A Semitic kingdom from the Bronze Age period occupying the east of the Jordan River, between the torrent valleys of Arnon and Jabbok, in present-day Jordan
The chief city of the country was Rabbah or Rabbath Ammon, site of the modern city of Amman, Jordan’s capital. Milcom and Molech (who may be one and the same) are named in the Bible as the gods of Ammon.
The people of this kingdom are called “Children of Ammon” or “Ammonites“.
The first mention of the Ammon in the Bible is in Genesis 19:37-38. It is stated there that they descended from Ben-Ammi, a son of Lot through incest with his younger daughter. Bén’ámmî, literally means “son of my people“. After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the daughters of Lot had sexual relations with their father, resulting in Ammon and his half brother, Moab, to be conceived. This revolting narrative has usually been considered to give literal fact, but of late years it has been interpreted, as recording a gross popular irony by which the Israelites expressed their loathing of the Moabites and Ammonites.
The Bible record does not mention anything else of the nation until centuries later, when they invaded the Rephaim lands east of Jordan, between the Jabbok and Arnon, dispossessing them and dwelling in their place. The Ammonites referred to the giants as “Zamzummim.”
Shortly before the Israelite exodus, the Amorites west of Jordan, under King Sihon, invaded and occupied a large portion of the territory of Moab and Ammon. The invasion of the Amorites created a wedge and separated the two kingdoms. (Numbers 21:21–31).
The Israelites were commanded not to attack Ammonite land. Throughout the Bible, the Ammonites and Israelites are portrayed as mutual antagonists. During the Exodus, the Israelites were prohibited by the Ammonites from passing through their lands. The Ammonites soon allied themselves with Eglon of Moab in attacking against Israel.
Throughout, the Ammonites kept claiming the Transjordan, their former territory now occupied by the Israelites after obtaining it from Sihon. During the days of Jephthah, the Ammonites occupied the East of Jordan and started to invade Israelite lands west of the river. Jephthah became the leader of the victorious campaign against the Ammonites.
The constant harassment of the Ammonites on Israelite communities east of the Jordan were the impetus behind the unification of the tribes under Saul. King Nahash of Ammon started to enslave the Israelites in Gilead, and he gouged out the right eye of all the inhabitants. Eventually this led into a battle between the two nations, resulting in the victory of Israel and the forming of the Israelite Kingdom.
During the reign of King David, the Ammonites humiliated David’s messengers, and hired Syrian armies to attack Israel. This eventually ended in a war and a year-long siege of Rabbah, the capital of Ammon. The war ended with all the Ammonite cities being conquered and plundered, and the inhabitants being mass exterminated at David’s command.
When the Syrians of Damascus deprived the kingdom of Israel of their possessions east of the Jordan, the Ammonites became allies of Ben-hadad, and a contingent of 1,000 of them served as allies of Syria in the great battle of the Syrians and Assyrians at Qarqar in 854 BC in the reign of Shalmaneser III. The Ammonites, Moabites and the inhabitants of Seir (called “Ammonim”) formed a coalition against Jehoshaphat of Judah. The coalition later was thrown to confusion, with the armies slaughtering one another. They were subdued and paid tribute to Jotham. After submitting to Tiglath-pileser they were generally tributary to Assyria, but have joined in the general uprising that took place under Sennacherib; but they submitted and they became tributary in the reign of Esar-haddon. Their hostility to Judah is shown in their joining the Chaldeans to destroy it (2 Kings 24:2). Their cruelty is denounced by the prophet Amos (Amos 1:13), and their destruction (with their return in the future) by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 49:1–6); Ezekiel (Ezekiel 21:28–32); and Zechariah (Zechariah 2:8, 9). Their murder of Gedaliah (2 Kings 25:22–26; Jeremiah 40:14) was a dastardly act. They may have regained their old territory when Tiglath-pileser carried off the Israelites East of the Jordan into captivity (2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26).
Tobiah the Ammonite united with Sanballat to oppose Nehemiah (Nehemiah 4), and their opposition to the Jews did not cease with the establishment of the latter in Judea.
They also joined the Syrians in their wars with the Maccabees and were defeated by Judas.
According to both 1 Kings 14:21–31 and 2 Chronicles 12:13, Naamah was an Ammonite. She was the only wife of King Solomon to be mentioned by name in the Tanakh as having borne a child. She was the mother of Solomon’s successor, Rehoboam.
The Ammonites presented a serious problem to the Pharisees because many marriages with Ammonite (and Moabite) wives had taken place in the days of Nehemiah. The men had married women of the various nations without conversion, which made the children not Jewish. The legitimacy of David’s claim to royalty was disputed on account of his descent from Ruth, the Moabite.
Ammon maintained its independence from the Assyrian empire through tribute to the Assyrian king, at a time when nearby kingdoms were being raided or conquered. Inscriptions describe the Ammonite king Baasha ben Ruhubi’s army fighting alongside Ahab of Israel and Syrian allies against Shalmaneser III at the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC, possibly as vassals of Hadadezer, the Aramaean king of Damascus. In 734 BC the Ammonite king Sanipu was a vassal of Tiglath-Pileser III, and Sanipu’s successor Pudu-ilu held the same position under Sennacherib and Esarhaddon. An Assyrian tribute-list exists from this period, showing that Ammon paid one-fifth of Judah’s tribute.
Somewhat later, the Ammonite king Amminadab I was among the tributaries who suffered in the course of the great Arabian campaign of Assurbanipal. Other kings attested to in contemporary sources are Barakel (attested to in several contemporary seals) and Hissalel, the latter of whom reigned about 620 BCE. Hissalel is mentioned in an inscription on a bottle found at Tel Siran, Jordan along with his son, King Amminadab II, who reigned around 600 BCE.
Little mention is made of the Ammonites through the Persian and early Hellenistic periods. The Hasmonean dynast Hyrcanus (awarded his Parthian patronymic in honor of military achievements against the Medes) founded Qasr Al Abd, and was a descendent of the Seleucid Tobiad dynasty of Tobiah mentioned by Nehemiah as an Ammonite (ii. 19) from the east-Jordanian district.
Their name appears, however, during the time of the Maccabees. The Ammonites, with some of the neighboring tribes, did their utmost to resist and check the revival of the Jewish power under Judas Maccabaeus.
The last notice of the Ammonites is in Justin Martyr (second century) Dialogue with Trypho (§ 119), where it is affirmed that they were still a numerous people, concentrated in the south of Palestine.
The few Ammonite names that have been preserved also include Nahash and Hanun, both from the Bible. The Ammonites' language is believed to be Semitic, closely related to Hebrew and Moabite. Ammonite may have incorporated certain Aramaic influences, including the use of ‘bd, instead of commoner Biblical Hebrew ‘śh, for "work". The only other notable difference with Biblical Hebrew is the sporadic retention of feminine singular -t (e.g., ’šħt "cistern", but ‘lyh "high (fem.)".)
Like its sister-kingdom of Moab, Ammon was the source of numerous natural resources, including sandstone and limestone. It had a productive agricultural sector and occupied a vital place along the King's Highway, the ancient trade route connecting Egypt with Mesopotamia, Syria, and Asia Minor. As with the Edomites and Moabites, trade along this route gave them considerable revenue. Circa 950 BCE Ammon showed rising prosperity, due to agriculture and trade, and built a series of fortresses. Its capital was located in what is now the Citadel of Amman.