Ammon, Ammonites

See also Ammonites

AMMON, AMMONITES ăm’ ən,— ə nīts (עַמֹּֽון, LXX Αμμων, υἱοί Αμμονιτῶν).

1. Name. According to Genesis 19:38 Lot’s younger daughter gave birth to a child by her own father and named him Ben-’Ammī. He was the ancestor of the Ammonites. It is clear that the name Ben-’Ammī offers an explanation for the ethnic name ’Ammōnī or benē ’Ammōn. The proper tr. of the name Ben-’Ammī is not clear. Some tr. it “son of my people,” others “son of my paternal uncle (or paternal clan).” Also possible would be the interpretation of ’Ammī as a divine name or epithet. Given the narrative context of Genesis 19, however, the name could mean only “son of my own father.” The uncompounded name ’Ammī does not occur elsewhere in the OT, although its compounds can be cited. Lō-’Ammī is the symbolic name given by the prophet Hosea to his son (Hos 1:9). Of the compounds which prefix ’Ammī one can cite: ’AmmīEl (name of three persons), ’Ammī-Hūd, ’Ammī-Hūr, ’Ammī-Zabad, ’Ammī-Nadab, ’Ammī-Shadday. Of these, all but the second example can quite convincingly demonstrate the primary reference of ’Ammī to God (or a god). The bare element ’Ammī or its extension ’Ammīyān > ’Ammōn represents merely an abbreviated or hypocoristic form of the longer compounds. In such compound names the first element prob. means “(divine) protector.” In the context of Genesis 19 the daughter regarded her widowed father as her only protector; hence, the name Ben-’Ammī. The compounded form Ben-Ammī (consonantal spelling bn ’my) is found in the Ugaritic texts as a personal name with the variant bn ’myn, just as in the OT ben ’ammī alternates with the more common benē ’Ammōn. In the Mari texts (c. 1780 b.c.), where the W Sem. ’ayin was spelled with the cuneiform , one finds both compounded names such as Hamma-El (cf. OT ’AmmīEl), Hammi-Andulli, Hammi-Shagish, Hammi-Ishtamar (cf. Ugaritic royal name ’Ammishtamru), Hammi-Tilu, Hammu-Rāpi’, and Hammu-Tar, along with the hypocoristic Hammānu (= Heb. ’Ammōn!). In the El Amarna tablets (c. 1400-1300 b.c.) the following example occurs: ’Ammu-nīra, Prince of Beirut. In the Alalakh Tablets a mayor bears the name ’Ammīya, and other ’Ammī names are: ’Ammī-ṭābā, ’Ammīya-Haddu, ’Ammī-taqum, ’Ammu-Hadda (OT ’Ammī-Hūd?), and ’Ammu-Rāpi’. Both the forms ’Ammān and ’Ammīyān occur as personal names. Although the long a in the final syllable of the name ’Ammān had shifted to long o in the Heb. speech, it remained a in Ammonite speech, as heard by the Assyrians in the 9th and 8th centuries b.c. They called the land Bīt-Ammānay (“house of Ammānay”) or māt ban Ammānay (“land of the ban-Ammanay”).

2. Origin and ethnic affiliation. As noted above, the OT account in Genesis 19 places the origin of the Ammonites and Moabites in southern Trans-Jordan at the beginning of the second millennium b.c. Both groups spoke languages closely related to Heb. and intermarriage between Hebrews and Moabites (Ruth’s sons) and Hebrews and Ammonites (2 Chron 12:13; 24:26) indicates that communication between these groups and the Israelites to the W was never any problem. Many Ammonite and Moabite personal names have striking parallels in early Arab., suggesting that strong influence was brought to bear upon them from the oasis towns to the SE. Since Trans-Jordan was settled by groups which recently had adopted sedentary ways, it is likely that a large proportion of the population was related to nomadic groups such as the Midianites. At the time of the Israelite entrance into Canaan under Moses, three primary groups occupied Trans-Jordan: the Ammonites in the area surrounding the later capital Rabbath-Ammon, prob. extending no further W than the settlement of Jazer, the Amorite kingdom of Heshbon located between Ammon and Moab, and the Moabites whose northern border must at that time have been the Arnon River. In addition, to the N of Ammon was the kingdom of Bashan, ruled by King Og. The territories of Ammon and Moab were left untouched by the Israelites; but the kingdoms of Bashan and Heshbon were conquered. Ammon was left as a peninsula of land, jutting out into the “sea” of former Amorite territory to the N, W and S, recently conquered by Moses and the Israelites. These three groups (Amorites, Ammonites, and Moabites) were doubtless related in some manner, but precisely how is unknown.

