Who were the Ammonites according to the Bible?

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By BibleAsk Team


The Ammonites were an ancient people group mentioned numerous times in the Bible, primarily in the Old Testament. They were descendants of Ben-Ammi, the son of Lot, who was born through an incestuous relationship with his younger daughter after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible provides several references that shed light on their history, culture, and interactions with other nations.

Origins

Genesis 19:36-38 (NKJV)

In this passage, the origins of the Ammonites are traced back to the incestuous relationship between Lot and his younger daughter after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The daughter conceived and bore a son named Ben-Ammi, who became the progenitor of this group of people.

These people became nomads and lived in the eastern part of the region lying between the Jabbok and the Arnon. The name of their stronghold, Rabbath Ammon, is preserved in the name Amman, present capital of the Kingdom of Jordan. Their territory was accounted a land of giants.

Biblical Depiction of the Ammonites

Conflict with Israel

The Ammonites frequently clashed with the nation of Israel throughout biblical history. Before the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, King Sihon of Amorites warred against the Moabites and occupied Moab and Ammon. During the Exodus, the Ammonites forbade the Israelites from passing through their lands and allied with King Eglon of Moab in attacking Israel.

They were often depicted as hostile adversaries who sought to oppress or conquer the Israelites. They were among the enemies who opposed Israel during the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership. Envy, jealousy, and fear drove them to unite with the Moabites and to hire Balaam to curse Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3, 4).

Judges 11:4-33 (NKJV)

One notable conflict between Israel and the Ammonites is recorded in the story of Jephthah. They waged war against Israel and laid claim to territory east of the Jordan River. Jephthah, a judge raised up by God, led the Israelites to victory over this group but made a tragic vow to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house upon his return, which turned out to be his daughter.

King David and the Ammonites

The continual warring of the Ammonites on Israel was the reason for uniting the tribes of Israel under Saul, who defeated their king (1 Samuel 11). The reign of King David also saw significant interactions between Israel and the Ammonites. David sent messengers to express condolences to Hanun, the king of the Ammonites, upon the death of his father. However, Hanun’s advisors convinced him that David’s motives were malicious, leading to the humiliation of David’s ambassadors.

The Ammonites hired the Aramean armies to attack Israel but the war ended with all their cities being destroyed, and the inhabitants forced to labor for the Israelites (2 Samuel 10). This incident escalated into a full-scale conflict between Israel and the Ammonites, resulting in a decisive victory for David’s forces.

2 Samuel 12:26-31 (NKJV)

This passage describes David’s conquest of the Ammonite city of Rabbah and the plundering of its treasures. The enemy of Israel suffered a significant defeat at the hands of David’s army, solidifying Israel’s dominance in the region. There were many instances when this group showed hostility toward Israel (1 Samuel 11:1–3; 2 Samuel 10:1–5; 2 Chronicles 20; Nehemiah 2:10, 19; 4:1–3).

After the split of Israel and Judah, the Ammonites regained some rule in the seventh century B.C., until Nebuchadnezzar conquered them about a century later. Under the Persian rule, Tobiah the Ammonite (Nehemiah 2:19) became the governor of that area.

The last mention of the Ammonites was in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho in the second century where he stated that they were still a numerous people. But in the Roman era, they finally got integrated with the Arabs.

Cultural and Religious Practices

Idolatry and Paganism

Like many other ancient Near Eastern cultures, the Ammonites practiced idolatry and worshipped pagan gods and goddesses. They erected high places and altars to offer sacrifices to their deities, including the god Milcom (also known as Molech), to whom they engaged in child sacrifice. These people were wicked, cruel (Amos 1:13; 1 Samuel 11:2), and idolatrous.

Jeremiah 49:1-6 (NKJV)

In this passage, the prophet Jeremiah delivers a message of judgment against the Ammonites for their idolatry and arrogance. Despite their pride and confidence in their military might, Jeremiah warns that the Ammonites will face destruction and exile as a consequence of their rebellion against God.

Conclusion

The Ammonites were an ancient people group whose history and interactions with Israel are recorded in the pages of the Bible. Descended from Ben-Ammi, the son of Lot, the Ammonites were often depicted as hostile adversaries of the Israelites, engaging in conflicts and warfare throughout biblical history. Their cultural and religious practices, including idolatry and child sacrifice, were condemned by the prophets as abominations in the sight of God.

Despite their military prowess and confidence, the Ammonites ultimately faced judgment and destruction for their disobedience and rebellion against the God of Israel. Their story serves as a reminder of the consequences of pride, idolatry, and defiance against God’s commands, as well as the faithfulness of God in fulfilling His promises and executing justice upon the nations.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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