The Amorites


The Amorites are first mentioned on Sumerian and Accadian inscriptions dating about 2500 B.C. by that time, the inhabitants of Mesopotamia had already developed an urban civilisation in fertile and cultivated parts of the land.

The Amorites emerged from the deserts, since they were tent-dwellers of Semitic origin, and in times of hardship, harassed the cultivated areas. Not surprisingly the inhabitants of Mesopotamia regarded these ‘Westerners’, for that is what the name ‘Amorite’, probably means, as uncouth and barbaric.

However, once these invaders moved into the Tigris-Euphrates valley and settled down, it wasn’t long before they asserted themselves and assumed control of certain cities’ states, and by 1950 B.C., the city of Larsa had an Amorite king. One hundred and fifty years later, the ancient Assyrian city of Ashur was under the Amorite rule.

The more famous and, since 1936, best known, of these city-states, Mari, was also an Amorite possession, its last ruler Zimri-Lim, was conquered by another Amorite, the great Hammurabi himself, in 1765 B.C. indeed, at one time, the king of Assyria himself was an Amorite, Shamshi-Adad, who reigned from 1748-1716 B.C.

About the time that Amorites were taking over control in Southern Mesopotamia, others of their tribe were invading Syria and Palestine. This would be about 2000 B.C. and coincides with the journeys of Abraham, Genesis 14:7.

Having settled in Canaan and spread throughout the land, the area became known, for a little time, as ‘The land of the Amorites’. Joshua 24:15.

Note that the above verse speaks about how Abraham’s father and his descendants were idolatrous. This also tells us that Abraham himself was an Amorite, Ezekiel 16:3.

‘Then the LORD said to him, ‘Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.’ Genesis 15:13

This passage predicts that Abram’s descendants would be slaves for 4000 years, a clear prophecy relating to the bondage of Egypt. But then, God said, they would return to Canaan. Those 400 years were decreed, why? ‘For the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.’ Genesis 15:16

So, we see that the term ‘Amorite’ was used to designate all the inhabitants of Canaan at that time, although, certainly later, the
name indicated a distinctive and separate people, Joshua 11:3 / Judges 3:5.

This scriptural use of the term, ‘Amorite’ to relate both to all of the land of Canaan and its inhabitants and a separate people in a later period, is endorsed by the Amarna letters, where the term ‘Amurru’ is first used for Amorite territory extending over all of Syria and Palestine. Then, later, it becomes clear that when the Egyptians referred to the ‘Amorite’ they meant an area of Northern Palestine, with Kadesh as its capital.

As it has been suggested, Amorite occupancy of Canaan coincides with the time of Abram and it may even be that his journey from Mesopotamia to Canaan, at the command of God, occurred at the time of the Amorite migration to Canaan, Genesis 12:1.

In Genesis 15 God promises to give Abram the land of the Amorites and makes mention of the wickedness of these people, Genesis 15:20 / Genesis 15:16.

Although not stated, it seems obvious that this wickedness had to do with their religion, since Ahab is recorded as doing ‘very abominably in following idols according to all things as did the Amorites’, 1 Kings 21:26.

Perhaps it even included the offering of human sacrifices, for Manasseh, was guilty of this abomination and is said to have done
above all that the Amorites did, 2 Kings 21:11.

God thus, ‘dispossessed’ the Amorites, and decreed that they should be utterly destroyed when the Israelites took possession of the land of Canaan, Judges 11:23 / Deuteronomy 20:17.

In Joshua 3, Joshua is told that God would drive out the Amorites ‘without fail’. Joshua 3:10.

We must remember that the Amorites were a force to be reckoned with, Amos 2:9. When the invasion of Canaan began, after the departure from Egypt, the Israelites found the Amalekites to be hostile and even before the conquest of the land could be undertaken, the Amorites who controlled the Transjordan had first to be overpowered. These were led by the two kings, Og, king of Bashan and Sihon, king of Heshbon, Joshua 12:1-6 / Judges 1:36.

Moving further into Canaan, there were other Amorites to be overcome, Joshua 7 identifies the men of Ai as being Amorites, Joshua 7:7.

Whilst the cities of Jarmuth, Hebron, Lachish and Eglon, along with Jerusalem itself, were led by the first five Amorite kings who formed what is known as the ‘Amorite League’, to fight against Joshua, Joshua 10:5.

After the conquest of Canaan, there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.



"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."