Mountains in prophecy [pdf]
Mountains are often referred to in the prophecies of scripture. The symbolic meaning of the promised land is illustrated in God’s blessing of Jacob. In Jacob’s blessing of Joseph, his reference to the height of the mountains suggests elevated ideas, and thinking in a higher mode. His reference to the perpetual duration of mountains and hills suggests they represent things that are eternal, and spiritual in nature.
When Jacob left his father’s house, he spent a night at Bethel, where he dreamed of a ladder whose top reached to heaven, and God stood above it. God made several promises to Jacob; he said, “the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” [Genesis 28:13-14]
The ladder set up on the earth with angels ascending and descending on it, bringing messages to man from heaven, was connected with the promise of the land. In centuries following the land was associated with many revelations of God.
At the end of his life, Jacob gave a prophecy about the various destinies of each of his twelve sons. Of Joseph he said:
The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.
The blessings included things of heaven, and things of the earth.
On the verse quoted above, Lange’s commentary on Genesis says: 
The blessings of Joseph shall extend to the bounds of the ancient hills; that is, they shall rise higher than the eternal hills, that lift themselves above the earth,–an allusion to the glorious mountains, most fruitful as well as beautiful, in Ephraim and Manasseh, in Bashan and in Gilead.
Jacob’s blessing of Joseph suggests that a higher meaning should be attached to the words; he alludes to spiritual blessings. He spoke of blessings that are both long-lasting, and high, like mountains. That is, eternal, spiritual blessings, and promises.
A similar blessing was pronounced upon the tribe of Joseph by Moses. [Deuteronomy 33:13-16]
When Israel came out of Egypt, the mountains “skipped like rams.” [Psalm 114:4] The mountains which skipped like rams, and the little hills which skipped like lambs, were not literal mountains and hills; when those animals skip, they become completely airborne! The meaning is, our thinking about the exodus, and Israel’s history, needs to leap free of earthly constraints, and literalism, to comprehend their spiritual, universal application.
In David’s psalm, the tribes of Israel, and the nation of Israel may be represented by mountains. They moved their camp from place to place, in the wilderness.
The name Mount Zion was originally applied to Mount Hermon, on the border between Syria and Lebanon. [Deuteronomy 4:48] Later, Zion was the name of the hill where the temple was built in Jerusalem.
Mount Sinai, too, “skipped” from the desert to Jerusalem, when Paul applied the label “Sinai” to Jerusalem in his letter to the Galatians. On Mount Sinai, God made a covenant with the Israelites, which that mountain represents in the New Testament. Paul wrote: “Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.” [Galatians 4:24-25]
Several other scriptures speak of mountains melting, or moving, when Israel was in the wilderness. [Judges 5:5; Psalm 68:7-8; Habakkuk 3:6]
On Mount Nebo, Moses looked over to the promised land, to which he was denied admission because he had struck the rock which yielded water, instead of speaking to it as God had told him. [Numbers 20:8-12]
The blessings of keeping the law were proclaimed to Israel on Mt. Gerizim. [Deuteronomy 11:29; Joshua 8:30-32] The cursing was proclaimed from Mt. Ebal. [Joshua 8:33-35]
Caleb, one of the men Moses had sent to spy out the promised land, claimed a mountain for his possession, when he settled in the promised land. Caleb said:
Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; … And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance.
David said, God’s righteousness is like great mountains. [Psalm 36:6] Paul said the gospel reveals God’s righteousness. [Romans 1:16-17]
In Daniel, The kingdom of God is represented by a stone cut without hands which became a mountain that filled the earth. [Daniel 2:35]
Isaiah said Mount Zion and Jerusalem would be raised up, and established in the top of the mountains. [Isaiah 2:2] The sense in which Jerusalem and Mount Zion are raised up is evident in the New Testament, where Jerusalem is “the heavenly Jerusalem,” [Hebrews 12:22] and “the mother of us all.” [Galatians 4:26]
Isaiah wrote: “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” [Isaiah 2:3]
Isaiah admonished those who bring good tidings to go up into the high mountain. “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!” [Isaiah 40:9]
Isaiah encouraged those bringing good tidings to look for a higher, spiritual meaning in Israel’s promises.
