Derivation and Relationship.
A nation in eastern Palestine. As to their origin from Lot,
compare Gen. xix. 38, in which "Ben-ammi" (son of my paternal uncle;
that is, of my nearest relative) is paro-nomasia, not etymology. It is
possible that Ammon is derived from the name of a tribal divinity.
According to the pedigree given in Gen. xix. 37-38, the
Ammonites were nearly related to the Israelites and still more closely
to their neighbors in the south, the Moabites. This is fully confirmed
by the fact that all names of Ammonitish persons show a pure Canaanitish
character. But the above passage indicates also the contempt and hatred
for the Ammonites felt by the Hebrews (Deut. xxiii. 4), even to the
exclusion of their progeny from the assembly of the Lord (contrast Deut.
ii. 19, 37, in which the consciousness of relationship seems to be at
the root of the regard shown to Ammon).
The borders of the Ammonite territory are not clearly defined
in the Bible. In Judges, xi. 13, the claim of the king of Ammon, who
demands of the Israelites the restoration of the land "from Arnon even
unto Jabbok and unto Jordan," is mentioned only as an unjust claim (xi.
15), inasmuch as the Israelitish part of this tract had been conquered
from the Amorites whom the Moabites had, in part, preceded; while in
Judges, xi. 22 it is stated that the Israelites had possession "from the
wilderness even unto Jordan," and that they laid a claim to territory
beyond this, so as to leave no room for Ammon. Num. xxi. 24 describes
the Hebrew conquest (compare Judges, xi. 19) as having reached "even
unto the children of Ammon, for the border of the children of Ammon was
Jazer" (read the last word, with Septuagint, as "Jazer," instead of
"'az," strong, A. V.; compare Judges, xi. 32). Josh. xiii. 25, defines
the frontier of the tribe of Gad as being "Jazer . . . and half the land
of the children of Ammon." The latter statement can be reconciled with
Num. xxi. 24 (Deut. ii. 19, 37) only by assuming that the northern part
of Sihon's Amorite kingdom had for merly been Ammonite. This explains,
in part, the claim mentioned above (Judges, xi. 13). According to Deut.
ii. 37, the region along the river Jabbok and the cities of the
hill-country formed the border-line of Israel.
In Judges, xi. 33, a portion of the land of Ammon is
mentioned. It extended from Aroer to Minnith, including twenty cities,
and must have been anextremely
narrow strip of land, comprising only the northeastern quarter of the
region called, at present, El-Belka. According to the Moabite stone, the
southeastern quarter, attributed by many scholars to Ammon, could not
have belonged to it; and nothing is known concerning an extension north
of the Jabbok river. The village of the Ammonites (or according to the
Ḳeri, Ammonitess), Josh. xviii. 24, in Benjamin, does not point
to former possessions west of Jordan. On the authority of Deut. ii. 20,
their territory had formerly been in the possession of a mysterious
Zamzummim (also called Zuzim), and the war of Chedorlaomer
(Gen. xiv. 5) with these may be connected with the history of Ammon.
When the Israelites invaded Canaan, they passed by the frontier of the
Ammonites (Num. xxi. 24; Deut. ii. 19, 37; Josh. xiii. 25).
Ammonites and Moabites.
Sometimes a slight distinction only seems to be made between
the Ammonites and their southern brothers, the Moabites. Deut. xxiii. 4,
5, for instance, states that the Ammonites and Moabites hired Balaam to
curse the Israelites, while in Num. xxii. 3 et seq. Moab alone is
mentioned. Some authorities overcome this discrepancy by the help of the
emended text of Num. xxii. 5, according to which Balaam came "from the
land of the children of Ammon." This is the reading of most ancient
versions; the Septuagint, however, has it like the present Hebrew text:
"the children of his people" ("ammo") (see
Balaam). In Judges, iii. 13, the Ammonites
appear as furnishing assistance to Eglon of Moab against Israel; but in
Judges, x. 7, 8, 9, in which not only Gilead is oppressed but a
victorious war is waged also west of the Jordan, Ammon alone is
mentioned. The speech of Jephthah which follows, however, is clearly
addressed to the Moabites as well, for he speaks of their god Chemosh
(Judges, xi. 18-24). Some scholars find that these varying statements
conflict (compare Deut. xxiii. 3); others conclude that the
brother-nations still formed a unit. The small nation of Ammon could
face Israel only in alliance with other non-Israelites (compare II
Chron. xx. and Ps. lxxxiii. 7). The attack of King Nahash upon the
frontier city Jabesh in Gilead was easily repulsed by Saul (I Sam. xi.,
Ammonite Warriors in David's Army.
From II Sam. x. 2, it may be concluded that Nahash assisted
David out of hatred for Saul; but his son Hanun provoked David by
ill-treating his ambassadors, and brought about the defeat of the
Ammonites, despite assistance from their northern neighbor (ibid.
x. 13). Their capital Rabbah was captured (ibid. xii. 29), and
numerous captives were taken from "all the cities of the children of
Ammon." David's treatment of the captives (ibid. xii. 31) was not
necessarily barbarous; the description may be interpreted to mean that
he employed them as laborers in various public works. The Chronicler,
however, takes it in the most cruel sense (I Chron. xx. 3). Yet David
could not have exceeded the savagery customary in ancient Oriental
warfare; the Ammonites, themselves, for instance, were exceedingly cruel
(I Sam. xi. 2; Amos, i. 13). The new king, Shobi, a brother of Hanun,
evidently appointed by David, kept peace, his attitude being even
friendly (II Sam. xvii. 27). There were Ammonite warriors in David's
army (ibid. 23, 27) and Solomon's chief wife, the mother of his
heir, was Naamah, the Ammonitess (I Kings, xiv. 21; compare xi. 1),
probably a daughter of Shobi. After this, hostilities again broke out,
under Jehoshaphat (II Chron. xx.), under Jeroboam II. (Amos, i. 13) and
under Jotham, who subjected the Ammonites (II Chron. xxvii. 5).
