[b-hebrew] The Names for Mt. Hermon

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Jul 21 16:47:07 EDT 2008

The Names for Mt. Hermon
Deuteronomy 3: 9 sets forth a Sidonian name for Mt. Hermon, and an Amorite 
name for Mt. Hermon:
“which Hermon the Sidonians call Sirion, and the Amorites call it Senir–”
“Sirion” is sin-resh-yod-nun.  This could alternatively be transliterated 
into English as “Siryan” or “Saryan”, which are virtually the same as the 
following attestations in the secular history of the Late Bronze Age for names of 
Mt. Hermon:  “Siryanu” and “Sariyana”.  (Biblical Hebrew routinely either 
dropped, or at least did not overtly reflect in writing, vowel endings like the –
U and –A here.  The underlying match of this Biblical name to secular history 
is in fact perfect.)
Mt. Hermon is the highest mountain in greater Canaan.  Perhaps the original 
root of the various names for Mt. Hermon was S-R/sar.  In Hebrew, sar means to 
have power, as a prince.  In the Akkadian cuneiform of the Amarna Letters, sar 
meant “king”.  Each Egyptian pharaoh proudly called himself Sa-Ra, featuring 
the consonants S-R, meaning son of the sun-god, or the king.  Thus in many 
different ancient languages, sar/S-R had the connotation of being majestic or 
mighty or highest, like a great king, with the king being the highest person in 
the land.  It would be logical for Mt. Hermon, the highest mountain in greater 
Canaan, to be called S-R, or the S-R place, meaning “highest place”.  In 
order to make a verb into a noun suitable for a place name, the west 
Semitic-speaking predecessors of the Hebrews often added a T/tav or an N/nun at the end of 
the verb.  Thus the S-R place (Mt. Hermon/highest place) could come out 
either as S-R-t, or S-R-n, meaning the highest place.
S-R-n, meaning “highest place”/Mt. Hermon, is quite close to 
S-R-Y-N/sin-resh-yod-nun/ “Sirion”, which at Deuteronomy 3: 9 is stated to be the Sidonian 
word for Mt. Hermon.  The spelling S-R-Y-N may reflect how S-R-n came to be 
pronounced, even though originally, the name for Mt. Hermon may have been simply 
S-R-n.  That is to say, S-R-Y-N may have derived from the older S-R-n as one 
of the oldest names for Mt. Hermon, prior to the days of the Hebrews. 
An early alternative to S-R-n, as a very old name for Mt. Hermon, may then 
logically have been S-R-t, which would have had the identical meaning:  “highest 
place”.  That S-R-t is what is found at item #108 on the Egyptian pharaoh 
Thutmosis III list of geographical place-names of places in and near Galilee in 
the mid-15th century BCE.  See:
Item #108 currently is thought to unidentified, because it is not “Sirion”/“
Saryan”, per Deuteronomy 3: 9.  But once the –T/tav ending is viewed as being 
identical in meaning to a –N/nun ending, S-R-t can be seen as being a variant 
of S-R-n, with S-R-n then being a close match (though lacking the yod) to “
Sirion”/“Saryan” at Deuteronomy 3: 9. 
Greatly strengthening this theory of the case is the immediately preceding 
item on the Tuthmosis III list, #107, which is Amq.  That must certainly be Amq 
(per p. 74 of Anson Rainey, “The Sacred Bridge” (2006)), which is the Beqaa 
Valley, frequently referred to in the Amarna Letters as Amq (sometimes with a 
standard -U ending).  It is eminently logical that after the Beqaa Valley/Amq, 
one would find listed the tallest mountain in greater Canaan, which towers 
over the Beqaa Valley:  Mt. Hermon.  (Item #77 appears to be a generic listing of 
“mountains”, so we know that sometimes mountains were recorded on this 
topographical list, though most of the list consists of names of towns in Galilee.)
So in the beginning, in the 15th century BCE before there were any Hebrews, 
the two local names for Mt. Hermon may have originally been S-R-n and S-R-t, 
which had identical meanings:  “highest [S-R] place [-n, or –t, as generic 
endings]”.  On this analysis, a close match to the S-R-n variant is recorded (many 
centuries later) at Deuteronomy 3: 9, as “Sirion”/“Saryan”, and the S-R-t 
variant is right there as item #108 on the Tuthmosis III list.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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