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No. 16: Additional Reflections on the Dew of Hermon

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 16
August, 1990
Copyright 1990, Biblical Horizons

In an earlier article in Biblical Horizons , while examining the biblical symbolism of dew, I noted the parallel in Psalm 133 between the dew upon Mount Hermon and the oil poured upon the head of Aaron. Both the dew of Hermon and the oil of ordination are compared to the pleasantness of unity among the brethren. Recently, I have learned a few more details about Hermon itself, details which give additional richness to the parallelism of Psalm 133. Essentially, I wish to answer the question, Why is oil on the high priest like dew on Mount Hermon? Why not like the dew on Mount Sinai or Mount Tabor? (Psalm 133:3 also says that the unity of the brethren is like dew on Zion. This is a more obvious image, given the associations of Mount Zion.)

The answer becomes apparent when we learn some facts about Mount Hermon. It is located in far north of Israel, north of Dan and east of Tyre, nearly as far north as Damascus. It is one of the highest points in the region. Significantly, it is snow-capped, and the dew that descends on its heights is in marked contrast to the aridity of the surrounding areas. Additionally, Hermon is a major source of the Jordan River. When the ice caps thaw, water from Hermon flows down to water the whole land.

This suggests several biblical-theological connections. First, the waters flowing through the land from Mount Hermon reminds us of the four rivers flowing from Eden to the four corners of the earth. Second, this association with Eden makes it highly appropriate for the Psalmist to compare the oil of Aaron’s ordination with the dew of Hermon. Just as the oil flows from Aaron’s head down over his garments, so also the dew of Hermon flows down throughout the land. Aaron is Israel’s point of contact with Paradise: Israel enjoys the benefits of Aaron’s ordination and access to the Holy of Holies, just as they enjoy the life-giving waters that flow from Hermon. The waters of Hermon refresh the land just as the Spirit, of which the oil is symbolic, refreshes those who are in union with the anointed one.

Another dimension to this symbolism is found in Matthew 16:13-20. Hermon is not mentioned in that passage, but Caesarea Philippi (modern Baniyas, Syria) was located at the foot of Hermon. In addition to the geographic connection, several details suggest the possibility that Psalm 133 provides part of the theological background for the incident recorded in Matthew 16:13-20. Peter’s confession is that Jesus is the "Christ," the anointed one, which recalls, among other things, the anointing of Aaron in Psalm 133:2. Moreover, Jesus speaks of building a new assembly, which would imply a new priesthood. The unity of this new assembly will be guaranteed by the True Anointed One, just as the priest united the Old Covenant Church.

More speculatively, we might find in Matthew 16 a connection between the Paradise imagery of Hermon and the fact that the Church is the seed form of the New Heavens and New Earth. Christ is the Greater Aaron, and the Spirit Who anointed Him without measure has been poured out upon His Church, His Mount Hermon. And from the Church it flows to the four corners of the earth.