According to the Assyrian inscriptions under Baasha (Hebrew,
Ba'sha), the son of Rukhubi (Rehob), they had to send auxiliaries to the
powerful king Birhidri (Benhadad) of Damascus to aid him in his war
against Shalmaneser II. The following kings paid tribute to the
Assyrians: Sanipu (or "Sanibu" of Bit-Ammanu; "bit," house, has either
the sense of "reign" or "kingdom," or is added after the analogy of
"Bit-kḦumri"—house of Omri—for Israel, etc.) to Tiglath-pileser III.;
Puduilu to Sennacherib and Assarhaddon; Ammi-nadbi to Assurbanipal. An
Assyrian tribute-list, showing that Ammon paid one-fifth of Judah's
tribute, gives evidence of the scanty extent and resources of the
country (see Schrader, "K.A.T." pp. 141 et seq.; Delitzsch,
"Paradies," p. 294; Winckler, "Geschichte Israels," p. 215).
In the time of Nebuchadnezzar, the Ammonites seem to have been
fickle in their political attitude. They assisted the Babylonian army
against the Jews (II Kings, xxiv. 2); encroached upon the territory of
Gad; and occupied Heshbon and Jazer (Jer. xlix. 1; I Macc. v. 6-8;
compare Zeph. ii. 8); but the prophetic threatenings in Jer. ix. 26,
xxv. 21, xxvii. 3, and Ezra, xxi. 20, point to rebellion by them against
Babylonian supremacy. They received Jews fleeing before the Babylonians
(Jer. xl. 11), and their king, Baalis, instigated the murder of
Gedaliah, the first Babylonian governor (ibid. xl. 14, xli. 15).
At the time of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, they were hostile to the
Jews, and Tobiah, an Ammonite, incited them to hinder the work (Neh.
iii. 35). But inter-marriages between Jews and Ammonites were frequent
(Ezra, ix. 1; I Esd. viii. 69, and elsewhere). It is stated (I Macc. v.
6) that the Ammonites under Timotheus were defeated by Judas; but it is
probable that, after the exile, the term Ammonite denoted all Arabs
living in the former country of Ammon and Gad. Ezek. xxv. 4-5 seems to
mark the beginning of an Arab immigration, which is testified to by Neh.
ii. 19, iv. 7, and is described by Josephus as completed ("Ant." xiii.
9, § 1).
Milcom Their Chief Deity.
Of the customs, religion, and constitution of the Ammonites,
little is known. The frequent assumption that, living on the borders of
the desert, they remained more pastoral than the Moabites and
Israelites, is unfounded (Ezek. xxv. 4, II Chron. xxvii. 5); the
Philadelphia), at least, were fertile and were tilled. In
regard to other cities than Rabba, see Judges, xi. 33; II Sam. xii. 31.
Of their gods the name of only the chief deity, Milcom—evidently a form
of Moloch—is known (I Kings, xi. 5 [LXX. 7], 33; I Kings, xi. 7; II
Kings, xxiii. 13). In Jer. xlix. 1, 3, "Malcam" is to be translated by
"Milcom" (the god) and not as in A. V., "their king."
Ammonites and Jews Intermarry.
—In Rabbinical Literature:
The Ammonites, still numerous in the south of Palestine in the
second Christian century according to Justin Martyr ("Dialogus cum
Tryphone," ch. cxix.), presented a serious problem to the Pharisaic
scribes because of the fact that many marriages with Ammonite and
Moabite wives had taken place in the days of Nehemiah (Neh. xiii. 23).
Still later, it is not improbable that when Judas Maccabeus had
inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Ammonites, Jewish warriors took
Ammonite women as wives, and their sons, sword in hand, claimed
recognition as Jews notwithstanding the law (Deut. xxiii. 4) that "an
Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the
Lord." Such a condition or a similar incident is reflected in the story
told in the Talmud (Yeb. 76b, 77a; Ruth R. to ii. 5) that
in the days of King Saulthe
legitimacy of David's claim to royalty was disputed on account of his
descent from Ruth, the Moabite; whereupon Ithra, the Israelite (II Sam.
xvii. 25; compare I Chron. ii. 17), girt with his sword, strode like an
Ishmaelite into the schoolhouse of Jesse, declaring upon the authority
of Samuel, the prophet, and his bet din (court of justice), that the law
excluding the Ammonite and Moabite from the Jewish congregation referred
only to the men—who alone had sinned in not meeting Israel with bread
and water—and not to the women. The story reflects actual conditions in
pre-Talmudic times, conditions that led to the fixed rule stated in the
Mishnah (Yeb. viii. 3): "Ammonite and Moabite men are excluded from the
Jewish community for all time; their women are admissible."
The fact that Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon, was born of
an Ammonite woman (I Kings, xiv. 21-31) also made it difficult to
maintain the Messianic claims of the house of David; but it was adduced
as an illustration of divine Providence which selected the "two doves,"
Ruth, the Moabite, and Naamah, the Ammonitess, for honorable distinction
(B. Ḳ. 38b).