Friday, February 03, 2017

Of Amorites, truffles, and giants

THE WORLD IS FULL OF HISTORY: Peoples of the Bible: The legend of the Amorites. And why were the biblical peoples so terrified of migrant shepherds that they described them as raw-meat eating, ancestor-abusing giants? ■ Part 1 (Philippe Bohstrom, Haaretz).
Amorites: A people descended from Emer, the fourth son of Canaan, according to the book of Genesis 10:16.

The problem with understanding the Amorites is that they have two wildly different points of reference, an earlier Mesopotamian one and a later biblical one, over a thousand years distant from one another, and which seem to have no connection whatsoever except for the name. Even defining Amorites as a single people may be inaccurate: we cannot be sure they were one, since the Amorites are from a deep, unknown past. But this is what we can say.
One more brief excerpt from a long article:
In the Marriage of Martu, a Sumerian creation legend that took place in the distant past even in biblical times, in which the blushing bride weds an Amorite ("martu" in Sumerian), the stereotype is personified:

The Amorite he is dressed in sheep skins: he lives in tents in wind and rain; He doesn’t offer sacrifices. Armed vagabond in the steppes, he digs up truffles and is restless. He eats raw meat. Lives without a home; And when he dies, he is not buried according to proper rituals."

The Bible also describes the Amorites with dread, in this case, being of immense stature. Og of Bashan, one of their kings, is said to be the last of the giants, who had to be buried in a sarcophagus measuring four by 1.8 meters (Deuteronomy 3:11).
While that is extremely unlikely, who were these Amorites, who frightened the other peoples of the bible so badly?
It's complicated.

That was Part 1. So far, so good. Stay tuned for Part 2. And Part 1 is a premium article, so read it now before it goes behind the paywall.