A nation in eastern Palestine. As to their origin from Lot, compare Gen. xix. 38, in which "Ben-ammi" (son of my paternal uncle; that is, of my nearest relative) is paro-nomasia, not etymology. It is possible that Ammon is derived from the name of a tribal divinity.
According to the pedigree given in Gen. xix. 37-38, the Ammonites were nearly related to the Israelites and still more closely to their neighbors in the south, the Moabites. This is fully confirmed by the fact that all names of Ammonitish persons show a pure Canaanitish character. But the above passage indicates also the contempt and hatred for the Ammonites felt by the Hebrews (Deut. xxiii. 4), even to the exclusion of their progeny from the assembly of the Lord (contrast Deut. ii. 19, 37, in which the consciousness of relationship seems to be at the root of the regard shown to Ammon).
The borders of the Ammonite territory are not clearly defined in the Bible. In Judges, xi. 13, the claim of the king of Ammon, who demands of the Israelites the restoration of the land "from Arnon even unto Jabbok and unto Jordan," is mentioned only as an unjust claim (xi. 15), inasmuch as the Israelitish part of this tract had been conquered from the Amorites whom the Moabites had, in part, preceded; while in Judges, xi. 22 it is stated that the Israelites had possession "from the wilderness even unto Jordan," and that they laid a claim to territory beyond this, so as to leave no room for Ammon. Num. xxi. 24 describes the Hebrew conquest (compare Judges, xi. 19) as having reached "even unto the children of Ammon, for the border of the children of Ammon was Jazer" (read the last word, with Septuagint, as "Jazer," instead of "'az," strong, A. V.; compare Judges, xi. 32). Josh. xiii. 25, defines the frontier of the tribe of Gad as being "Jazer . . . and half the land of the children of Ammon." The latter statement can be reconciled with Num. xxi. 24 (Deut. ii. 19, 37) only by assuming that the northern part of Sihon's Amorite kingdom had for merly been Ammonite. This explains, in part, the claim mentioned above (Judges, xi. 13). According to Deut. ii. 37, the region along the river Jabbok and the cities of the hill-country formed the border-line of Israel.
In Judges, xi. 33, a portion of the land of Ammon is mentioned. It extended from Aroer to Minnith, including twenty cities, and must have been anextremely narrow strip of land, comprising only the northeastern quarter of the region called, at present, El-Belka. According to the Moabite stone, the southeastern quarter, attributed by many scholars to Ammon, could not have belonged to it; and nothing is known concerning an extension north of the Jabbok river. The village of the Ammonites (or according to the Ḳeri, Ammonitess), Josh. xviii. 24, in Benjamin, does not point to former possessions west of Jordan. On the authority of Deut. ii. 20, their territory had formerly been in the possession of a mysterious nation, the
Sometimes a slight distinction only seems to be made between the Ammonites and their southern brothers, the Moabites. Deut. xxiii. 4, 5, for instance, states that the Ammonites and Moabites hired Balaam to curse the Israelites, while in Num. xxii. 3 et seq. Moab alone is mentioned. Some authorities overcome this discrepancy by the help of the emended text of Num. xxii. 5, according to which Balaam came "from the land of the children of Ammon." This is the reading of most ancient versions; the Septuagint, however, has it like the present Hebrew text: "the children of his people" ("ammo") (see Balaam). In Judges, iii. 13, the Ammonites appear as furnishing assistance to Eglon of Moab against Israel; but in Judges, x. 7, 8, 9, in which not only Gilead is oppressed but a victorious war is waged also west of the Jordan, Ammon alone is mentioned. The speech of Jephthah which follows, however, is clearly addressed to the Moabites as well, for he speaks of their god Chemosh (Judges, xi. 18-24). Some scholars find that these varying statements conflict (compare Deut. xxiii. 3); others conclude that the brother-nations still formed a unit. The small nation of Ammon could face Israel only in alliance with other non-Israelites (compare II Chron. xx. and Ps. lxxxiii. 7). The attack of King Nahash upon the frontier city Jabesh in Gilead was easily repulsed by Saul (I Sam. xi., xiv. 47).Ammonite Warriors in David's Army.
From II Sam. x. 2, it may be concluded that Nahash assisted David out of hatred for Saul; but his son Hanun provoked David by ill-treating his ambassadors, and brought about the defeat of the Ammonites, despite assistance from their northern neighbor (ibid. x. 13). Their capital Rabbah was captured (ibid. xii. 29), and numerous captives were taken from "all the cities of the children of Ammon." David's treatment of the captives (ibid. xii. 31) was not necessarily barbarous; the description may be interpreted to mean that he employed them as laborers in various public works. The Chronicler, however, takes it in the most cruel sense (I Chron. xx. 3). Yet David could not have exceeded the savagery customary in ancient Oriental warfare; the Ammonites, themselves, for instance, were exceedingly cruel (I Sam. xi. 2; Amos, i. 13). The new king, Shobi, a brother of Hanun, evidently appointed by David, kept peace, his attitude being even friendly (II Sam. xvii. 27). There were Ammonite warriors in David's army (ibid. 23, 27) and Solomon's chief wife, the mother of his heir, was Naamah, the Ammonitess (I Kings, xiv. 21; compare xi. 1), probably a daughter of Shobi. After this, hostilities again broke out, under Jehoshaphat (II Chron. xx.), under Jeroboam II. (Amos, i. 13) and under Jotham, who subjected the Ammonites (II Chron. xxvii. 5).
