A people who occupied part of the Promised Land and often fought Israel. Their history goes back before 2000 B.C. They took control of the administration of Babylonia for approximately 400 years (2000-1595), their most influential king being Hammurabi (1792-1750). Their descent to Canaan may be traced back to 2100-1800 when their settlement in the hill country helped to set the stage for the revelation of God through Israel.
Abraham assisted Mamre the Amorite in recovering his land from four powerful kings (Genesis 14:1), but later the Amorites were a formidable obstacle to the Israelites' conquest and settlement of Canaan. They preferred living in the hills and valleys that flank both sides of the Jordan River. Sihon and Og, two Amorite kings, resisted the Israelites' march to Canaan as they approached east of the Jordan (Numbers 21:21-35); but after the Israelite victory here, Gad, Reuben and half of Manasseh settled in the conquered area. These two early victories over the Amorites foreshadowed continued success against other Amorites to the west and were often remembered in both history (e.g.,
Judges 11:19) and poetry (Numbers 21:27-30;
Psalms 136:17-22). West of the Jordan, the Amorites lived in the hills along with the Hivites, Hittites, and Jebusites (Numbers 13:29;
Joshua 11:3); but specific identification of Amorite cities cannot be certain since the term “Amorite” is used often as a very general name for all the inhabitants of Canaan, as is “Canaanite” (e.g.
1 Kings 21:26). Five city-states in south Canaan formed an alliance instigated by the king of Jerusalem (Jebus, Jebusites) and intimidated an ally of Joshua, i.e. Gibeon. These “Amorites,” as they are called in the general sense, were defeated by Joshua's army and the Lord's “stones from heaven” (Joshua 10:1-27). Amorites also were among those in the north who unsuccessfully united to repel the Israelites (Joshua 11:1-15). Later, two other Amorite cities, Aijalon and Shaalbim, hindered the settlement of Dan near the Philistine border (Judges 1:34-36).
Amorite culture laid at the root of Jerusalem's decadence, according to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 16:3,Ezekiel 16:45); and Amorite idolatry tainted the religion of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms (1 Kings 21:26;
2 Kings 21:11). Despite the Amorite resistance and poor influence, they were subjugated as slaves (Judges 1:35;
1 Kings 9:20-21;
2 Chronicles 8:7-8). Their past hindrance is a subject of derision for the prophet Amos (Amos 2:9-10). See also Canaan, History and Religion of; Jebusites; Babylon; Syria; Sihon.
Daniel C. Fredericks