Gen. 10:16; 14:7,13; Num. 13:29; 21:21.
Few subjects in the field of biblical archaeology are of greater and more absorbing interest than the history of the Amorites. As late as 1960, almost nothing was known of the Hittites or Amorites; today the great Hittite empire is well known and has taken its place along with the other great empires of Asia and Africa. The progress of knowledge concerning the Amorites has not been so great, but already they have emerged from the shadows and give promise of presenting an agelong history of scarcely less importance than that of the Hittite, but with this distinction that, while the Hittites were contemporaneous with the empires of the Nile and Euphrates, the empire of the Amorites preceded all three of these or was, at the most, only in part contemporaneous with them.
The first inhabitants of Palestine are given in the list of nations (Genesis 10) as Hamites. The discovery of their skeletons and remains of their civilization at Gezer indicates clearly that they were not Semites, and thus, as far as the evidence goes, it is in accord with the statements of the Bible. These aborigines were succeeded by a Semitic people who followed the Hamites down the coast toward a warmer climate. In two important respects the first, the Semitic invaders, were superior as regards their civilization to the people they dispossessed - namely in the use of bronze and in the use of a simple form of potter's wheel - otherwise they cannot be said to have been much in advance of their predecessors. At first they lived in the caves that these had been obliged to vacate, but before long they began to build houses, of the type that has persisted down through the villages of modern twentieth century Palestine. This was of the Early Bronze Age which extends to practically all parts of Palestine.
Remains of this Amorite civilization were found at Gezer, but little light is thrown upon the state of culture and almost no information is furnished concerning the history and government of the Amorites. The great High Place with its standing pillars was found here. Many burials of very young children were found all around about the High Place at Gezer. These thus seperated from other burials and as such a place, can be none other than the remains of the horrid rite of human sacrifice, probably in its more repulsive form, the sacrifice of the firstborn.
That the Amorites were really Semites is put beyond question not only by the Amorite words which are found, which prove a substantial identity of the Amorite and Hebrew languages, but also Egyptian sculpture has left portraits of Amorite chiefs which are so unmistakenly Semitic as to admit of no question.
In the latter part of the 19th century, scholarship was almost unanimously agreed that Semitic civilization came from Babylonia into Palestine, that indeed Abraham brought culture as well as a cult. Then Babylonian scholars began to find things at variance with this idea.
It was shown that Amurru was the early Semitic name for Palestine and Syria before Semitic civilization began in Babylonia. Scholars later developed the history of what was really a great Semitic empire earlier than that of the Nile or the Euphrates. It was demonstrated from the Amorite words, both names of gods and common nouns, found in the early Babylonian account of the flood story, that these biblical stories did not originate in Babylonia, as many have long contended, but originated along the Canaanite coast, and were translated into the language of Babylonia.