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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature


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Am´monites, the descendants of the younger son of Lot (Genesis 19:38). They originally occupied a tract of country east of the Amorites, and separated from the Moabites by the river Arnon. It was previously in the possession of a gigantic race called Zamzummims (Deuteronomy 2:20), 'but the Lord destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they succeeded them and dwelt in their stead.' The 'Israelites on reaching the borders of the Promised Land, were commanded not to molest the children of Ammon, for the sake of their progenitor Lot. But, though thus preserved from the annoyance which the passage of such an immense host through their country might have occasioned, they showed them no hospitality or kindness; they were therefore prohibited from 'entering the congregation of the Lord' (i.e. from being admitted into the civil community of the Israelites) 'to the tenth generation for ever' (Deuteronomy 23:3). This is evidently intended to be a perpetual prohibition, and was so understood by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:1). The first mention of their active hostility against Israel occurs in Judges 3:13. About 140 years later we are informed that the children of Israel forsook Jehovah and served the gods of various nations, including those of the children of Ammon, and the anger of Jehovah was kindled against them, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines and of the children of Ammon. The Ammonites crossed over the Jordan, and fought with Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim, so that 'Israel was sore distressed.' In answer to Jephthah's messengers (Judges 11:12), the king of Ammon charged the Israelites with having taken away that part of his territories which lay between the rivers Arnon and Jabbok, which, in Joshua 13:25, is called 'half the land of the children of Ammon,' but was in the possession of the Amorites when the Israelites invaded it; and this fact was urged by Jephthah, in order to prove that the charge was ill-founded. Jephthah 'smote them from Aroer to Minnith, even twenty cities, with a very great slaughter' (Judges 11:33). The Ammonites were again signally defeated by Saul (B.C. 1095) (1 Samuel 11:11), and, according to Josephus, their king Nahash was slain. His successor, who bore the same name, was a friend of David, and died some years after his accession to the throne. In consequence of the gross insult offered to David's ambassadors by his son Hanun (2 Samuel 10:4), a war ensued, in which the Ammonites were defeated, and their allies the Syrians were so daunted 'that they feared to help the children of Ammon any more' (2 Samuel 10:19). In the following year David took their metropolis, Rabbah, and great abundance of spoil, which is probably mentioned by anticipation in 2 Samuel 8:12 (2 Samuel 10:14; 2 Samuel 12:26-31). In the reign of Jehoshaphat (B.C. 896) the Ammonites joined with the Moabites and other tribes belonging to Mount Seir, to invade Judah; but, by the divine intervention, were led to destroy one another. Jehoshaphat and his people were three days in gathering the spoil (2 Chronicles 20:25). The Ammonites 'gave gifts' to Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:8), and paid a tribute to his son Jotham for three successive years, consisting of 100 talents of silver, 1000 measures of wheat, and as many of barley. When the two and a half tribes were carried away captive, the Ammonites took possession of the towns belonging to the tribe of Gad (Jeremiah 49:1). 'Bands of the children of Ammon' and of other nations came up with Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem (B.C. 607), and joined in exulting over its fall (Ezekiel 25:3; Ezekiel 25:6). Yet they allowed some of the fugitive Jews to take refuge among them, and even to intermarry (Jeremiah 40:11; Nehemiah 13:23). On the return of the Jews from Babylon the Ammonites manifested their ancient hostility by deriding and opposing the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:3; Nehemiah 4:7-8). Both Ezra and Nehemiah expressed vehement, indignation against those Jews who had intermarried with the heathen, and thus transgressed the divine command (Deuteronomy 7:3; Ezra 10; Nehemiah 13:25). Judas Maccabaeus (B.C. 164) fought many battles with the Ammonites, and took Jazer with the towns belonging to it. Justin Martyr affirms that in his time the Ammonites were still numerous.

The national idol of the Ammonites was Molech or Milcom, whose worship was introduced among the Israelites by the Ammonitish wives of Solomon (1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:7); and the high places built by that sovereign for this 'abomination' were not destroyed till the reign of Josiah (B.C. 610) (2 Kings 23:13).

Besides Nahash and Hanun, an Ammonitish king Baalis is mentioned by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 40:14).

In the writings of the prophets terrible denunciations are uttered against the Ammonites on account of their rancorous hostility to the people of Israel; and the destruction of their metropolis, Rabbah, is distinctly foretold (Zephaniah 2:8; Jeremiah 49:1-6; Ezekiel 25:1-5; Ezekiel 25:10; Amos 1:13-15).





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Ammonites'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature".

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