for this either way.
🔼Etymology of the name Hermon
The name Hermon comes from the complicated verb חרם (haram), meaning to designate something or someone to one the two possible ways the afterlife can be enjoyed:
The verb חרם (haram) describes to separate something from its natural economy and consign it to the afterlife. In practice this may either mean to grab hold of something and utterly obliterate it forever, or else set it aside for its forever keeping or some special sacred service (hence the word "harem").
The noun חרם (herem) may either refer to the act of designating something to the afterlife, or the item so designated. Perhaps a second but identical noun (or else this same noun) describes a fishing net. Such a net is of course an item with which fish are extracted from their natural economy and designated their afterlife.
The ון (waw-nun) upon which our name ends is the common nominal formation that localizes or personifies the core idea of a root.
For a meaning of the name Hermon, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Sacred Mountain, but it should be observed that the mountain-part is not technically contained in our name. BDB Theological Dictionary translates our name the same way, but with clarifying italics: Sacred Mountain.
As a rare exception, Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) forgoes his own interpretation and rattles off a small list of suggestion made by other theologians. Few of these appear to actually translate our name, and most submit interpretations out of the blue to a more or less degree: Simonis says Firm Fort, Clerico says High Mountain, and Abulfeda (the famous one?) thought the name Hermon designated Mountain Of Snow. Of Jones' sources, only the French Benedictine monk Antoine Augustin Calmet seems to have dared to properly interpret our name and relates it to the familiar Greek word αναθημα (anathema), which indeed conveys the similar duality of either something dedicated to God (Luke 21:5), or else forever accursed (Romans 9:3).
Equally enticing is of course the possibility that mount Hermon was named after the mission of those who peopled it, namely to be fishers of men (Jeremiah 16:16, Matthew 4:19).