Amorite (Egyptian Amurri, Assyrian Amurra or Martu) is a term given by the Israelites to the greatest portion of earlier highland mountaineer, or hillmen, descendants of Canaan (Gen. 14:7) who inhabited that land. In early Babylonian inscriptions all western lands including Syria and Palestine, were known as "the land of the Amorites." The Amorites were warlike mountain people. They are represented on the Egyptian monuments with fair skins, light hair, blue eyes, aquiline noses, and pointed beards. In the Bible, they are supposed to have been a powerful people of great stature "like the height of the cedars," who had occupied the land east and west of the Jordan river; their king, Og, being described as the last "of the remnant of the giants" (Deut. 3:11).
The old name is an ethnic term, evidently to be connected with the terms Amurru and Amar, used by Assyria and Egypt respectively. In the spelling Mar-tu, the name is as old as the first Babylonian dynasty, but from the 15th century BC and downwards its syllabic equivalent Amurru is applied primarily to the land extending northwards of Palestine as far as Kadesh on the Orontes.
Following on the heels of the Afroasiatic Agade dynasty and the decline of the Sumerian language in Messopotamia, the Levant archeological era known alternately either as MB1 or Intermediate EB-MB was the time of their most famous incursions. Though herdsmen, the Amorites were no peaceful pastoralists. They were fierce tribal clansmen who apparently forced themselves into lands they needed to graze their herds. At first the Amorites managed to inflict the UrIII empire with regular irritation but eventually they undermined it to such an extent that the position of last king Ibbi-Sin was weakened so much that his Elamite subjects were able to over throw his rule.
Amorites seem to have worshipped the moon-god Sin and Il-Amurru. They spoke the West-Semetic Afroasiatic dialect from which the other Canaanite Ugaritic Hebrew and Arabic languages would descend. It is known from (Deut. 3:9) that "Snir" (שְׂנִיר) was the name they gave to Mount Hermon. The argument that the Israelites formed themselves by making an effort to seperate from their Amorite identity is countered by theories identifying the Hebrews as rebels who joined bands of originally Hurrian nomad shepherds in forming the Habiru clans of social outcastes & mercenaries. Under the former idea, in the southwest the agglutinative Hurrian language was gradually replaced by an Afroasiatic canaanite dialect due to influence of the peoples amidst whom they subsisted.
The Biblical usage appears to show that the more specific "Amorite" and less precise general "Canaanite" terms were used synonymously, the former being characteristic of Judaean, the latter of Ephraimite and Deuteronomic writers as well as the Assyro-Babylonians. A distinction is sometimes maintained, however, when the Amorites are spoken of as the people of the past, whereas the Canaanites are referred to as still surviving. The term "Canaan," on the other hand, is confined more especially to the southern district (from Gebal to the south of Palestine). It seems the terms at an early date were interchangeable, Canaan being geographical and Amorite the major ethnical identity of the Canaanites who inhabited the land.
The wider extension of the use of Amurru by the Babylonians and Assyrians is complicated by the fact that it was even applied to a district in the neighbourhood of Babylonia to which the land of Canaan does not traditionally extend. Moreover, if the people of the first Babylonian dynasty (about 21st century BC) called themselves "Amorites," as Ranke seems to have shown, then obviously a common origin with them was recognized by the Babylonians at that early date. Though whether this origin was Canaanite or that other Afroasiatic tribes unspecifically labelled Amorite for convenience of reference cannot be known as of yet.
Biblical extent of the Amorites
They seem to have originally occupied the land stretching from the heights west of the Dead Sea (Gen. 14:7) to Hebron (13. Comp. 13:8; Deut. 3:8; 4:46-48), embracing "all Gilead and all Bashan" (Deut. 3:10), with the Jordan valley on the east of the river (4:49), the land of the "two kingss of the Amorites," Sihon and Og (Deut. 31:4; Josh. 2:10; 9:10).
Historically, the Amorites seem to have been linked to the Jerusalem region, and the Jebusites may have been a subgroup of them. The southern slopes of the mountains of Judea are called the "mount of the Amorites" (Deut. 1:7, 19, 20). One possible etymology for "Mount Moriah" is "Mountain of the Amorites," were the initial Aliph glottal stop, has dropped off.
Five kingss of the Amorites were first defeated with great slaughter by Joshua (10:10). They were again defeated at the waters of Merom by Joshua, who smote them till there were none remaining (Josh. 11:8). It is mentioned as a surprising circumstance that in the days of Samuel there was peace between them and the Israelites (1 Sam. 7:14). The discrepancy supposed to exist between Deut. 1:44 and Num. 14:45 is explained by the circumstance that the terms "Amorites" and "Amalekites" are used synonymously for the "Canaanites." In the same way we explain the fact that the "Hivites" of Gen. 34:2 are the "Amorites" of 48:22. Comp. Josh. 10:6; 11:19 with 2 Sam. 21:2; also Num. 14:45 with Deut. 1:44. Both Sihon and Og were independent kingss.
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