The Amorites were descendants of Canaan: Gen. 10:15-16; 1 Chron 1:13-14.
At the time of Abraham 2000BC, the Amorites lived in Hazazon-tamar Genesis 14:7 (which is also known as Engedi: 2 Chron 20:2. Engedi is a large active oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea directly across from the Arnon River.
The Amorites were likely the largest of the 7 nations that God displaced for Israel out of Canaan. Gen 15:16; " "When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you," (Deut 7:1)
The Amorites were a large and powerful nation that controlled much of the promised land, including Jerusalem, Hebron, and Lachish: Joshua 10:5
The transjordan Amorites were displaced south when Israel took possession of the promised land in 1400 BC: Gen 15:18-21; 48:22; Deut 7:1; Amos 2:10
The center of their power was transjordan in Heshbon, a town in modern Jordan. Deut 1:4
The Transjordan territory of the Amorites was give to the tribes of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh: Josh 12:6; 21:38-39; 1 Chron 6:81; Num 32:33-42
At the time of the exodus, the Arnon River was the Amorites' southern border with the Moabites: Numbers 21:13
Moses had requested both Edom and Moab to pass through their land but were refused. This forces Israel to travel south to past Elat and Ezion geber, then due east for 20 miles then north to a location parallel with Jericho. Then asked permission for the Amorites to pass by their land so they could cross the Jordan. Judges 11:14-26
The Amorites controlled all the way from the Arnon River north to Mt. Hermon, the highest snow peaked mountain east of tel Dan: Deut 3:8
A. Amorite Territory from Abraham to Conquest: 2000-1400BC
- At the time of Abraham 2000BC, the Amorites lived in Hazazon-tamar Genesis 14:7 (which is also known as Engedi: 2 Chron 20:2. Engedi is a large active oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea directly across from the Arnon River.
- When Israel tried to enter the promised land after the spies returned a bad report, they were chased out by the Amorites: Deut 1:19-21, 44. This means that the Amorite center of power was transjordan, but they were still west of the Dead Sea during the time of the exodus. (1440 BC) They had continuously inhabited the south western shore of the Dead sea including Engedi from the time of Abraham. (2000 BC)
- However, we know that the power center was transjordan. The Amorites seemed to like living in the "hill country" as opposed to the lower coastal areas. Numb 13:29. Since they lived in Engedi, (Genesis 14:7 + 2 Chron 20:2) they must have lived in the hills above, rather than the shoreline areas below. On the other hand, Judges 1:34-36 says they banished the tribe of Dan into the mountains and they lived in the Valleys. They were a flexible, powerful people.
B. Transjordan Amorite Territory at the Exodus: 1440BC
Moab's territory was also on the south side of the Zered River because Israel adjacent to Moabite land before they headed north and camped in the Zered. "They journeyed from Oboth and camped at Iyeabarim, in the wilderness which is opposite Moab, to the east. From there they set out and camped in Wadi Zered." Numbers 21:11-12
Edom's land were south of Moab's down to Mt. Seir east of the Red Sea.
Then Israel came down the Arnon river wadi and requested passage through the land of the Amorites and were refused: "And Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, "Please let us pass through your land to our place." 'But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory; so Sihon gathered all his people and camped in Jahaz and fought with Israel. 'The Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them; so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 'So they possessed all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and from the wilderness as far as the Jordan." Judges 11:19-22
From the "wilderness of Kedemoth" Moses asked the Amorites to pass by the land: "So I sent messengers from the wilderness of Kedemoth to Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying, 'Let me pass through your land, I will travel only on the highway; I will not turn aside to the right or to the left. 'You will sell me food for money so that I may eat, and give me water for money so that I may drink, only let me pass through on foot, just as the sons of Esau who live in Seir and the Moabites who live in Ar did for me, until I cross over the Jordan into the land which the Lord our God is giving to us.' "But Sihon king of Heshbon was not willing for us to pass through his land; for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, in order to deliver him into your hand, as he is today. "The Lord said to me, 'See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his land over to you. Begin to occupy, that you may possess his land.' "Then Sihon with all his people came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz. "The Lord our God delivered him over to us, and we defeated him with his sons and all his people. "So we captured all his cities at that time and utterly destroyed the men, women and children of every city. We left no survivor. "We took only the animals as our booty and the spoil of the cities which we had captured. "From Aroer which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon and from the city which is in the valley, even to Gilead, there was no city that was too high for us; the Lord our God delivered all over to us. "Only you did not go near to the land of the sons of Ammon, all along the river Jabbok and the cities of the hill country, and wherever the Lord our God had commanded us." Deuteronomy 2:26-37
Mt. Nebo and Madaba was part of Moab's territory and called the Pains of Moab: Deut 32:49; Isa 15:2. This is also where the book of Numbers was written at: Num 36:13.
- This is how the three nations looked at the time of the exodus when Israel spent 38 years at Kadesh near Petra.
