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Amorrites

AMORRITES

This name suggests that the Amorrites (Amorites) of the OT were the same as the Amorrites who invaded Mesopotamia and Syria c. 2000 b.c. At the time of the invasion they were a nomadic people; Egyptian paintings represent them with short beards and dressed in sandals and varicolored tunics. They became urbanized in ancient mesopotamia, and the OT does not represent them as nomadic. The name is connected with Sumerian mar.tu and Akkadian Amurru, "west"; Amurru appears in Assyrian records only as a geographical designation. Hence the name must have entered the Israelite vocabulary from Mesopotamia, since the Amorrites did not enter Palestine from the west. The term in Syria and Palestine has its own meaning, which is not derived from Mesopotamian usage. In the amarna letters, Amurru signifies both a geographical district in Syria (north of modern Beirut) and a state ruled by Abdi-Ashirta that does not clearly lie in the same geographical district. The Hittite King Mursilis made a treaty with Duppi-Tešub, King of Amurru; the name of this ruler is not Amorrite. The district of Amurru was the objective of a campaign of Seti I of Egypt (1318-1301 b.c.).

Data on Amorrites in Syria and Palestine do not indicate such a wide diffusion as is suggested by Biblical occurrences of the name. The Amorrites are classified with certain Canaanite tribes as sons of Canaan and descendants of Ham (Gn 10.16). The classification is geographical, however, not ethnic; the Amorrites lived in the territory of Canaan but were not of the same ethnic origin as the Canaanites. They are mentioned as living near the Dead Sea at Hasason-Thamar (Gn 14.7), and Mamre is called an Amorrite (Gn 14.13). Mamre, however, is not a personal name but a place name. There are signs that Genesis ch. 14 does not preserve historical memories in their purity. shechem is called an Amorrite city, but only once (Gn 48.22). Other data are not entirely consistent. The Amorrites dwelt in the mountains (the central highlands of Palestine) while the Canaanites dwelt in the Jordan Valley and on the coastal plain (Nm 13.29). The Amorrite kings of western Palestine mentioned in the narratives of the conquests of Joshua resided in the highlands (Jos 5.1; 10.57). According to Jgs 1.3435, on the other hand, the Amorrites of the coastal plain prevented the tribe of Dan from expanding westward and retained cities which they held in the foothills of the central highlands. In Nm 21.2123 there is an Amorrite kingdom of eastern Palestine east of the Dead Sea and north of the Arnon. It is to be noted, however, that the tradition placed the fall of this kingdom before the Israelite settlement in Palestine. A later writer connects Jerusalem with the Amorrites (Ez 16.3, 45). Hence the Amorrites appear to be distributed over much of the territory of Palestine.

The identity of these Amorrites with the Amorrites of Mesopotamia would be more assured if a representative number of their personal names were mentioned in the Bible. The type of small kingdoms that they established in Palestine corresponds to the type of state that the Amorrites established in northwest Mesopotamia and north Syria. Archeology so far has not disclosed any specifically Amorrite traces; however, the nomadic incursions into Transjordan and the Jordan Valley, particularly at Jericho, that are evidenced for the 21st to 19th centuries b.c. conform very well to what is known of Amorrites from elsewhere. But the allusions to the diffusion of the Amorrites in other sources suit their presence and diffusion in Palestine, where they seem to have survived longer as a distinct group than elsewhere. It is probable that the OT use of the name is somewhat loose, particularly in documents considerably removed in time from the living traditions of the settlements, and that the Amorrites were mistakenly said to have been in some places where they never actually were.

Bibliography: w. f. albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (2d ed. New York 1957). j. bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia 1959). j. finegan, Light from the Ancient Past (2d ed. Princeton 1959). k. kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land (New York 1960) 135161.

[j. l. mc kenzie]

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