3. History of Ammon.


b. The Ammonite War with Jephthah the Gileadite (c. 1100-1020 B.C.). Excavation reveals that during the 11th cent. the Ammonites had fortified their borders with structures in the megalithic style. Judges (10:8) records: “For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel that were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim; so that Israel was sorely distressed.” The inhabitants of Gilead sought and found an able leader in Jephthah, the bastard son of Gilead and a harlot (11:1). After making a compact with the elders of Gilead, Jephthah gathered his army and defeated the Ammonites (11:32, 33). Since the victory was a decisive one, it was not necessary for Jephthah to conduct any campaign W of the Jordan against Ammonite settlements. It is of interest that the unnamed king of the Ammonites claimed Israel had taken away Ammonite land, when it conquered the territory between the Arnon and Jabbok Rivers (11:13).





When word reached Jehoshaphat, he turned to God for help in his consternation (20:3ff.). Assured by the Lord’s promise of victory through the prophet Jahaziel (20:13-19), the Judean force marched S from Jerusalem through Bethlehem and Tekoa to the Wildernes of Tekoa. The enemy armies were making their way up the Ascent of Ziz to the Wilderness of Jeruel. When they were suddenly set upon by Judean ambushers, the Moabite and Ammonite columns panicked and fought mistakenly against their allies, the Meunites from Mt. Seir (20:20ff.). Their demise was total.

When Ahaziah of Israel died and was succeded by Jehoram, Jehoshaphat of Judah joined him in an expedition against Moab (2 Kings 3:4-27). Because Mesha of Moab had so heavily fortified the approach to his kingdom from the N with fortresses at Bezer, Nebo, Kiriathaim, Beth-baal-meon, Medeba, and Ataroth, the kings of Israel and Judah chose to circumvent the southern tip of the Dead Sea, attack the “soft underbelly” of Moab at Horonaim, and drive on from there to Kir-hareseth. They were able to secure the services of the prophet Elisha on the expedition. After seven days of traveling, the caravan found no water holes and were faced with a critical situation. According to a promise from God through Elisha, a sudden flood of water came down a dry wadi from the direction of Edom and saved them (3:20). The march resumed and the battle was joined in Horonaim, where the Moabites were put to flight. Cutting off all the water supply of the enemy in the vicinity, the Israelite army laid siege to the walled city of Kir-hareseth. The king of Moab in the direst emergency offered his eldest son as a human sacrifice to his god Chemosh on the city wall in full view of the enemy. Demoralized by the sight, the Israelites withdrew to their land.

After the humbling of Moab, their northern neighbors the Arameans pushed southward to the Arnon River (10:32, 33). The Ammonites doubtless helped these Arameans in this effort to fill the vacuum left by a failing Moab and to keep out Israel and Judah’s influence in the E. When the Assyrian king Adad-nirari III (810-783 b.c.) imposed tribute on some of Aram’s dependencies, Ammon seems to have been left alone and continued to control Gilead until c. 750 b.c.

The accessions of Jeroboam II of Israel and Uzziah (Azariah) of Judah c. 785 b.c. ushered in an era of prosperity and expansion for both kingdoms. The Assyrians had first broken the power of the Arameans of Damascus and then retired to the E themselves, leaving Trans-Jordan to fend for itself against its former masters on the W bank of the river. Uzziah, for his part, was able to regain control over the “Arabians of Gur-baal and the Meunites” and over the Ammonites (2 Chron 26:7, 8). This must have seemed to Amos, who prophesied during the reign of Uzziah, the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s word through him against Ammon for its cruelties against the people of Gilead (Amos 1:13-15).