Again, Isaiah writes, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” [Isaiah 52:7]
On Mount Carmel, Elijah challenged all the prophets of Baal, to determine whose sacrifice would be accepted. Elijah prayed, and the rain finally came, ending three and a half years of drought in Israel. He turned the hearts of the people of Israel to the true God. [1 Kings 18]
Ezekiel refers to “a mountain of the height of Israel.” He wrote, “For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things.” [Ezekiel 20:40]
Ezekiel said, God’s sheep “wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill.” [Ezekiel 34:6] His flock was “scattered upon all the face of the earth.” God will seek his sheep, and “will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers.” [vs. 13] “I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.” [Ezekiel 34:14]
Isaiah wrote: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:” [Isaiah 40:4] Isaiah did not mean the earth will be flat and featureless; the mountains and valleys are symbolic. He refers to a highway being prepared in the desert, to prepare the way for many people to find the way to God. Isaiah’s prophecy about every mountain being made low, and crooked places being made straight, suggests that the obstacles and unsolved problems that mountains represent will be overcome, mysteries will be solved, and misunderstood passages of the scriptures will be explained.
The mountains in prophecy are metaphors that represent mysteries of the kingdom of God; when they are interpreted the prophecies are made clear to everyone, Zechariah wrote: “Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” [Zechariah 4:7] A puzzle or mystery that is solved is no longer a mountain, but a plain!
In Revelation 6, every mountain and island is moved out of their places. The displaced mountains and islands represent prophecies that are misinterpreted. The book of Revelation was written on Patmos, which is an island in the Aegean. It is represented by an island, that is moved out of its position. Like other prophecies, Revelation is misinterpreted.
Just as Sinai was symbolic of the Mosaic legislation, Jesus taught people on a mountain. His teachings are included in the ‘Sermon on the Mount.’ The mountain is unnamed, but it was one of the “mountains of Israel.”
Mountains are prominent in the Olivet Discourse. The mount of Olives gives its name to the prophecy. Jesus said, when you see the abomination of desolation, “Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains.” [Matthew 24:16]
Most people reading this think he meant, flee for self-preservation. But Jesus also said, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” [Luke 17:33] Clearly his warning to flee to the mountains was not for self-preservation.
When invading armies from all nations come against Jerusalem, in the day of the Lord, [Zechariah 14:1-2] the mount of Olives cleaves in the midst. [Zechariah 14:4] Here, the Mount of Olives represents Olivet Discourse of Jesus. The two opposite interpretations, preterism and dispensationalism, are the two halves of the mountain moved out of their positions. The saints should flee to the valley between those flawed interpretations that are represented by displaced mountains.
Isaiah said the mountains will be soaked, or melted, with the blood
of the armies of the nations. [Isaiah 34:3] When the nations come
against the saints, and against the mountains of Israel, fire from
heaven falls upon them. [Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 20:9]
They all fall by the sword. [Ezekiel 39:23] The mountains are thrown down. [Ezekiel 38:20] The invaders fall upon the mountains of Israel. [Ezekiel 39:4]
Ezekiel addressed a prophecy to the mountains of Israel. He said an enemy had claimed the mountains as a possession, and had made them desolate, and swallowed them up on every side, so they were “taken up in the lips of talkers,” and were “an infamy of the people.” They had become “a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about.” [Ezekiel 36:2-4]
The hordes of Gog and Magog come against the mountains of Israel. [Ezekiel 38:8] In Joel, the members of a great army leap on the tops of mountains. [Joel 2:5]
The prophet Micah addressed the mountains, and said: “the LORD hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel.” [Micah 6:2]
The mountains of Israel, representing the promises of God, will be possessed by Israel, or the saints. [Ezekiel 36:12] The mountains will become fruitful. [Ezekiel 36:8] The mountains will sing. [Isaiah 44:23; 49:13; 55:12] The mountains will “shoot forth branches,” and “yield fruit to my people of Israel.” “I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it.”
These mountains represent the invisible spiritual things promised to the saints. Understanding prophecy is one of them. The enemy will be overcome. “And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD.” [Ezekiel 38:21]
Joel wrote: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth out of the house of the LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim.” [Joel 3:18]
When Jesus spoke of new wine in his parable, it represented new teaching, and new understanding. [Matthew 9:17] The mountains of Israel represent revelations of God, and promises, and covenants. The promises of God are the mountains that Jesus meant we should flee to.
1. Johann Peter Lange, Philip Schaff. A
commentary on the Holy Scriptures: critical, doctrinal, and
homilectical, with special reference to ministers and students, Volume
1. C. Scribner & co., 1869, p. 659.
Copyright © 2011 by Douglas E. Cox
All Rights Reserved.