Mountains in prophecy [pdf]
In an appendix included in Prophecy viewed in respect to its distinctive nature: its special function, and proper interpretation [T. and T. Clark, 1856, pp. 496-497.], Patrick Fairbairn supported his claim that the mountains of prophecy represent kingdoms. He wrote:
The first passage, probably, in which a kingdom is presented under the symbol of a physical elevation, or a mountain, is the historical notice in 2 Sam. v. 12, where it is said of David’s interest as king, “And David perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom:” it had now sensibly become a conspicuous thing, a height in the earth. Writing in Ps. xxx., and at a later period, of the vicissitudes which he experienced on the throne, he says, “Lord by thy favour thou didst make my mountain to stand strong; thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.” In Ps. lxviii. 16, the hill of Zion, which had already been chosen as the seat of the kingdom, is taken for an emblem of it, and the other and loftier, but more remote hills, stand for images of the rival kingdoms of the heathen: “Why leap ye, ye high hills? This is the hill God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever.” In Ps. xlvi. 2, the mountains are spoken of as “shaking in the midst of the sea,” and the figure is explained by the introduction of the reality at ver. 6, where it is said, “The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved,” or rather shook. The hill of Zion with its fortress is identified with the kingdom of God, and addressed as symbolically one with it in Micah iv. 8, “And thou, O tower of the flock, the stronghold (hill) of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion, the kingdom also shall come to the daughter of Zion”—compare also Dan. ix. 16, 20. In Ps. lxxvi., the greater heathen kingdoms are denoted, not only mountains, but “prey-mountains,” as being apparently raised to the gigantic height they attained for the purpose only of laying waste and destroying others. Babylon, in particular, is called by Jeremiah, chap. li. 25, “a destroying mountain, that destroyed all the earth”—not as Bishop Newton interprets, vol. i., chap. 10, “on account of the great height of its walls and towers, its palaces and temples,” but from its lofty and domineering altitude among the political eminences of the world. And hence, quite naturally, in the Apocalypse, which gathers up and applies the symbolical imagery of the earlier prophets, in a whole series of passages mountains are used as the familiar designation of kingdoms, chap. vi. 14, viii. 8, xvi. 20, etc.
Is it true that the mountains mentioned in prophecy represent kingdoms? Although David’s kingdom was exulted, this may not be connected with any mountain. And, before he received his kingdom, he had the promise of it. [1 Samuel 16:1, 10-13]
The connection between the promises of God and mountains long preceded David; it is seen in the blessing that Jacob gave to his son Joseph, [Genesis 49:26] and in the blessing of the tribes of Joseph by Moses, which refers to “the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills.” [Deuteronomy 33:15] What else could these “precious things of the lasting hills” be, but the promises inherited by Jacob, that were assigned to Joseph?
The promises given to David, of a kingdom, and later the promise that one of his descendants would inherit his throne, which would be an everlasting kingdom, are great metaphorical mountains. The mountains are durable, and exist over a far greater span of time than human lifetimes, and the duration of human kingdoms or dynasties, which tend to be relatively short-lived; mountains therefore, by their very nature, would be unsuitable as symbols of human kingdoms, which flourish briefly, and then disappear. The Bible uses grass, and flowers, to represent men. “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.” [Psalm 103:15]
In Psalm 36:6, David connected God’s righteousness with mountains; he said, “Thy righteousness is like the great mountains.” God’s word is enduring, and is compared to mountains of rock.
Paul said the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel. [Romans 1:17] The promise to Abraham, that “in thee shall all nations be blessed,” Paul referred to as the gospel, Galatians 3:8. Abraham was also promised the land of Canaan, and its mountains. Isaiah foretold the coming of a seed who would inherit the mountains, from the tribe of Judah.
And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of my mountains: and mine elect shall inherit it, and my servants shall dwell there.
The mountains represent the things inherited by Christ and the saints. Christ has inherited all the promises of God, including the eternal things that the promised land and its mountains represent. Paul said, “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” [2 Corinthians 1:20] The high mountains are the better promises of the gospel. [Hebrews 8:6]