The Location of Mount Hor

Mount Hor was the mountain of the tomb of Aaron, as recorded in Num 20:22-29. Its traditional location at least since Josephus is at Jebel Nebi Haroun, 30°19’2″N, 35°24’27″E, the highest mountain in the region of Petra. The biblical narrative, however, contradicts this tradition. The biblical narrative states that, after a month-long Israelite stay at Mount Hor, the king of Arad, hearing Israel was coming toward his kingdom, took some Israelites captive. Israel then went by the way of the Re(e)d Sea (Num 33:4) to Zalmonah, and then to Punon (Num 33:41-42). Since there is no mention of actual Israelite travel between the month-long stay at Mount Hor and the Aradite attack, it seems likely that Mount Hor was north of Meribah, and at the border, or at least within the reach of, the Aradite kingdom, blatantly contradicting the Graeco-Roman tradition. The possiblity that the Arabic name of Ain Salamanyeh, rendered by Musil as `Ajn es-Salamani, 30°49’29″N, 35°23’35″E, preserves the Septuagint’s Selmona and the Masoretic text’s Zalmonah, also militates against Jebel Nebi Haroun and argues for a Mount Hor just west of the southern tip of the Dead Sea. Selmona also fits with biblical Zalmonah in that it is both on the way to the Re(e)d Sea, which is concluded to be the same as Deut 2:8’s Aravah Road, and to Punon.  One also has to remember that the turning away from Edom in Num 20:21 was one from a king coming out with a strong hand toward the Quseima area, forcing the Israelites to take a route through the Maktesh Ramon to Mount Hor instead of one through Tamar/Ein Hatseva. After all, Kadesh was only at the edge of the political territory of the Edomite king while Mount Hor was near the border of the land of Edom (Num 20:16, 23). It is also a problem for Jebel Nebi Haroun that Mount Hor was at the border of the land of Edom, not of Mount Seir (the mountain ridge east of the Aravah). Mount Hor is therefore concluded to be just west of the southern tip of the Dead Sea, possibly at 31° 5’7″N, 35°19’43″E, as it is implied to be a prominent mount by its name and the fact it could be distinguished from other peaks in the same range.


Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

8 thoughts on “The Location of Mount Hor”

  1. The current tradition is wrong and does not fit into the biblical description, The entrance to Hamah, across from Qadesh (Biblical location of the battle of Qadesh is well known) or Num 33:38–39) or the Edge of the land of Edom.
    For evidence of the real location and the tomb see;

    1. That might be the northern Mount Hor (of Num 34:8), but it sure ain’t the southern Mount Hor (of Num 20), which I am discussing in this post. How did you get the Northern Kingdom to be in northern Lebanon, anyway? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and, at present time, I do not see any extraordinary evidence for your hypothesis. Until you present some, I have to consider your hypothesis to be nonsense.

    2. Anyway, the Battle of Kadesh is not mentioned in the Bible. The land of Edom is mainly southern Jordan, and how you got southern Jordan into Lebanon is a mystery to me.

  2. My research suggests Kadesh-barnea is present day Tel Masos and Mount Hor is Ras es-Suweira. Both are one day’s march from each other and both are within one day’s striking distance of Arad. The way to Atharim, from Tel Masos to Ras es Suweira I identify with a track going due E from Tell Masos and passing just south of Arad. As the crow flies, just E of Ras Suweira is Wadi Hatrura which is my candidate for Atharim. Edom’s Judaean border is in this region, from the lower part of the Dead Sea, going on to the W to the wilderness of Zin (Hebrew Sina), rendered in the Septuaginta and Latin Vulgate Bibles as Senna, which Ipropose is today’s Khasm Zannah “height of Zannah” (Josephus said Aaron’s sister was buried on Mount Zin). Tel Masos, my candidate for Kadesh-barnea, lies wedged in between Khasm Zannah to it SW and Sahel Fara’ to its NE. Farah being for me the wilderness of Paran/Zin that Kadesh was located in. Arad is one days march to the NE of Tel Masos. Most archaeologists understand the Iron Age One settlements in Canaan are Israel settling under Joshua. Tel Masos is the oldest and the biggest Iron Age One site in the Negeb, befitting Kadesh-barnea. The current favored site for Kadesh is Ain Qudeirat, which, for me is too far from Arad to be a bother to the Aradites (60 miles away or three days march). I found kadesh via my identifying Beerlahairoi with Lekiyah, N of Beersheba. N. of Lekiyah is Burdieh, biblical Bered, while south of Lekiyeh is Khasim Zanna and its nearby Tel Masos (Kadesh). Google Mattfeld Beerlahairoi for more details. Moses said Kadesh was a city in the edge of Edom’s border, not just a camp. Tel Masos has buildings from Middle Bronze II and Iron Age I (1200-1100 BC) and its population has been estimated at 900 people. Tel Mihl succeeded it in Iron Age II. Nevertheless in the 7th century BC a small fort was erected at Tel Masos. Its Arabic name is Meshash “cisterns” and refers to 5 rock hewn cisterns which collected water for the settlement. Perhaps these man-made water sources were recast as Moses hewing a rock several times and causing the waters of Meribah-Kadesh? Israel and her cattle drink from the waters. Cattle bones were found at Tel Masos (1/3rd sheep, 1/3rd goat, 13rd cattle in excavations at the site). The same ratios exist at Iron Age I Beersheba which co-existed with Tel Masos. Both sites have Philistine pottery and Moses mentuons Philistines in the Exodus travels being in Canaan. Rameses III mentioned in 1175 BC the Philistines settling in Canaan after a failed attempt to conquer Egypt.

    1. Walter Mattfeld! You were my inspiration for starting this blog and I thank you for your very often-helpful website. I tried to send an email to you about Omride Jericho:

      I do not think Tel Masos is a good location for Kadesh. It is too far North-it is to the North of the Beersheba Wadi and is to the North of Aroer, Khirbet Radum, and other 7th C BC sites. You as well as I know that the author of Numbers had little idea of the settlement patterns of the Iron I Negev. Kadesh is not mentioned in the Joshua 15 or 19 lists and is not associated with any place clearly in the Beersheba Valley. Tel Masos is well within the Promised Land and is much better identified with Hormah. Israelites under Moses voluntarily entering the promised land after the first Kadesh visit would simply be inconsistent with Numbers’ and Deuteronomy’s consistent themes; c.f. Numbers 20:24. Note that in Numbers, the Israelites do not set off towards Arad directly from Kadesh, but from Mount Hor. I view the Wilderness of Paran as being the Sinai Peninsula, outside the Beersheba Valley. Also, do you have any archaeological evidence for Kh. Burdieh N. of Tel Halif as being settled in the Iron Age? As no permanent settled population is ever implied as living at Kadesh in the Bible, I do not view Kadesh’s isolated mention as an “ir” as indicative of a city as opposed to an encampment.

      Also, Tel ‘Ira, not Tel Mihl, succeeded Masos in Iron II.

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