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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

There is some uncertainty concerning the identity of the Amorites mentioned in the Bible, for the name ‘Amorite’ had a variety of usages in early Bible times. Non-biblical records suggest that the word meant ‘westerner’ and referred to the early Semitic peoples who migrated to ancient Babylonia from Western Mesopotamia and Syria. They conquered the formerly powerful kingdom of Ur, and soon spread their rule throughout Lower, Upper and Western Mesopotamia.

Later these Amorites migrated down into Palestine, and were well established in certain areas by the time Abraham arrived ( Genesis 14:7;  Genesis 14:13). They intermarried so widely with the original Canaanites that it became common practice to use the words ‘Canaanite’ and ‘Amorite’ interchangeably as names for the whole mixed population of Canaan ( Genesis 15:16;  Joshua 24:15;  Joshua 24:18).

This intermarriage may explain why the biblical records indicate that the Amorites were descended from Ham, whereas non-biblical records suggest they were descended from Shem (Semites). Because most of the original Canaanites were descendants of Ham, the Amorites who later became Canaanites could regard both Ham and Shem as their ancestors ( Genesis 10:1;  Genesis 10:6;  Genesis 10:15-16). Nevertheless, some Amorite tribal groups in Canaan maintained their distinct identity, as did other tribal groups ( Exodus 3:8;  Exodus 13:5;  Exodus 23:23;  Joshua 9:1;  Joshua 12:8).

Israel and the Amorites

Prior to Israel’s migration from Egypt to Canaan, the Amorite king Sihon had conquered all the Ammonite and Moabite territory east of the Jordan River as far south as the Arnon River. He made the former Moabite town Heshbon his capital ( Numbers 21:26). When Sihon went to war against the journeying Israelites, the Israelites overthrew his army and seized his territory ( Numbers 21:21-25). They also seized the adjoining northern territory of Bashan, which was ruled by another Amorite king ( Numbers 21:33-35). This combined Amorite territory east of Jordan later became the homeland of the Israelite tribes of Reuben, Gad and the eastern half of Manasseh ( Numbers 32:33).

Amorite kings west of Jordan (i.e. in Canaan) likewise lost their territory to the conquering Israelites ( Joshua 5:1;  Joshua 10:5;  Joshua 11:1-8). This area became the homeland of the remaining nine and a half Israelite tribes.

At various times throughout their history, the Israelites obtained cheap labour by forcing the Amorites and other conquered peoples to work as slaves on government projects ( Judges 1:35;  1 Kings 9:20-21). In time the Amorites were absorbed into Israel and so disappeared as a distinct race. But their name survived as a general term for all the former inhabitants of Canaan ( 1 Kings 21:26;  2 Kings 21:11; cf.  Genesis 15:16).

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

Abraham assisted Mamre the Amorite in recovering his land from four powerful kings ( Genesis 14:1 ), but later the Amorites were a formidable obstacle to the Israelites' conquest and settlement of Canaan. They preferred living in the hills and valleys that flank both sides of the Jordan River. Sihon and Og, two Amorite kings, resisted the Israelites' march to Canaan as they approached east of the Jordan ( Numbers 21:21-35 ); but after the Israelite victory here, Gad, Reuben and half of Manasseh settled in the conquered area. These two early victories over the Amorites foreshadowed continued success against other Amorites to the west and were often remembered in both history (e.g.,  Deuteronomy 3:8;  Joshua 12:2;  Judges 11:19 ) and poetry ( Numbers 21:27-30;  Psalm 135:10-12;  Psalm 136:17-22 ). West of the Jordan, the Amorites lived in the hills along with the Hivites, Hittites, and Jebusites ( Numbers 13:29;  Joshua 11:3 ); but specific identification of Amorite cities cannot be certain since the term “Amorite” is used often as a very general name for all the inhabitants of Canaan, as is “Canaanite” (e.g.  Genesis 15:16;  Joshua 24:15;  Judges 6:10;  1 Kings 21:26 ). Five city-states in south Canaan formed an alliance instigated by the king of Jerusalem (Jebus, Jebusites) and intimidated an ally of Joshua, i.e. Gibeon. These “Amorites,” as they are called in the general sense, were defeated by Joshua's army and the Lord's “stones from heaven” ( Joshua 10:1-27 ). Amorites also were among those in the north who unsuccessfully united to repel the Israelites ( Joshua 11:1-15 ). Later, two other Amorite cities, Aijalon and Shaalbim, hindered the settlement of Dan near the Philistine border ( Judges 1:34-36 ).