- Israel asked permission of Edom and Moab to cross their territory to go north and cross the Jordan river into the promised land and was refused: "For when they came up from Egypt, and Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh, then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, "Please let us pass through your land," but the king of Edom would not listen. And they also sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh. 'Then they went through the wilderness and around the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and came to the east side of the land of Moab, and they camped beyond the Arnon; but they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab. Judges 11:16-18
- Israel was forced to go from Petra south to the Red sea, then far east beyond Edom's territory, then north. Once they were east of the place they crossed the Jordan, they began moving due west.
C. Amorite Territory after the conquest: 1380 - 950 BC
However, after defeating the Amorites, with God's help, they were displaced south of the Arnon River to Petra. (This in turn displaced the Edomites south to their historic stronghold in the mountains south of Petra.) But the Amorites retained one small stronghold west of the Jordan in the territory of Dan, where they occupied Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim.
Judges 1:34-36 says: "Then the Amorites forced the sons of Dan into the hill country, for they did not allow them to come down to the valley; yet the Amorites persisted in living in Mount Heres, in Aijalon and in Shaalbim; but when the power of the house of Joseph grew strong, they became forced labor. The border of the Amorites ran from the ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upward." Judges 1:34-36
The ascent of Akrabbim must be on the east side of the Arabah valley. We also know where Petra (Kadesh Barnea, Sela) was located.
Judges 1:34-36 recounts places where Israel failed to drive out the Amorites within the promised land. The narrative begins in the tribe of Dan, an area just north west of Jerusalem and how the Amorites occupied key areas within Dan's inheritance. It mentions two towns of Aijalon and Shaalbim whose location we can generally identify.
The narrative then gives the border of the Amorites starting from the "Arabah Valley and upward". see map above. It is important to note a few things about the words in this verse. The word "upward" is common and non-specific. The word "border" is the common word for denoting territory or a border. But it is well known in the Bible that the expression "went up" or "went down" referred to elevation. For example: "Joseph went up from the Nazareth (350 meters above sea level) to Bethlehem (600 m)" Luke 2:4. And again: "Jesus went down (from Cana of Galilee 250 m) to Capernaum (-150 m), then Jesus went up to Jerusalem (750 m)." John 2:11-13. Therefore, the word, "upward" as it is used in Judges 1:36 likely refers to elevation.
So when we apply this common Jewish usage of "upward" in Judges 1:36, we read the text: "The area occupied and controlled by the Amorites started in the valley of the Arabah (50 m) and went up in elevation transjordan to the Arnon River.
The two lowest beginning points are the "ascent of Akrabbim" and "Sela" (or Petra). At the time of the failed conquest immediately after the spies came back and gave a bad report, it was the Amorites that repelled the disobedient Jews out of the Negev and back to Petra (Kadesh Barnea was located at or near Petra.)
If the ascent of Akrabbim is located on the eastern Arabah valley ascending upwards towards modern Jordan, as we believe it does, the text of Judges 1:34-36 also fits nicely. Since the Amorites were a very powerful nation, when Israel displaced them, they in turn displaced the Moabites and the Edomites out of their territory in 1400 BC. Remember, the Amorites had the territory north of the Arnon River and controlled Jerusalem, Hebron etc. The tribe of Reuben, Gad and Manassah possessed the territorial stronghold of the Amorites between the Arnon River and Mt. Hermon.
- In 1400 BC, when the Israelites first came to the promised land, the Amorites controlled the transjordan from the Arnon River north to Mt. Hermon and many key cities west of the Jordan including Jerusalem and Hebron.
- As Israel had asked Edom to pass through, but was refused, so too they asked the Amorites so they could pass travelling west to cross their land and get to the Jordan River. Unlike Edom, this time Israel fought: "Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, saying, "Let me pass through your land. We will not turn off into field or vineyard; we will not drink water from wells. We will go by the king's highway until we have passed through your border." But Sihon would not permit Israel to pass through his border. So Sihon gathered all his people and went out against Israel in the wilderness, and came to Jahaz and fought against Israel. Then Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the sons of Ammon; for the border of the sons of Ammon was Jazer. Israel took all these cities and Israel lived in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all her villages." Numbers 21:21-25
D. Summary of the domino effect: Rueben, Amorites, Moabites, Edomites
In a kind of domino effect one nation displaced another when Israel entered the promised land under Joshua.
Rueben displaced the Amorites from their stronghold and they moved south of the Arnon river and co-existed beside the Moabites.
The Edomites were in turn, probably forced south into their historic stronghold area at Mt. Seir, just north east of the Red Sea. Edom remained transjordan from the time of the Exodus. It was not until the Babylonian captivity did Edom first move into the land of Judah.
When Israel first arrived at Kadesh (Petra) it was on the border of the Edomites.
When Israel first crossed the Jordan with Joshua, the Amorites controlled both Hebron, Jerusalem and Engedi. They were defeated and driven transjordan between the time of Joshua to David. Of course under David and Solomon, they were completely driven east and south of the entire transjordan area for a time, until the Assyrian captivity in 722 BC.
