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AMMON (ăm'ŏn, Heb. ‘ammôn, a people). Ammon or Ben-Ammi is the name of one of the sons of Lot born to him by his youngest daughter in the neighborhood of Zoar (Gen.19.38). He was the father of the Ammonites, who occupied the area east of the Dead Sea in the land of Gilead.

AMMONITES (ăm'ŏn-īts, Heb. ‘ammônîm). The name given to the descendants of Ben-Ammi or Ammon (Gen.19.38). They were related to the Moabites by ancestry and often appear in Scripture in united effort with them. Because by ancestry they were related to Israel, “children of my people” (see the niv footnote to Gen.19.38), the Israelites were told by the Lord not to enter into battle with them as they journeyed toward the land of Canaan (Deut.2.19). Lot fled from the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and dwelt in the mountains to the east of the Dead Sea. The land God gave the Ammonites stretched to the north as far as the Jabbok River and to the south to the hills of Edom. Many years later the Ammonites made war with Israel in order to extend their borders farther west. Although this land never really belonged to the Ammonites, they claimed it and gave this as a reason for their aggression (Judg.11.13).

Unable to expand westward and not desiring the desert tract of land on the east, the Ammonites were confined to a small area. Although they were a nomadic people, they did have a few cities, their capital Rabbath-Ammon being the most famous.

Because of their sins and especially because they constantly opposed Israel, Ezekiel predicted their complete destruction (Ezek.25.1-Ezek.25.7). Their last stand seems to have been against Judas Maccabeus (1Macc.5.6).——HZC

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


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”).

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.

History of Ammon.

Earliest history attested in OT (c. 1250-1100 B.C.).

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).

Ammonites in the period of Saul (c. 1020-1000 B.C.).

Ammon as a vassal state under David and Solomon (c. 1000-922 B.C.).

Ammon during the period of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah (c. 900-580 B.C.).

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.

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”).


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).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

am’-on, am’-on-its (`ammon; `ammonim):

The Hebrew tradition makes this tribe descendants of Lot and hence related to the Israelites (Ge 19:38). This is reflected in the name usually employed in Old Testament to designate them, Ben `Ammi, Bene `Ammon, "son of my people," "children of my people," i.e. relatives. Hence we find that the Israelites are commanded to avoid conflict with them on their march to the Promised Land (De 2:19). Their dwelling-place was on the east of the Dead Sea and the Jordan, between the Arnon and the Jabbok, but, before the advance of the Hebrews, they had been dispossessed of a portion of their land by the Amorites, who founded, along the east side of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, the kingdom of Sihon (Nu 21:21-31).

We know from the records of Egypt, especially Tell el-Amarna Letters, the approximate date of the Amorite invasion (14th and 13th centuries, BC). They were pressed on the north by the Hittites who forced them upon the tribes of the south, and some of them settled east of the Jordan. Thus, Israel helped Ammonites by destroying their old enemies, and this makes their conduct at a later period the more reprehensible. In the days of Jephthah they oppressed the Israelites east of the Jordan, claiming that the latter had deprived them of their territory when they came from Egypt, whereas it was the possessions of the Amorites they took (Jud 11:1-28). They were defeated, but their hostility did not cease, and their conduct toward the Israelites was particularly shameful, as in the days of Saul (1Sa 11) and of David (2Sa 10). This may account for the cruel treatment meted out to them in the war that followed (2Sa 12:26-31).

They seem to have been completely subdued by David and their capital was taken, and we find a better spirit manifested afterward, for Nahash of Rabbah showed kindness to him when a fugitive (2Sa 17:27-29). Their country came into the possession of Jeroboam, on the division of the kingdom, and when the Syrians of Damascus deprived the kingdom of Israel of their possessions east of the Jordan, the Ammonites became subjects of Benhadad, and we find a contingent of 1,000 of them serving as allies of that king in the great battle of the Syrians with the Assyrians at Qarqar (854 BC) in the reign of Shalmaneser II. They may have regained their old territory when Tiglath-pileser carried off the Israelites East of the Jordan into captivity (2Ki 15:29; 1Ch 5:26). Their hostility to both kingdoms, Judah and Israel, was often manifested. In the days of Jehoshaphat they joined with the Moabites in an attack upon him, but met with disaster (2Ch 20). They paid tribute to Jotham (2Ch 27:5). After submitting to Tiglath-pileser they were generally tributary to Assyria, but we have mention of their joining In the general uprising that took place under Sennacherib; but they submitted and we find them tributary in the reign of Esarhaddon.

They joined the Syrians in their wars with the Maccabees and were defeated by Judas (1 Mac 5:6). Their religion was a degrading and cruel superstition. Their chief god was Molech, or Moloch, to whom they offered human sacrifices (1Ki 11:7) against which Israel was especially warned (Le 20:2-5). This worship was common to other tribes for we find it mentioned among the Phoenicians.