Amorite culture laid at the root of Jerusalem's decadence, according to Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 16:3 ,Ezekiel 16:3, 16:45 ); and Amorite idolatry tainted the religion of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms ( 1 Kings 21:26;  2 Kings 21:11 ). Despite the Amorite resistance and poor influence, they were subjugated as slaves ( Judges 1:35;  1 Kings 9:20-21;  2 Chronicles 8:7-8 ). Their past hindrance is a subject of derision for the prophet Amos ( Amos 2:9-10 ). See also [[History And Religion Of Canaan]]; Jebusites; Babylon; Syria; Sihon .

Daniel C. Fredericks

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

AMORITES . An ancient people whose presence can be traced in Palestine and Syria and also in Babylonia. From   Deuteronomy 3:9 it appears that their language differed only dialectically from Canaanite, which was Hebrew. This view is confirmed by many proper names from the monuments. They were accordingly of the same race as the Canaanites. Contract tablets of the time of Hammurabi (b.c. 2250) show that Amorites were in Babylonia at that time (cf. Meissner, Altbab. Privatrecht , No. 42). At this period their country was designated by the ideogram MAR-TU. It has long been known that this ideogram stood for Palestine and Syria. At that time, then, the Amorites were already in the West.

Because of the identity of their proper names, it is believed that the Amorites were identical in race with that Semitic wave of immigration into Babylonia which produced the first dynasty of Babylon, the dynasty of Hammurabi (cf. Paton, Syria and Palestine , 25 29). Paton holds that an Amoritic wave of migration overran Babylonia and the Mediterranean coast about b.c. 2500, but Johns ( Expos ., April, 1906, p. 341) holds it probable, also on the basis of proper names, that the Amorites were in both Babylonia and the West before the time of Sargon, b.c. 3800.

About b.c. 1400 we learn from the el-Amarna tablets that the great valley between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges, which was afterwards called CÅ“le-Syria, was inhabited by Amorites, whose prince was Aziru (cf. KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] , v. Nos. 42, 44, and 50). At some time they seem to have overrun Palestine also, for in the E [Note: Elohist.] document they are regarded as the pre-Israelitish inhabitants of the mountain-land of Palestine, whom the Hebrews conquered (cf.   Numbers 13:29 ,   Joshua 24:8;   Joshua 24:18 ). This was also the view of the prophet Amos (  Amos 2:9-10 ), and, in part, of Ezekiel (  Ezekiel 16:8;   Ezekiel 16:45 ). The J [Note: Jahwist.] document, on the other hand, regards the Canaanites (wh. see) as the original Inhabitants of the country. As the J [Note: Jahwist.] document originated in the southern kingdom and the E [Note: Elohist.] document in the northern, some have inferred that the Amorites were especially strong in Northern Palestine; but even the J [Note: Jahwist.] document (  Judges 1:34-35 ) recognizes that the Amorites were strong in the Valley of Aijalon. In   Judges 1:36 ‘Amorites’ is probably a corruption of ‘Edomites.’ (So G. F. Moore in SBOT [Note: BOT Sacred Books of Old Testament.] .) Both J [Note: Jahwist.] (  Numbers 32:39 ) and E [Note: Elohist.] (  Numbers 21:13 ) represent the trans-Jordanic kingdom of king Sihon, the capital of which was at Heshbon, and which extended from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as Amoritic, and several later Biblical writers reflect this view. This kingdom was overcome by the Israelites when they invaded Canaan. After the Israelitish conquest the Amorites disappear from our view.