E. What the Bible says about the Amorites:
"On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite." Genesis 15:18-21
"I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow." Genesis 48:22
"It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, And I led you in the wilderness forty years That you (kingdom of Israel) might take possession of the land of the Amorite." Amos 2:10
"after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and Edrei." Deuteronomy 1:4
"Thus we took the land at that time from the hand of the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, from the valley of Arnon (east of dead sea, center) to Mount Hermon (snow peaked mountain forth of tel dan)" Deuteronomy 3:8
"Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan." Numbers 13:29
"From there they journeyed and camped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the wilderness that comes out of the border of the Amorites, for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites." Numbers 21:13
"The Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do, and crushed you from Seir to Hormah." Deuteronomy 1:44
"'Turn and set your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates." Deuteronomy 1:7
"Then we set out from Horeb, and went through all that great and terrible wilderness which you saw on the way to the hill country of the Amorites, just as the Lord our God had commanded us; and we came to Kadesh-barnea." Deuteronomy 1:19
"Thus we took the land at that time from the hand of the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, from the valley of Arnon (east of dead sea, center) to Mount Hermon (snow peaked mountain near tel Dan)" Deuteronomy 3:8
"(Sidonians call Hermon Sirion, and the Amorites call it Senir)" Deuteronomy 3:9
"I said to you, 'You have come to the hill country of the Amorites which the Lord our God is about to give us." Deuteronomy 1:20
"When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you" Deuteronomy 7:1
"So Moses gave to them, to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Reuben and to the half-tribe of Joseph's son Manasseh, the kingdom of Sihon, king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og, the king of Bashan, the land with its cities with their territories, the cities of the surrounding land. The sons of Gad built Dibon and Ataroth and Aroer, and Atroth-shophan and Jazer and Jogbehah, and Beth-nimrah and Beth-haran as fortified cities, and sheepfolds for sheep. The sons of Reuben built Heshbon and Elealeh and Kiriathaim, and Nebo and Baal-meon—their names being changed—and Sibmah, and they gave other names to the cities which they built. The sons of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead and took it, and dispossessed the Amorites who were in it. So Moses gave Gilead to Machir the son of Manasseh, and he lived in it. Jair the son of Manasseh went and took its towns, and called them Havvoth-jair. Nobah went and took Kenath and its villages, and called it Nobah after his own name." Numbers 32:33-42
"Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, saying, "Let me pass through your land. We will not turn off into field or vineyard; we will not drink water from wells. We will go by the king's highway until we have passed through your border." But Sihon would not permit Israel to pass through his border. So Sihon gathered all his people and went out against Israel in the wilderness, and came to Jahaz and fought against Israel. Then Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the sons of Ammon; for the border of the sons of Ammon was Jazer. Israel took all these cities and Israel lived in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all her villages. For Heshbon was the city of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken all his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon. Therefore those who use proverbs say, "Come to Heshbon! Let it be built! So let the city of Sihon be established. "For a fire went forth from Heshbon, A flame from the town of Sihon; It devoured Ar of Moab, The dominant heights of the Arnon. "Woe to you, O Moab! You are ruined, O people of Chemosh! He has given his sons as fugitives, And his daughters into captivity, To an Amorite king, Sihon. "But we have cast them down, Heshbon is ruined as far as Dibon, Then we have laid waste even to Nophah, Which reaches to Medeba." Numbers 21:21-30
"Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel. " Joshua 5:1
Amorites lived at Ai after Israel was defeated because of the sin of Achan: "Joshua said, "Alas, O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan!" Joshua 7:7
"So the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered together and went up, they with all their armies, and camped by Gibeon and fought against it." Joshua 10:5
"Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and ruled from Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of the Arnon, both the middle of the valley and half of Gilead, even as far as the brook Jabbok, the border of the sons of Ammon; and the Arabah as far as the Sea of Chinneroth toward the east, and as far as the sea of the Arabah, even the Salt Sea, eastward toward Beth-jeshimoth, and on the south, at the foot of the slopes of Pisgah" Joshua 12:2-3
"yet the Amorites persisted in living in Mount Heres, in Aijalon and in Shaalbim; but when the power of the house of Joseph grew strong, they became forced labor." Judges 1:35
"'So they possessed all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and from the wilderness as far as the Jordan." Judges 11:22
"Joshua said, "By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusite." Joshua 3:10
"'Since now the Lord, the God of Israel, drove out the Amorites from before His people Israel, are you then to possess it?" Judges 11:23
"So Moses gave an inheritance to the tribe of the sons of Reuben according to their families. Their territory was from Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of the Arnon, with the city which is in the middle of the valley and all the plain by Medeba; Heshbon, and all its cities which are on the plain: Dibon and Bamoth-baal and Beth-baal-meon, and Jahaz and Kedemoth and Mephaath, and Kiriathaim and Sibmah and Zereth-shahar on the hill of the valley, and Beth-peor and the slopes of Pisgah and Beth-jeshimoth, even all the cities of the plain and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites who reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses struck with the chiefs of Midian, Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the princes of Sihon, who lived in the land." Joshua 13:15-21
By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.
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