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.