George A. Barton.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [4]

A people descended from Canaan, son of Ham.  Genesis 10:16 , They dwelt in the mountains, as their name signifies, and were apparently at times in the mountains both east and west of the Jordan.  Numbers 13:29;  Joshua 5:1;  Judges 1:34-36;  Judges 10:8;  1 Kings 4:19 . Being the most dominant and the most corrupt people or tribe they sometimes represent the Canaanites generally.  Genesis 15:16;  1 Kings 21:26 . When Abraham was at Hebron some confederated with him.  Genesis 14:13 . A remnant out of the Gentile nations was thus associated with the heir of promise, though Lot (a type of Israel after the flesh) had separated from him.

When Israel approached the promised land, they were in the east, and refused to let Israel pass; but they were overcome, their cities taken, and the people slain, with Sihon their king.  Numbers 21:21-26;  Deuteronomy 2:24;  Amos 2:9,10 . Some must have escaped, for we read of them later, and one of the controversies Jehovah had with Israel was for worshipping their gods.  Ezra 9:1,2 . Solomon made them tributary.  1 Kings 9:20,21;  2 Chronicles 8:7,8 . The Gibeonites were a remnant of the Amorites.  2 Samuel 21:2 . After this nothing is heard of them. The low state of Jerusalem (Judah) by nature is described by stating her origin, her father being an Amorite and her mother a Hittite, but God in grace had compassion upon her in her degradation, and raised her into great glory; though, alas, she was shamefully unfaithful.  Ezekiel 16:3-43 .

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

the descendants of Amori, or Haemorri, or Amorrhaeus,  Genesis 10:16 , the fourth son of Canaan, whose first possessions were in the mountains of Judea, among the other families of Canaan: but, growing strong above their fellows, and impatient of confinement within the narrow boundaries of their native district, they passed the Jordan, and extended their conquests over the finest provinces of Moab and Ammon; seizing and maintaining possession of that extensive and almost insulated portion of country included between the rivers Jordan, Jabbok, and Arnon. This was the kingdom, and Heshbon the capital, of the Amorites, under Sihon their king, when the Israelites, in their way from Egypt, requested a passage through their country. This request, however, Sihon refused; and came out against them with all his force, when he was slain, his people extirpated, and his kingdom taken possession of by the Israelites. It was subsequently divided between the tribes of Reuben and Gad,  Numbers 13:29;  Numbers 21:13;  Numbers 21:25;  Joshua 5:1;  Joshua 11:3;  Judges 11:19;  Judges 11:22 .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [6]

 Genesis 14:7 Deuteronomy 1:7,19,20 Genesis 14:7 Deuteronomy 3:8 4:46-48 Deuteronomy 3:10 Deuteronomy 31:4 Joshua 2:10 9:10 Joshua 10:10 Joshua 11:8 1 Samuel 7:14 Deuteronomy 1:44  Numbers 14:45  Genesis 34:2  Joshua 10:6 11:19  2 Samuel 21:2 Numbers 14:45  Deuteronomy 1:44 Deuteronomy 3:11 Deuteronomy 3:9

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

A people descended from Emer, the fourth son of Canaan,  Genesis 10:16 . They first peopled the mountains west of the Dead sea, near Hebron; but afterwards extended their limits, and took possession of the finest provinces of Moab and Ammon, on the east between the brooks Jabbok and Arnon,  Numbers 13:29   21:21-31   Joshua 5:1   Judges 11:13 . Moses took this country from their king, Sihon. The lands which the Amorites possessed on this side Jordan were given to the tribe of Judah, and those beyond the Jordan to the tribes of Reuben and Gad. The name Amorite is often taken in Scripture for Canaanite in general,  Genesis 15:16   Amos 2:9 . See Canaanites .