According to the Assyrian inscriptions under Baasha (Hebrew, Ba'sha), the son of Rukhubi (Rehob), they had to send auxiliaries to the powerful king Birhidri (Benhadad) of Damascus to aid him in his war against Shalmaneser II. The following kings paid tribute to the Assyrians: Sanipu (or "Sanibu" of Bit-Ammanu; "bit," house, has either the sense of "reign" or "kingdom," or is added after the analogy of "Bit-kḦumri"—house of Omri—for Israel, etc.) to Tiglath-pileser III.; Puduilu to Sennacherib and Assarhaddon; Ammi-nadbi to Assurbanipal. An Assyrian tribute-list, showing that Ammon paid one-fifth of Judah's tribute, gives evidence of the scanty extent and resources of the country (see Schrader, "K.A.T." pp. 141 et seq.; Delitzsch, "Paradies," p. 294; Winckler, "Geschichte Israels," p. 215).
In the time of Nebuchadnezzar, the Ammonites seem to have been fickle in their political attitude. They assisted the Babylonian army against the Jews (II Kings, xxiv. 2); encroached upon the territory of Gad; and occupied Heshbon and Jazer (Jer. xlix. 1; I Macc. v. 6-8; compare Zeph. ii. 8); but the prophetic threatenings in Jer. ix. 26, xxv. 21, xxvii. 3, and Ezra, xxi. 20, point to rebellion by them against Babylonian supremacy. They received Jews fleeing before the Babylonians (Jer. xl. 11), and their king, Baalis, instigated the murder of Gedaliah, the first Babylonian governor (ibid. xl. 14, xli. 15). At the time of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, they were hostile to the Jews, and Tobiah, an Ammonite, incited them to hinder the work (Neh. iii. 35). But inter-marriages between Jews and Ammonites were frequent (Ezra, ix. 1; I Esd. viii. 69, and elsewhere). It is stated (I Macc. v. 6) that the Ammonites under Timotheus were defeated by Judas; but it is probable that, after the exile, the term Ammonite denoted all Arabs living in the former country of Ammon and Gad. Ezek. xxv. 4-5 seems to mark the beginning of an Arab immigration, which is testified to by Neh. ii. 19, iv. 7, and is described by Josephus as completed ("Ant." xiii. 9, § 1).Milcom Their Chief Deity.
Of the customs, religion, and constitution of the Ammonites, little is known. The frequent assumption that, living on the borders of the desert, they remained more pastoral than the Moabites and Israelites, is unfounded (Ezek. xxv. 4, II Chron. xxvii. 5); the environs of
The Ammonites, still numerous in the south of Palestine in the second Christian century according to Justin Martyr ("Dialogus cum Tryphone," ch. cxix.), presented a serious problem to the Pharisaic scribes because of the fact that many marriages with Ammonite and Moabite wives had taken place in the days of Nehemiah (Neh. xiii. 23). Still later, it is not improbable that when Judas Maccabeus had inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Ammonites, Jewish warriors took Ammonite women as wives, and their sons, sword in hand, claimed recognition as Jews notwithstanding the law (Deut. xxiii. 4) that "an Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord." Such a condition or a similar incident is reflected in the story told in the Talmud (Yeb. 76b, 77a; Ruth R. to ii. 5) that in the days of King Saulthe legitimacy of David's claim to royalty was disputed on account of his descent from Ruth, the Moabite; whereupon Ithra, the Israelite (II Sam. xvii. 25; compare I Chron. ii. 17), girt with his sword, strode like an Ishmaelite into the schoolhouse of Jesse, declaring upon the authority of Samuel, the prophet, and his bet din (court of justice), that the law excluding the Ammonite and Moabite from the Jewish congregation referred only to the men—who alone had sinned in not meeting Israel with bread and water—and not to the women. The story reflects actual conditions in pre-Talmudic times, conditions that led to the fixed rule stated in the Mishnah (Yeb. viii. 3): "Ammonite and Moabite men are excluded from the Jewish community for all time; their women are admissible."
The fact that Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon, was born of an Ammonite woman (I Kings, xiv. 21-31) also made it difficult to maintain the Messianic claims of the house of David; but it was adduced as an illustration of divine Providence which selected the "two doves," Ruth, the Moabite, and Naamah, the Ammonitess, for honorable distinction (B. Ḳ. 38b).