The Mountain of the Height of Israel

April 11, 2024

How does the Bible emphasize a point? There are no underlines, italics, or bold type. The main way the Bible expresses emphasis is by repeating itself or, similarly, by telling us information that we already know. Another way the Bible emphasizes a point is by inserting a word or phrase into a sentence that appears to serve no purpose. It doesn’t seem to be adding anything to the meaning of the verse. This calls our attention to what seems to be superfluous. Ironically, it is these words that usually contain the most central teachings of the passage.

My Holy Mountain

The opening phrase of our passage is:

For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel

The phrase “My holy mountain” in Hebrew is har kodshi. The related phrase, “His holy mountain,” referring to God, is har kodsho. Combined, these two descriptions of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem appear a total of 18 times in the Bible. On a few occasions, the word “Zion” is added to this phrase. But even without the word “Zion,” it is always clear from context that the “holy mountain” in question is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. 

The same is true of our verse here in Ezekiel 20. The verses that follow describe all of Israel serving God, bringing sacrifices, offerings, and incense:

I will accept you as fragrant incense when I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will be proved holy through you in the sight of the nations. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the land I had sworn with uplifted hand to give to your ancestors. (Ezekiel 20:41-42)

There is no doubt about the identity of the mountain in question. 

The High Mountain of Israel

Keeping in mind what I said about how the Bible uses extra words and phrases for the purpose of emphasis, the question that emerges from this careful reading of our verse is this. What is the meaning of the second phrase in the verse which goes on to describe the Temple Mount as “the high mountain of Israel”? This description is unique. Only in the book of Ezekiel is the Temple Mount described this way. What is the meaning of this phrase and why is it used here?

The Hebrew for this phrase is behar merom Yisrael. Behar means “on the mountain.” Merom is “high place of” or “height of,” and Yisrael, of course, is Israel. While many English Bibles render this phrase, “the high mountain of Israel,” a more precise translation is “the mountain of the height of Israel.” The word marom, “high place,” appearing here as merom, “high place of,” appears over 50 times in the Bible, and almost every time it refers to the heavens, the “high place” where God dwells, not a high place on Earth. 

The meaning of the word marom or merom is of something lofty and exalted, not merely high up like a mountain top. Which brings us to the meaning of our passage. Let’s look at these verses in their full context.

A rebuke of Israel

As for you, people of Israel, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Go and serve your idols, every one of you! But afterward you will surely listen to me and no longer profane my holy name with your gifts and idols. For on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord, there in the land all the people of Israel will serve me, and there I will accept them. There I will require your offerings and your choice gifts, along with all your holy sacrifices. I will accept you as fragrant incense when I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will be proved holy through you in the sight of the nations. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the land I had sworn with uplifted hand to give to your ancestors. There you will remember your conduct and all the actions by which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves for all the evil you have done. You will know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake and not according to your evil ways and your corrupt practices, you people of Israel, declares the Sovereign Lord. – Ezekiel 20:39-44

The verses just before and just after our verses remind Israel that they turned to false gods and worshipped them alongside God. This behavior leads directly to the downfall and exile of Israel. 

With this context in mind, we can now understand the meaning of the description of the Temple Mount as “the mountain of the height of Israel.”

Israel is exalted when they worship God alone

This passage is not just another of many prophecies in the Bible foretelling the return of Israel to their land and the reinstatement of the Temple worship. The point of this passage is different. Ezekiel is telling us that the prestige and exalted status of the nation of Israel will come about only when we are worshipping God fully. In other words, the Temple Mount is not only “my holy mountain,” where we serve God in the Temple. It is also “the mountain of the height of Israel.” It is only by virtue of the worship practiced on this mountain that Israel achieves its greatness and its lofty status among the nations. 

The lesson here is profound. The Jewish people have returned to our land. We have defended ourselves against unrelenting and genocidal enemies. We have built a flourishing economy. All these accomplishments are wonderful. But none of them are the source of the true glory of Israel. None of these worldly successes will place Israel as the most exalted of all nations, the beacon for all the peoples of the earth. It is only when Israel fully returns to the fullest expression of worship of God on His holy mountain, in the Temple, that the nation of Israel will also be elevated and revered among the nations of the world. 

The Temple Mount is the epicenter of worship of God, no doubt. As a result of creating this universal epicenter of worship, through the building of the Temple, the nation of Israel is raised to the highest status among the nations as well.

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Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

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