From CIpedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Amorites, (called both Martu and Amurru in the ancient inscriptions), were a once-powerful non-Adamic people who dwelt to the west of Babylonia. There originally ten tribes inhabiting the land of Canaan[1], and there is little doubt that the Amorites were the most powerful tribe in the region at that time.


In some of the earliest known sources, the inscriptions of ancient Sumer which date as far back as the first half of the third millennium BC, which is over 500 years before the time of Abraham, the Martu were the rather nomadic people who occupied the lands to the west of Babylonia, including what we know today as southern Syria, Lebanon and the northern parts of ancient Israel. In an inscription of the Sumerian king Ibbi-Sin they are listed as allies in the Sumerian cause against the Elamites[2], the people who were later known as Persians.

Akkadian Texts

The Akkadian name for the Martu was Amurru, and they were the Amorites of Scripture. There are a couple of extant copies, one in Akkadian and one in Hittite, of a treaty between the Amorite king Duppi-Tessub and the Hittite king Mursilis I, who is presumed to have ruled Hatti from circa 1620 to 1590 BC. The treaty contained mutual defense clauses against both the Egyptians and the Hurrians.

In the earlier Assyrian inscriptions, because the tribe of the Amorites had dominated the region which lay in between Assyria and Palestine, the Assyrians simply referred to the people of the west and of Palestine as Amurru. But once the Assyrians began their own political expansion into the area, then they also began to identify the tribes of the people who dwelt in Palestine more precisely.

Conquest of Canaan

Joshua chapter 24, Judges chapter 11 and other scriptures describe the displacement of the Amorites by the children of Israel. However like the other Canaanite tribes, the children of Israel failed to obliterate them completely, as they were instructed to do.

Land of Israel

There were still Amorites which remained even up to the time when the Israelites were deported by the Assyrians.

2 Chronicles: 8:7 As for all the people that were left of the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which were not of Israel, 8 But of their children, who were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel consumed not, them did Solomon make to pay tribute until this day.

Later, in the Egyptian inscriptions of the 14th and 13th centuries BC, notably those from Pharaoh Seti I and Ramses II, the “land of Amurru” remained the name which was used to describe the former land of the Amorites, including much of the land of Canaan[3], land which was by that time inhabited by Israelites. In the poetry of ancient Ugarit, which mostly concerns their idols Baal and Anath, there is mention of Amorite crafts where there is a line translated “Gorgeous bowls shaped like small beasts like those of Amurru”[4].

Miscegenation in Israel

Yahweh had warned the Israelites that if they failed to exterminate the Canaanites, that the inevitable consequense would involve the Israelites degenerating to their level and adopting their ways and customs. The Canaanite religions included fertility rituals as a central pillar, with such perverse acts often being done in groves and under great trees, and therefore an idolatrous nation would inevitably become racially mixed with the surrounding tribes.

Racemixing with the Amorites is explicitly mentioned in Ezekiel 16:3-4 in a message directed to the remannt Judahites in Jerusalem, and is one of the major reasons for Yahweh's divorce of Judah[5] (and also Israel previously).

Biblical Accuracy

In the later Assyrian inscriptions, those of the era of the Assyrian invasions of Palestine, one can see that the “land of Amurru” is greatly reduced from its former size, which certainly establishes the Biblical assertions that the Israelites had displaced the Amorites and others of the Canaanite tribes which inhabited the land. The Amurru and their land is mentioned in an inscription of Tiglath-pileser I, who presumably ruled Assyria from 1114 to 1076 BC, a time not long before that of Saul and David, where the exact extent of what he considered the “country of Amurru” to be is unclear, however it clearly bordered the Mediterranean Sea.[6] In an inscription of Ashurnasirpal, who ruled from 883 to 859 BC, the Amurru are mentioned in a list of tributaries which included Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Arvad, and other cities which are therefore distinguished from those of the Amorites.[7]

Therefore the Biblical assertion that the children of Israel displaced the Amorites and other tribes of the Canaanites certainly seems to be accurate, even if Assyrian and Egyptian inscriptions concerning the “land of Amurru” dating from the second millennium BC do not distinguish the Amorites who were originally the principal tribe of the land from the Hebrew Israelites who later occupied much of the same land. The Amarna Letters do describe some of the Hebrew invasions of the Levant in the 14th century BC.


Certain excerpts extracted from: Amos Commentary, Part 5

  1. Genesis 15
  2. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament, pp. 480-481
  3. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament pp. 254, 256
  4. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament, p. 132
  5. Jeremiah 2
  6. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament, p. 275
  7. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament, p. 276