Ararat in the Hebrew Bible

Horses packing gear to High Camp.

We arise to a cool and breezy dawn. Some lingering sprinkles fall throughout the morning as we pack our gear. Everything is folded, rolled, tied, and zipped. Today we move from Low to High Camp.

Wilkerson appears for breakfast. He is obviously unwell. Despite this condition, he is packed and ready. I admire his courage.

Those of us who move by foot depart after breakfast. Mustafa, the horses, and the horsemen will follow. They will pass us on the trail.

Having covered this ground on the previous day, I fall obediently into line behind Celîl. There, I consider (among other things), the four mentions of Ararat in the Hebrew Bible.

The first mention is the most famous. Here we discover Ararat as the place where the ark of Noah (a personal name meaning “rest”) came to “rest.” The wordplay is irresistible. In the end, Noah experiences the “rest” that the reader has been anticipating since he was first named in Gen 5:29. Where is this relief? In the mountains.

“And on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat” (Gen 8:4).

Ararat, in this case, is placed in a construct relationship with the plural noun, “mountains.” Ararat is not a single mountain but the name of a mountainous range or region.

The second and third mentions of Ararat in the Hebrew Bible appear in parallel texts from 2 Kings 19:37 and Isaiah 37:38. The context here concerns the assassination of an Assyrian king and the subsequent escape of the assassins.

“And he (Sennacherib) was worshipping in the house of Nisrok his god. His sons, Adrammelek and Sar-eser, killed him with a sword and they escaped to the land of Ararat” (2 Kings 19:37).

In this case, Ararat is placed in relationship with the noun describing a land or area. Ararat is a region.

The fourth and final mention of Ararat in the Hebrew Bible springs from the hand of the prophet Jeremiah.

“Erect a standard on the ground, sound a shofar in the midst of the nations, prepare the nations for war against her. Summon against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz” (Jeremiah 51:27).

In this final case, Ararat modifies the term for kingdom. It is a political entity, similar to Minni and Ashkenaz, fierce people groups from the north.

I scramble up the rocky scree. The trail is not a simple one. How is Ararat a mountain, a land, and a people-group? And how does all of this connect to the stratovolcano called Ağrı Dağı?

There is plenty to think about as High Camp swings into view. It is cool and breezy. Snow patches, like frosting, are smeared here and there.