|AMMON; AMMONITES |
am'-on, am'-on-its (`ammon; `ammonim):
The Hebrew tradition makes this tribe descendants of Lot and hence related to the Israelites (Genesis 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 (Deuteronomy 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 (Numbers 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 (Judges 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 (1 Samuel 11) and of David (2 Samuel 10). This may account for the cruel treatment meted out to them in the war that followed (2 Samuel 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 (2 Samuel 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 (2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 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 (2 Chronicles 20). They paid tribute to Jotham (2 Chronicles 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.
Their hostility to Judah is shown in their joining the Chaldeans to destroy it (2 Kings 24:2). Their cruelty is denounced by the prophet Amos 1:13, and their destruction by Jeremiah 49:1-6; Ezekiel 21:28-32; Zechariah 2:8,9. Their murder of Gedaliah (2 Kings 25:22-26; Jeremiah 40:14) was a dastardly act. Tobiah the Ammonites united with Sanballat to oppose Ne (Nehemiah 4), and their opposition to the Jews did not cease with the establishment of the latter in Judea.
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 (1 Kings 11:7) against which Israel was especially warned (Leviticus 20:2-5). This worship was common to other tribes for we find it mentioned among the Phoenicians.