After Uzziah died (c. 741 b.c.), his son and successor Jotham had to put down an attempted rebellion by a king of the Ammonites (2 Chron 27:5, 6). Jotham received from Ammon an annual tribute after that of 100 talents of silver, 10,000 cor of wheat, 10,000 cor of barley. In 732 b.c. the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III deposed Pekah, king of Israel, and made Hoshea of Israel an Assyrian vassal. In the same year the Assyrians crushed Damascus and her king Rezin. All of the Syro-Palestinian states fell into line and rendered tribute, including Ahaz of Judah (2 Kings 16:7, 8; 2 Chron 28:16, 21). All of the Trans-Jordanian states and their native dynasts (Shanip of Ammon, Shalamān of Moab, Ka’us-malak of Edom) paid tribute.

Shortly after Sargon II of Assyria died (c. 705 b.c.), rebellions in the W brought his successor Sennacherib (c. 704-681 b.c.) to quell the potentially dangerous situation (c. 701 b.c.). During this campaign Sennacherib received tribute and submission from the Trans-Jordanian states and their dynasts: Buduili (Bod’el?) of Ammon, Kammushu-nadbi (Chemosh-nadab) of Moab, and Ayarammu of Edom. The same king Buduili is mentioned in the annals of the Assyrian kings Esarhaddon (681-669) and Ashurbanipal (only through c. 667 of his reign, 668-633). A building inscr. of Esarhaddon’s mentions Buduili of Ammon as supplying materials for the royal palace at Nineveh. A letter written to Esarhaddon himself informs us that the Ammonites paid a larger amount of tribute (two minas of gold) than either Moab or Judah, which suggests that renewed Ammonite control over the Trans-Jordanian trade routes had raised her level of prosperity above that of her neighbors. About 667 b.c. Buduili died and was succeeded by ’Ammi-nadab, whose name appears in a cylinder of Ashurbanipal among those twenty-two kings of the seacoast who paid tribute to the Assyrian in the course of his campaign against Egypt in 667. Archeological findings in Ammon from the period of the 7th cent. suggest that Ammonite officials of this period enjoyed a higher standard of living than Judah under Manasseh, Amon, and the first years of Josiah.


During the time of Nehemiah (c. 445-433 b.c.) there lived a certain Tobiah, the head of a Jewish enclave in Ammon, who is called “Tobiah, the servant (’abd), the Ammonite” (Neh 2:10, 19; 4:3, 7; etc.). Since a recently published Libyanite inscr. mentions a certain “’Abd, the governor,” who seems to have been the Pers. governor of Ammon and Dedan, the above mentioned formula mentioning Tobiah may be a spelling error for “Tobiah and ’Abd the governor.” Tobiah would have been the Jewish assistant to the governor ’Abd. This Tobiah was apparently the first in a long line of Tobiahs whose home was ’Araq el-Emir, where the family tombs have been found.

4. The religion of Ammon. Little is known other than the name of the national god, Milcom (consonants mlkm). Milkōm, malkam, and mōlek appear to be three alternate forms of his name. All contain the common Sem. noun mlk, “king.” It has been suggested that the final m in the name is the possessive pronoun “their,” and that the name means “their king.” If so, the name finds a near parallel in that of the god of the city of Nesha in central Asia Minor c. 1800 b.c., Siu-summi (“their god”).

Bibliography N. Glueck, The Other Side of Jordan (1940); R. de Vaux, “Notes d’histoire et de topographie Transjordaniennes,” Vivre et Penser, 50 (1941), 16-47; Y. Aharoni, “A New Ammonite Inscription,” IEJ 1 (1950), 219-222; H. L. Ginsberg, “Judah and the Transjordan States from 734-582 B.C.,” Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume (1950), 347-368; N. Avigad, “An Ammonite Seal,” IEJ 2 (1952), 163, 164; W. F. Albright, “Some Notes on Ammonite History,” Miscellanea Biblica B. Ubach (1954), 131-136; J. B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts (2nd ed., 1955), 275-317; G. L. Harding, The Antiquities of Jordan (1959); Y. Aharoni and M. Avi-Yonah (eds.), The Macmillan Bible Atlas (1968).