ben-am'-i (ben `ammi, "son of my kinsman," Genesis 19:38):
The progenitor of the Ammonites was a son of Lot's younger daughter, born after the destruction of Sodom. The account of his birth as well as that of Moab was commonly regarded as an expression of Israel's intense hatred and contempt toward these two nations. However, this idea is rather unwarranted, in view of the fact that the origin of the tribe of Judah (which is held in especial honor by J) is accounted for in a similiar way (Genesis 38). Gunkel (Schopfung und Chaos, 190) suggests that the narrative (Genesis 19:30-38) was originally a Moabitic account tracing the common origin of Moab and Ammon to Lot. It presupposes a universal catastrophe--such as the conflagration of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim suggests--in which all the human race, save Lot and his two daughters, perished. In order to avert the extinction of the race, his daughters resorted to incestuous practices. In this case we have here a Moabite parallel to the Deluge story (Skinner, Genesis, 313-14). While the common origin of the two brother tribes is undoubtedly a fact (Judges 10:6; 11:15,18,25; Deuteronomy 2:19; 2 Chronicles 20, etc.), the folk-etymology of their names is rather suspicious. The name Ben-Ammi is probably derived from the deity "Emu," which is the name for Nergal among the shuchites on the West of the Euphrates a land which corresponds to the position of the Bene-`Ammo, "children of his people" (Numbers 22:5). The chief god of the Kataban Arabs was called Ammi (Hom., ZDMG, V, 95, 525, note 1). In cuneiform inscriptions this name appears as part of the title of the Ammonite rulers (HDB). Neubauer (Studia Biblica, 1-26) suggests that the name Balaam is a compound of Bel plus Am, that is, "Am is Lord." For other compounds with Ammi see Gray, HPN, 41-60.