By the expression, "Thy father was an Amorite and thy mother a Hittite."  Ezekiel 16:3 , God reminds the Jews that they were naturally no more worthy of divine favor than the worst of the heathen Canaanites.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Amorites ( Ăm'O-R Îtes ), Mountaineers.  Genesis 10:16. A Syrian tribe descended from Canaan, and among the most formidable of the tribes with whom the Israelites contended. They were of gigantic stature and great courage,  Amos 2:9, and inhabited one of the most fertile districts of the country, being bounded on three sides by the rivers Amon, Jabbok, and Jordan. The Israelites asked permission of the king to travel through their territory, promising to injure nothing, not even to draw water from their wells; but the request was refused. The Amorites collected and attempted to oppose their progress, but were totally defeated, and their territory taken and divided between the tribes of Reuben and Gad.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [9]

am´o - rı̄ts  ; Amorites ( אמרי , 'emōrı̄ , always in the singular like the Babylonian Amurrū from which it is taken; Ἀμορραῖοι , Amorraı́oi ):

1. Varying Use of the Name Explained

2. The Amorite Kingdom

3. Sihon's Conquest

4. Disappearance of the Amorite Kingdom

5. Physical Characteristics of the Amorites

The name Amorite is used in the Old Testament to denote (1) The inhabitants of Palestine generally, (2) The population of the hills as opposed to the plain, and (3) a specific people under a king of their own. Thus (1) we hear of them on the west shore of the Dead Sea ( Genesis 14:7 ), at Hebron ( Genesis 14:13 ), and Shechem ( Genesis 48:22 ), in Gilead and Bashan ( Deuteronomy 3:10 ) and under Hermon ( Deuteronomy 3:8;  Deuteronomy 4:48 ). They are named instead of the Canaanites as the inhabitants of Palestine whom the Israelites were required to exterminate ( Genesis 15:16;  Deuteronomy 20:17;  Judges 6:10;  1 Samuel 7:14;  1 Kings 21:26;  2 Kings 21:11 ); the older population of Judah is called Amorite in  Joshua 10:5 ,  Joshua 10:6 , in conformity with which Ezek ( Joshua 16:3 ) states that Jerusalem had an Amorite father; and the Gibeonites are said to have been "of the remnant of the Amorites" ( 2 Samuel 21:2 ). On the other hand (2), in  Numbers 13:29 the Amorites are described as dwelling in the mountains like the Hittites and Jebusites of Jerusalem, while the Amalekites or Bedouins lived in the south and the Canaanites on the seacoast and in the valley of the Jordan. Lastly (3) we hear of Sihon, "king of the Amorites," who had conquered the northern half of Moab (  Numbers 21:21-31;  Deuteronomy 2:26-35 ).

1. Varying Use of the Name Explained

Assyriological discovery has explained the varying use of the name. The Hebrew form of it is a transliteration of the Babylonian Amurrū , which was both sing. and plural. In the age of Abraham the Amurru were the dominant people in western Asia; hence Syria and Palestine were called by the Babylonians "the land of the Amorites." In the Assyrian period this was replaced by "land of the Hittites," the Hittites in the Mosaic age having made themselves masters of Syria and Canaan. The use of the name "Amorite" in its general sense belongs to the Babylonian period of oriental history.

2. The Amorite Kingdom

The Amorite kingdom was of great antiquity. About 2500 bc it embraced the larger part of Mesopotamia and Syria, with its capital probably at Harran, and a few centuries later northern Babylonia was occupied by an "Amorite" dynasty of kings who traced theft descent from Samu or Sumu (the Biblical Shem), and made Babylon their capital. To this dynasty belonged Khammu-rabi, the Amraphel of  Genesis 14:1 . In the astrological documents of the period frequent reference is made to "the king of the Amorites." This king of the Amorites was subject to Babylonia in the age of the dynasty of Ur, two or three centuries before the birth of Abraham He claimed suzerainty over a number of "Amorite" kinglets, among whom those of Khana on the Euphrates, near the mouth of the Khabur, may be named, since in the Abrahamic age one of them was called Khammu-rapikh and another Isarlim or Israel. A payment of a cadastral survey made at this time by a Babylonian governor with the Canaanite name of Urimelech is now in the Louvre. Numerous Amorites were settled in Ur and other Babylonian cities, chiefly for the purpose of trade. They seem to have enjoyed the same rights and privileges as the native Babylonians. Some of them were commercial travelers, but we hear also of the heads of the great firms making journeys to the Mediterranean coast.

