What do we know about the Amorites?
The Amorites were an ancient people group frequently listed among the enemies of Israel in the writings of the Old Testament. Genesis 10:15-16 first mentions the Amorites, referring to them as descendants of Canaan, son of Ham, the son of Noah (Genesis 10:6).
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The Amorites are next found in Genesis 14. Verse 7 says, "Then they [Chedorlaomer and others mentioned in verse 5] turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh) and defeated all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who were dwelling in Hazazon-tamar." Apparently many Amorites existed by the time of Abraham.
Prior to the time the Israelites entered the Promised Land, some of the southern Judean mountains were called the "hill country of the Amorites" (Deuteronomy 1:7). The Israelites sent 12 spies, including Joshua and Caleb, to explore this land before crossing into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:19-40). The spies (besides Joshua and Caleb) were afraid of the Amorites and the other nations, however, and when the Israelites refused to trust God and enter their Promised Land, God forced them to wander the desert for another forty years.
When Israel finally did approach the Promised Land, Moses led them in defeating two Amorite kings, Sihon and Og (Deuteronomy 31:4). Under Joshua's leadership, five additional Amorite kings were defeated (Joshua 10:6-10). Generations later, in the time of Samuel, the Amorites were said to be living in peace with the Israelites (1 Samuel 7:14).
During the reign of King Solomon, less than a century later, the remaining Amorites were placed into slavery—a kind of serfdom. First Kings 9:20-21 says, "All the people who were left of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of the people of Israel—their descendants who were left after them in the land, whom the people of Israel were unable to devote to destruction—these Solomon drafted to be slaves, and so they are to this day."
Overall, the Amorites were known as warriors. Some of their people may also have been known for being very tall. For example, Deuteronomy 3:11 says, "For only Og the king of Bashan was left of the remnant of the Rephaim. Behold, his bed was a bed of iron. Is it not in Rabbah of the Ammonites? Nine cubits was its length, and four cubits its breadth, according to the common cubit." This length, approximately 13.5 feet long (more than 4 meters), indicates that the man was either very tall, very wealthy, or both.
The Amorites were Israel's enemy for two main reasons. First, they worshiped other gods rather than the one true God. Second, when Israel first requested to pass through Amorite land peaceably, the Amorites refused and attacked them instead (Judges 11:12-28). The Amorites' rejection of God and violence toward His chosen people ensured their judgment and downfall (Romans 2:5).
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