Matthew associated notable events in the ministry of Jesus with mountains. His references to mountains are listed in the following table.
The metaphorical meaning of mountains as symbols of God’s promises and blessings is based upon the words of Jacob in Genesis 49:26 where he said, as he blessed Joseph:
The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills.
Mountains, rivers, valleys, hills, coasts, wilderness, desert, are all part of the land that God promised to give Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob. Belief was required for the Israelites to enter the land of promise. [Heb. 3:19] Jacob discovered that the things that must be believed, promises of spiritual blessings, are represented by mountains and hills.
The promises he received were lofty and spiritual, and so were high like high mountains, and also durable, or eternal, so he compared them to the “everlasting hills.”
The table below lists many prophecies that refer to mountains, with brief explanatory notes.
Some Old Testament prophecies seem to have been fulfilled in a literal manner, but others clearly have to be interpreted. Why are some literal, and others not? In prophecy, things of a spiritual nature are represented by symbols.
Here are some prophecies of Zechariah that are said to have been literally fulfilled by Jesus.
Jesus likely alluded to Zechariah’s prophecies, when he said, “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” [Luke 21:20]
He continued, “Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”
The following is part of a commentary on Zechariah chapter 14, from: Talbot W. Chambers. The Prophet Zechariah. In: Johann Peter Lange. ed., A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: critical, doctrinal, and homiletical, Volume 14. Scribner, NY. 1874. pp. 109-113.
How prophetic mountains are perceived
Commentators have long claimed that mountains in prophecy represent nations or kingdoms, and it is true that God’s kingdom is often represented by a mountain. However, scripture supports a more fundamental interpretation of the mountains; they represent God’s blessings, and covenants, and promises.
Natural mountains may appear differently, when viewed from various directions, and prophecy is similar. Promises of blessing, and covenants, may be represented by mountains, which are prominent parts of the promised land. The kingdom of God is a prophecy, and a promise of blessing, and so it can be represented by a mountain.