In an inscription found near Diarbekir and dedicated to Khammu-rabi by Ibirum (= Eber), the governor of the district, the only title given to the Babylonian monarch is "king of the Amorites," where instead of Amurrū the Sumerian Martu (Hebrew mōreh ) is used. The great-grandson of Khammu-rabi still calls himself "king of the widespread land of the Amorites," but two generations later Babylonia was invaded by the Hittites, the Amorite dynasty came to an end, and there was once more a "king of the Amorites" who was not also king of Babylonia.

The Amorite kingdom continued to exist down to the time of the Israelite invasion of Palestine, and mention is made of it in the Egyptian records as well as in the cuneiform Tell el-Amarna Letters , and the Hittite archives recently discovered at Boghaz-keui, the site of the Hittite capital in Cappadocia. The Egyptian conquest of Canaan by the kings of the 18th Dynasty had put an end to the effective government of that country by the Amorite princes, but their rule still extended eastward to the borders of Babylonia, while its southern limits coincided approximately with what was afterward the northern frontier of Naphtali. The Amorite kings, however, became, at all events in name, the vassals of the Egyptian Pharaoh. When the Egyptian empire began to break up, under the "heretic king" Amenhotep IV, at the end of the 18th Dynasty (1400 bc), the Amorite princes naturally turned to their more powerful neighbors in the north. One of the letters in the Tell el-Amarna correspondence is from the Pharaoh to his Amorite vassal Aziru the son of Ebed-Asherah, accusing him of rebellion and threatening him with punishment. Eventually Aziru found it advisable to go over openly to the Hittites, and pay the Hittite government an annual tribute of 300 shekels of gold. From that time forward the Amorite kingdom was a dependency of the Hittite empire, which, on the strength of this, claimed dominion over Palestine as far as the Egyptian frontier.

The second successor of Aziru was Abi-Amurru (or Abi-Hadad), whose successor bore, in addition to a Semitic name, the Mitannian name of Bentesinas. Bente-sinas was dethroned by the Hittite King Muttallis and imprisoned in Cappadocia, where he seems to have met the Hittite prince Khattu-sil, who on the death of his brother Muttallis seized the crown and restored Bente-sinas to his kingdom. Bente-sinas married the daughter of Khattu-sil, while his own daughter was wedded to the son of his Hittite suzerain, and an agreement was made that the succession to the Amorite throne should be confined to her descendants. Two or three generations later the Hittite empire was destroyed by an invasion of "northern barbarians," the Phrygians, probably, of Greek history, who marched southward, through Palestine, against Egypt, carrying with them "the king of the Amorites." The invaders, however, were defeated and practically exterminated by Ramses Iii of the 20th Egyptian Dynasty (1200 bc). The Amorite king, captured on this occasion by the Egyptians, was probably the immediate predecessor of the Sihon of the Old Testament.

3. Sihon's Conquest

Egyptian influence in Canaan had finally ceased with the invasion of Egypt by the Libyans and peoples of the Aegean in the fifth year of Meneptah, the successor of Ramses II, at the time of the Israelite Exodus. Though the invaders were repulsed, the Egyptian garrisons had to be withdrawn from the cities of southern Palestine, where their place was taken by the Philistines who thus blocked the way from Egypt to the north. The Amorites, in the name of their distant Hittite suzerains, were accordingly able to overrun the old Egyptian provinces on the east side of the Jordan; the Amorite chieftain Og possessed himself of Bashan ( Deuteronomy 3:8 ), and Sihon, "king of the Amorites," conquered the northern part of Moab.

The conquest must have been recent at the time of the Israelite invasion, as the Amorite song of triumph is quoted in  Numbers 21:27-29 , and adapted to the overthrow of Sihon himself by the Israelites. 'Woe unto thee,' it reads, 'O Moab; thou art undone, O people of Chemosh! (Chemosh) hath given thy sons who escaped (the battle) and thy daughters into captivity to Sihon king of the Amorites.' The flame that had thus consumed Heshbon, it is further declared, shall spread southward through Moab, while Heshbon itself is rebuilt and made the capital of the conqueror: "Come to Heshbon, that the city of Sihon (like the city of David,  2 Samuel 5:9 ) may be rebuilt and restored. For the fire has spread from Heshbon, the flame from the capital of Sihon, devouring as far as Moab (reading ‛adh with the Septuagint instead of ‛ār ), and swallowing up (reading bāle‛āh with the Septuagint) the high places of Arnon." The Israelite invasion, however, prevented the expected conquest of southern Moab from taking place.

