Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/488

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AMMONITES 432 AMMONITES Jeremiah speaks of Amnion glorj'ing in her valleys and trusting in lier treasures (Jer., xlix). Her chief city, Rabbath, or Rabbath-Ammon, to distinguish it from a city of t lie same name in Moab, lay in the midst of a fertile and well tilled valley. It was the royal city; in the time of David it was flourishing under a wealthy king and was weU fortified, though it succumbed before the attack of Joab, his general (II K., xi-xii). Later rebuilt by Ptolemy II (Phila- delphus) and called after him Philadelphia, it still retains something of its original name, being known at present to the Arab.s as Amman. Its ruins to-day are among the most imposing beyond the Jordan, and are said, despite the many vicissitudes of the city, to lend light and vividness to the already vivid narrative of Joab's assault. The Ammonites had many other cities besides Rabbath (see Jud., xi, 3.3, and II K., xii, 31). but their names have perished. They indicate, at least, a considerable degree of civilization and show that the .mmonites should not be placed, as is sometimes done, almost on the plane of nomads. In religion they practised the idolatries and abominations common to the Semitic races surrounding Israel; their god was called Milcom, supposed to be another form of Moloch. They seem with the Moabites to have been held in special loath- ing by the Hebrews. No man of either race, even when converted to the religion of Jehovah, was allowed to enter the Tabernacle; nor his children, even after the tenth generation (Deut., xxiii). Ammon and Israel. — This distinction against his nearest relatives was due to the treatment accorded by them to Irsael during the march to Palestine, when Israel was struggling towards nationhood. The Hebrews had no intention of taking the land of the children of Lot, either of Moab or of Ammon and were expressly warned against it; this special friendliness and recognition of consanguinity ob- tained no return from either, who refused provisions to the Israelites and hired Balaam, who was an Ammonite, or at least dwelt among the Ammonites, to curse the host of Israel; though, as is well known, Balaam was forced to deliver instead a blessing (Deut., xxiii, 4, .5; Num. xxii-xxiv). For this lack of brotherly spirit, the ban was put upon the Ammonites; but no attempt was made to seize their land, the Israelites turning aside when they reached the border of the Ammonites. The stretch of land along the Jordan, however, to which they laid claim, was taken from the .morites who had dispossessed them. Half the land of Ammon, too, is said to have been assigned by Moses to the tribe of Gad (Jos. xiii, 25); but there is no record of its alienation from the Ammonites, which moreover would be in contradic- tion with the divine command already mentioned. It appears to have been territory from which they wore already driven. Shortly after the death of Josue, when the Israelites were established beyond the Jordan, the Ammonites allied themselves with the Moabites under King Eglon in a successful attack upon Israel; but the Moabites were in turn defeated and a long peace set in (Jud. iii, 30). Later, after the judgeship of Jair, the Hebrews were simultaneously attacked by the Philistines from the southwest and the Ammonites from the east. Gad especially, dwelling was east of the Jordan, sulTered from the incursions of the Ammonites which continued eighteen years; but the victorious enemy pushed beyond the Jordan and laid waste the country of Juda, Benjamin, and Ephraim (Jud.. x). At this crisis, Israel was in terror; but a deliverer was raised up in the person of Jephte, who was chosen leader. The .mmonites demanded the ccs.sion of the territory beyond the Jordan, from the Anion to the Jabbok, of which they had been dispossessed; but Jephte refused since the Israelites had, three hundred years previously, taken the land from the Amorites anil not from the .mmonites; he boldly carried the war into the invaders' country, and completely defeated them, taking as many as twenty cities (Jud., xi, 33). By the time of Saul, the Ammonites had again grown to great power and under their King Naas (Nahash) had laid siege to Jabes Galaad. Saul had been chosen king by Samuel only one month before and his election was not yet ratified by the people; but as soon as he heard of the siege, he summoned a large army and defeated the Ammonites, inflicting hea^ loss (I K., xi). This victory established him in the monarchy. Further operations by Saul against the Ammonites are mentioned without detail (xiv, 47), as likewise the kindness of Naas to David (II K., X, 2), probably before his accession. David signalized the beginning of his reign by military exploits and is said to have dedicated to the Lord the spoils of Ammon (viii, 11); however, there is no mention of a war, which seems inconsistent with the friendliness of David to Hanon, the successor of Naas (x, 2). David's proffer of friendship to Ammon was suspected and rejected and his ambassa- dors maltreated. War ensued. The Ammonites were joined by the Syrians, and both were attacked and routed by Joab, David's leading general. The next year Joab again invaded the territory of the Ammonites and, pursuing them as far as Rabbath, laid siege to the royal city. It was during this siege that the incident of David and Bethsabee happened, which resulted in David sending the faith- ful Urias to his death at Rabbath and incurring the deepest stain upon his character. When Joab had reduced the city to the point of surrender, he sent for David who came and reaped the glory of it, trans- ferred the king's massive crown to his own head, sacked the city and slaughtered its inhabitants; and did likewise to all the cities of the Ammonites (x-xii). The power of the Ammonites was now broken, Ammon apparently becoming a vassal of Israel; later, towards the end of David's reign, another son of King Naas, either through lack of spirit or genuine humanity, heaped kindness upon David, when the distressed old king was at war with his son Absalom (xvii). Some of the Ammonites seem to have enrolled themselves in David's service; one is mentioned among his thirty-seven most valiant warriors (xxiii, 37). No hostilities are narrated dur- ing the reign of Solomon; he chose Ammonite women as his wives, worshipped their god and built a high- place in his honour (III K., xi), which Josias de- stroyed (IV K., xxiii, 13). When Solomon died and his kingdom was divided, the Ammonites re- gained their independence and allied themselves with the Assyrians, joining with them in an attack on Gilead by which their territory was increased. Their barbarous cruelty on this occasion called forth the denunciation of Amos, who foretold the destruc- tion of Rabbath (Amos, i, 13). During the Assyrian invasion under Theglathphalasar, when their neigh- bours, the Reubenites and the Gaddites, were carried into captivity, they regained some of their old terri- tory along the Jordan (IV, K.. xv, 29; Jer., xlix, 1-6). In the time of Josaphath, King of Judah, when the Israelites were greatly weakened, the Ammonites put themselves at the head of a confederacy of na- tions for the subjugation of Israel; but suspicions awakening among the allies, they turned to destroy- ing one another and Israel miraculously escaped (II Par., XX, 23). Afternearly one hundred and hfty years, Joatham, King of Judah, ventured an attack upon the Ammonites, conquering them and subject- ing them to a yearly tribute (II Par., xxvii), which, liowever, was enforced for only three years. But the doom of the Hebrew monarcliy was approaching and the .mmonites had a part to play. With others of the surrounding nations, they were employed by Nabuchodonosor, King of Babylon, to overrun the