The Amorites and the Canaanite Phoenicians were not the same people
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Their origin and language are unknown. The Biblical story of Noah and his children regarding the origin of nations that indicates they were related to the Canaanites is unfounded fiction.

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The Amorite People

The Amorites may have come of European origin, though no one is sure what was their ethnic origin. They were represented on the Egyptian monuments with fair skins, light hair, blue eyes, curved or hooked noses, and pointed beards. They were supposed to have been of great stature.

Amorites (Hebrew 'emôrí, Egyptian Amar, Akkadian Amurü (corresponding to Sumerian MAR.TU or Martu) refers to a probably Semitic speaking people who occupied the middle Euphrates area from the second half of the third millennium B.C. It is useful to remind readers that Semitic speaking people is not an ethnic group or people of related blood line. The term Semite was proposed at first for the languages related to the Hebrew by Ludwig Schlözer, in Eichhorn's "Repertorium", vol. VIII (Leipzig, 1781), p. 161. Through Eichhorn the name then came into general usage (cf. his "Einleitung in das Alte Testament" (Leipzig, 1787), I, p. 45. In his "Gesch. der neuen Sprachenkunde", pt. I (Göttingen, 1807) it had already become a fixed technical term.

The claim based on the Biblical fiction of Noah's children and their descendents making the Amorites related to the Canaanites (or other people of the Middle East) is unfounded fiction. It as much fictional as the fine details of the Biblical story of Noah and his flood. Further, there is no proof that the Amorites were immigrants from the Arabian peninsula. This claim is very unlikely, specifically because of the western looking features they had. With such givens, one has to conclude that the Amorites may have come from the northern mountains beyond what is now modern Iraq or around the Caspian Sea.

Warlike Mountaineers

They were fierce tribal clansmen who apparently forced themselves into lands they needed to graze their herds. Though herdsmen, the Amorites were not peaceful pastoralists. They twice conquered Babylonia (at the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 1st millennium. The decline of the Sumerian language in Mesopotamia was the time of their most famous incursions. Inscriptions and tablets of the early Babylonians, indicate that they occupied parts of Syria the land east of Israel in 1,900 B.C. At first the Amorites were merely a regular irritant to the Ur empire, but eventually they undermined it to such an extent that the position of last king Ibbi-Sin was weakened to the point that his subjects were able to over throw his rule.

The Amorites seem to have worshipped the moon-god Sin and Amurru. Known Amorites wrote in a dialect of Akkadian found on tablets dating from 1800� BC which shows some northwest Semitic forms and constructions. Presumably their original or acquired tongue was a northwest-Semitic dialect, though their language is unknown. Only one word of the Amorite language survives, "Shenir," the name they gave to Mount Hermon (Deut. 3:9). The main sources for our extremely limited knowledge about their language are their proper names that survive in non-Amorite text. Many of these names are similar to later Biblical Hebrew names. It is unknown whether the Hebrews borrowed names from the Amorites or the other way round.

The wider extension of the use of Amurru by the Babylonians and Assyrians is complicated by the fact that it was also applied to a district in the neighborhood of Babylonia to which the land of Canaan does not traditionally extend.

Amorites in the Bible

As stated elsewhere in this site, the Bible is not a reliable source of history primarily because it bases the origin of various groups of people to the fictional story of Noah and his children. However, the Bible has some vague hints of history and, therefore, the material which appears in this page regarding the Amorites is published with extreme caution and reservations.

The 'Amorite' race appeared in the area of the Middle Euphrates, about the time of Abraham (c.1900 B.C. while it should be noted that the city of Tyre was founded in 2,750 B.C.) they had gained control of the whole of Babylonia. Prof. R. B. Dixon, in his Racial History of Man (1923), p. 172, mentions that in the period 2500 B.C. - 1500 B.C. the population of Palestine consisted primarily of 'Mediterranean' and 'Caspian' peoples.

Amorites land was east of the Jordan (Num. 21:13) -- the Arnon is the frontier between Moab and the Amorites. This land of the Amorites reaching "from Arnon to Jabbok, even unto the children of Ammon" (ibid. 24), had been taken away from Moab by Sihon (ibid. 24, 26, 29), who built Heshbon to be his residence (ibid. 26, 27) directly before the immigration of Israel. Amorites dwelling in Jazer are specially mentioned (ibid. 32). These Amorites "which dwelt beyond Jordan" are also referred to (Deut. 1:1, 4, 3:2; I Kings, 4:19; Ps. 135. 136. 19; Josh. 2:10, 9:10).

They seem to have originally occupied the land stretching from the heights west of the Dead Sea ( Gen. 14:7) to Hebron ( 13 (compare 13:8; Deut. 3:8; 4:46-48), embracing "all Gilead and all Bashan" ( Deut. 3:10), with the Jordan valley on the east of the river ( 4:49), the land of the "two kings of the Amorites," Sihon and Og (Deut. 31:4; Josh. 2:10; 9:10).

The five kings of the Amorites were defeated in a great slaughter by Joshua (10:10). They were again defeated at the waters of Merom by Joshua, who smote them till there were none remaining (Josh. 11:8). It is mentioned as a surprising circumstance that in the days of Samuel there was peace between them and the Israelites (1 Sam. 7:14).

The Amorites were fierce warriors who were represented on the Egyptian monuments with fair skins, light hair, blue eyes, curved or hooked noses, and pointed beards. They are supposed to have been men of great stature; their king, Og, is described by Moses as the last "of the remnant of the giants" (Deut. 3:11). Both Sihon and Og were independent kings. Og, king of Bashan, is also called an Amorite in Deut. 3:8, 4. 47, where we learn that Og's territory extended "from the river of Arnon unto Mount Hermon." So the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead (Judges, 10. 8), seems to have embraced all the territory afterward owned by Israel, east of the Jordan. Deut. 3:9 informs us that the name of Mount Hermon in the language of the Amorites was Shenir.


    1. Ludwig Schlözer, Eichhorn"Einleitung in das Alte Testament" (Leipzig, 1787), I, p. 45.
    2. Ludwig Schlözer, Eichhorn "Gesch. der neuen Sprachenkunde", pt. I (Göttingen, 1807)
    3. Ludwig Schlözer, Eichhorn "Repertorium", vol. VIII (Leipzig, 1781), p. 161.
    4. Bailey, L. R. (1968). "Israelite ’'Él Sadday and Bél Sadé' Journal of Biblical Literature 87, 434–38.
    5. Cross, Frank Moore (1973). Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, pp. 10, 57–58. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674091760.
    6. Ouellette, Jean (1969). "More on ’'Él Sadday and Bél Sadé' Journal of Biblical Literature 88, 470f.
    7. ETSCL: Narratives featuring deities: Other deities, including "The Marriage of Martu" in Unicode and ASCII.
    8. The Bible
    9. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII.
    10. Dixon, R. B. , Racial History of Man (1923), p. 172.

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