4. Disappearance of the Amorite Kingdom

After the fall of Sihon the Amorite kingdom disappears. The Syrians of Zobah, of Hamath and of Damascus take its place, while with the rise of Assyria the "Amorites" cease to be the representatives in contemporary literature of the inhabitants of western Asia. At one time their power had extended to the Babylonian frontier, and Bente-sinas was summoned to Cappadocia by his Hittite overlord to answer a charge made by the Babylonian ambassadors of his having raided northern Babylonia. The Amorite king urged, however, that the raid was merely an attempt to recover a debt of 30 talents of silver.

5. Physical Characteristics of the Amorites

In  Numbers 13:29 the Amorites are described as mountaineers, and in harmony with thins, according to Professor Petrie's notes, the Egyptian artists represent them with fair complexions, blue eyes and light hair. It would, therefore, seem that they belonged to the Libyan race of northern Africa rather than to the Semitic stock. In western Asia, however, they were mixed with other racial elements derived from the subject populations, and as they spoke a Semitic language one of the most important of these elements would have been the Semites. In its general sense, moreover, the name "Amorite" included in the Babylonian period all the settled and civilized peoples west of the Euphrates to whatever race they might belong.


Hugo Winckler, Mitteilungen der deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft (1907), No. 35, Berlin; Sayce, The Races of the Old Testament , Religious Tract Soc., 1890.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [10]

Am´orites, the descendants of one of the sons of Canaan. They were the most powerful and distinguished of the Canaanitish nations. We find them first noticed in  Genesis 14:7. In the promise to Abraham ( Genesis 15:21), the Amorites are specified as one of the nations whose country would be given to his posterity. But at that time three confederates of the patriarch belonged to this tribe; Mamre, Aner, and Eshcol ( Genesis 14:13;  Genesis 14:24). When the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, the Amorites occupied a tract on both sides of the Jordan. That part of their territories which lay to the east of the Jordan was allotted to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh. They were under two kings—Sihon, king of Heshbon, and Og, king of Bashan ( Deuteronomy 1:4;  Joshua 12:4;  Joshua 13:12). Before hostilities commenced messengers were sent to Sihon, requesting permission to pass through his land; but Sihon refused, and came to Jahaz and fought with Israel; and Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from Arnon (Modjeb) unto Jabbok (Zerka) ( Numbers 21:24). Og also gave battle to the Israelites at Edrei, and was totally defeated. After the capture of Ai, five kings of the Amorites, whose dominions lay within the allotment of the tribe of Judah, leagued together to wreak vengeance on the Gibeonites for having made a separate peace with the invaders. Joshua, on being apprised of their design, marched to Gibeon and defeated them with great slaughter ( Joshua 10:10). Another confederacy was shortly after formed on a still larger scale; the associated forces are described as 'much people, even as the sand upon the sea-shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many' ( Joshua 11:4). Joshua came suddenly upon them by the waters of Merom (the modern lake Huleh), and Israel smote them until they left none remaining ( Joshua 11:8). Still, after their severe defeats, the Amorites, by means of their war-chariots and cavalry, confined the Danites to the hills, and would not suffer them to settle in the plains: they even succeeded in retaining possession of some of the mountainous parts ( Judges 1:34-36). It is mentioned as an extraordinary circumstance that in the days of Samuel there was peace between Israel and the Amorites ( 1 Samuel 7:14). In Solomon's reign a tribute of bond-service was levied on the remnant of the Amorites and other Canaanitish nations ( 1 Kings 9:21;  2 Chronicles 8:8).

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [11]

A powerful Canaanitish tribe, seemingly of tall stature, NE. of the Jordan; subdued by Joshua at Gibeon.