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Who Were the Amorites?

The terms “Amorite” and “Amorites” appear 26 and 60 times, respectively, in the American Standard Version of the Bible, totaling 86 occurrences. The Amorites are first mentioned as early as Gen. 10:16 as having descended from Canaan, the son of Ham. They, along with many other tribes, occupied the pre-conquest territory of Canaan. “Amorite” may have signified either a single ethnic clan or a loose confederacy of tribes. At times, the Amorite name seems to be synonymous with “Canaanite” and to represent all non-Israelites whom God commanded to be driven from the land (Josh. 10:5; 24:8,15; Jgs. 6:10).

The Amorite name means literally “the high one” and may refer to one (or more) of three possibilities:

  1. the mountainous terrain of the land they occupied (Num. 13:29; Deut. 1:7,19-20);
  2. their fearsome military prowess (Deut. 1:44); or
  3. their great stature (Num. 13:33).

If #1 was intended then Amorite would stand for “highlander” or “mountaineer.” If #2 or #3, then the concept of “the high [and mighty] one” was implied. It is possible that a combination of more than one idea inhered in the name. Continue reading » Who Were the Amorites?