The Amorite. Always singular in the Hebrew, "the dweller on the summits." The fourth son of Canaan, Ham's son. The Hamitic races were the earliest developed, and most brilliant, but had the greatest tendency to degeneracy, because averse to true religion, the great preserver of man. The tendency of the children of Japhet was to improve, that of the children of Shem to be stationary. As the Amorites, Hittites, and Jehusites were the highlanders, so were the Canaanites the lowlanders, by the sea W., and the Jordan E. Compare Numbers 13:29; Deuteronomy 1:44. As early as Genesis 14:7; Genesis 14:18, they occupied the rugged heights afterward called Engedi (fount of the kid); then Hazezon Tamar (the cutting of the palm tree). Thence they stretched W. to Hebron. They subsequently crossed the Jordan eastward. Sihon took the pasture land S. of Jabbok, and drove Moab across the Amon (Numbers 21:13; Numbers 21:26-81).
Israel, approaching from the S.E., was refused leave to pass through his land to the fords of Jordan. Sihon, having marched against them, was killed with his sons and people (Deuteronomy 2:32-37), and his land and cattle taken by them. The tract bounded by the Jabbok on the N., Arnon S., Jordan W., wilderness E. (Judges 11:21-22), was specially the "land of the Amorites"; but their possessions embraced all Gilead and Bashan, to Hermon (Deuteronomy 3:8; Deuteronomy 4:48-49), "the land of the two kings of the Amorites," Sihon and Og (Deuteronomy 31:4). As the Amorites (highlanders) were the most powerful, the other Canaanites (even lowlanders) were sometimes called by their name.
Thus Mature in Hebron, of Genesis 13:18, is the "Amorite" in Genesis 14:13; "Hittite" in Genesis 23; "Canaanite" in Judges 1:10. The Hivites (Genesis 34:2) are called Amorites in Genesis 48:22. Jerusalem is "Amorite" in Joshua 10:5, but in Joshua 15:63 "Jebusite." Grove, in Smith's Dictionary, conjectures that "Amorite" expresses locality (highlander), not distinction of race; because the name is spread over a wide area, no connection appears between the Amorites on the E. and those W. of Jordan, Sihon and Og are both "kings of the Amorites," and yet their territories are separate. No individual Amorites are named except these two kings and Abraham's three confederates (Genesis 14:13). No traces appear of any distinctive government, worship, or customs, different from the other Canaanite nations.
The Amorite name Senir (not Shenir) for mount Hermon (Deuteronomy 3:9) is mentioned; but this may be the Canaanite term, as distinguished from the Hebrew "Hermon" (lofty peak) and the Phoenician "Sirion" (glittering as a breast-plate; senir too means a breast-plate, from a root, "clatter," the snowy round top glittering like a breast-plate). Mountaineers are usually the most warlike: hence, undeterred by Joshua's slaughter of the five kings "dwelling in the mountains" (Joshua 10:5, etc.), they in the next age drove the children of Dan to the mountains, themselves keeping possession of the plain, as well as mount Heres (Judges 1:34-35); compare also Amos 2:9-10.