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Origins of the Amorites

Sometime during the third millennium BC, a group of nomadic raiders expanded out of their mountainous homelands in Syria and stormed Mesopotamia. They were known as the Martu or Tidnum to the Sumerians, and the Amar to the Egyptians. These names denote ‘of the west’, or ‘the western people’. In the Book of Genesis​, these people are referred to as the Amorites, descendants of Canaan.

The scriptures also state that the Amorites had gigantic chiefs and warriors among them. Amos 2:9 compares the size and strength of the Amorites to the cedar tree, while in Numbers 32:29-32, the Amorites are among the peoples ‘of great stature’ encountered by the Israelite spies.

The Amorite chief Og is described in Deuteronomy​ as ‘of the remnant of giants’. In Akkadian, both the Amorites and Syria itself were named after Amurru, a deity of the Amorites. Amurru is also known as Belu Sadi, or ‘Lord of the Mountains’, while his divine consort, Belit-Seri was ‘Lady of the Desert’.

The MAR.TU are mentioned in a tablet from Tell Farah dated to around 2550 BC. MAR-TU/MAR-DU appears on the 24th-century BC Ebla Tablets as a name for both a geographic region as well as its inhabitants. According to Lönnqvist (2008) some scholars have specifically identified the Amorite homeland with Jebel Bishri, a mountain region situated between Palmyra and the Euphrates River.

Similarly, Michael Astour (1992) has also traced (the Amorite homeland in the Ebla Tablets) to Jebel Bishri. The Mari texts make it clear that during the Bronze Age, Jebel Bishri was the territory of at least two Amorite tribes: the Suteans and the Yaminites.