You might come across passages that talk about the destruction or judgment of the people group of “Ammonites” in the Bible, when reading through the Old Testament. Some of these irritating Ammonites tried to prevent Nehemiah from re-building the wall in Jerusalem (see the book of Nehemiah). The words Ammonite, Ammonites, and Ammonitess can be seen 36 times in the Bible and the word “Ammon” can be found another 90 times (KJV). These are not the “Ammonites” I’m talking about today. While the ammonites we will be looking at today are fossil sea creatures, the great event of the destruction of these ammonites is also mentioned in the Bible before the people group is mentioned.
Ammonites are fossils of soft-bodied sea creatures that have hard, beautifully coiled shells. They are very similar to a nautilus you could find living in the oceans today. The name “ammonite” comes from Latin words meaning “horn of Ammon”, because their coiled shells looked like horns. Their name actually is connected to a rebellious people group mentioned in the Bible. Like an octopus or squid, ammonites fall under the category of “Cephalopods” (meaning “head-foot”). These creatures came in a variety of sizes, ranging from nine feet to less than one inch across. They made a rather tasty snack for many different sea creatures.
Some ammonite fossils have been found with bite marks, possibly made by a creature like a Mosasaur that would have bitten into the hard shell to get out the soft sea creature inside. One incredible, large ammonite fossil with a story behind it was shown by Neal Larson at the 2016 Tucson Fossil show. This ammonite, about 2-3 feet wide, had a giant slash in its shell that must have been caused while the creature was still alive. After doing some research on the odd markings, Larson decided that the markings must have been made by a giant sword fish that had serrated fins.
The very first “destruction of the ammonites” started with other animals eating them. Before Adam and Eve chose to rebel against their Creator, God, both they and all the creatures were vegetarians. There was no death, no sickness, and no animals getting eaten. The first destruction of ammonites happened when sin entered into the world, bringing death and decay to all of creation – ammonites included. The next big destruction of ammonites event happened during the global flood, as God’s righteous judgment for the wicked rebellion of people. It’s this great destruction of the ammonites (and many other creatures) during the flood that gives us all the fossils we find. Death, including fossils and creatures getting eaten, was not a part of God’s original, “very good“ creation. Rather, those things are the consequences of man’s rebellion , choosing to sin. The next time you read about the destruction or judgment of the Ammonites in the Bible, remember both types of ammonites, and how the consequences of sin includes death, but the Lord continues to show mercy by sparing the lives of some.
Copyright Sara J. Bruegel, April 2016
Special thanks to Neal Larson for a personal interview about his ammonite fossil at the Tuscon Fossil show on February 3rd, 2016.