OT Baal-hermon, Site of Banias/Caesarea Philippi?

December 23, 2016

1 Chronicles 5 gives a summary of the settlement of the eastern tribes of Israel: Reuben, Gad and Manasseh. Verse 23 states, “Now the sons of the half-tribe of Manasseh lived in the land; from Bashan to Baal-hermon and Senir and Mount Hermon they were numerous.”

The ISBE has an interesting suggestion: “The Baal-hermon of 1 Ch 5:23 lay somewhere E. of the Jordan, near to Mount Hermon. It may possibly be identical with Bāniās.”¹

Caesarea Philippi/Banias. Some scholars identify this with Old Testament Baal-hermon. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Caesarea Philippi/Banias. Some scholars identify this site with Old Testament Baal-hermon. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Our photo features Banias, better known to most Bible students as Caesarea Philippi, because it was in this region that Peter made his great confession of faith in Jesus as Messiah, the Divine Son of God, and Jesus promised to build His church (Matt. 16:13-20). On the lower left you can see the grotto of the god Pan, where idolatrous sacrifices were offered. To the right you can see niches carved into the face of the rock; these formerly contained idols. Banias/Caesarea Philippi is located at the foot of Mt. Hermon.

From here flows the Banias River, which merges with other sources to our south (about-face from perspective in photo).

Banias River, a major source of the Jordan. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Banias River, a major source of the Jordan. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

We know that Banias/Caesarea Philippi was a site for pagan worship in the AD 1st century. There is evidence that this had been a center of idolatrous worship for centuries prior to Jesus’ ministry, reaching centuries back to Old Testament times.

Here are some further sources which suggest identification of Old Testament Baal-hermon with Banias/Caesarea Philippi (use of bold type for emphasis mine, LM):

Baal-hermon . . . probably the present Bânjas, at the foot of Hermon.”²

“Baal-Gad—lord of fortune, or troop of Baal, a Canaanite city in the valley of Lebanon at the foot of Hermon, hence called Baal-hermon (Judge. 3:3; 1 Chr. 5:23), near the source of the Jordan (Josh. 13:5; 11:17; 12:7). It was the most northern point to which Joshua’s conquests extended. It probably derived its name from the worship of Baal. Its modern representative is Banias

Caesarea Philippi—a city on the northeast of the marshy plain of el-Huleh, 120 miles north of Jerusalem, and 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, at the “upper source” of the Jordan, and near the base of Mount Hermon. It is mentioned in Matt. 16:13 and Mark 8:27 as the northern limit of our Lord’s public ministry. According to some its original name was Baal-Gad (Josh. 11:17), or Baal-Hermon (Judg. 3:3; 1 Chr. 5:23), when it was a Canaanite sanctuary of Baal. It was afterwards called Panium or Paneas, from a deep cavern full of water near the town. This name was given to the cavern by the Greeks of the Macedonian kingdom of Antioch because of its likeness to the grottos of Greece, which were always associated with the worship of their god Pan. Its modern name is Banias. Here Herod built a temple, which he dedicated to Augustus Caesar. This town was afterwards enlarged and embellished by Herod Philip, the tetrarch of Trachonitis, of whose territory it formed a part, and was called by him Caesarea Philippi, partly after his own name, and partly after that of the emperor Tiberius Caesar.4


Click on photos for larger view.

¹Orr, J., Nuelsen, J. L., Mullins, E. Y., & Evans, M. O. (Eds.). (1915). Baal-Hermon. In The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 347). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.

2 Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 3, p. 442). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

³Easton’s Bible Dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

4 Ibid.

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