Israel Museum, Jerusalem

A king of Ammon, with plaited hair, curled beard, earrings and crown, may be depicted in this life-size ninth- to eighth-century B.C.E. limestone sculpture found east of the Jordan in the ancient Ammonite capital of Rabbah (modern Amman). According to the Book of Samuel, the Ammonites numbered among the monarchy’s fiercest adversaries until David subdued them at the battle of Rabbah and seized the crown of their king (2 Samuel 12:26–31).

In Genesis, the Ammonites appear as the descendants of Ben-Ammi, the son born to Lot and his younger daughter. Might this be a tenth-century B.C.E. tale designed to give an ignoble heritage to David’s enemies? At the same time, the story establishes David’s right to rule these neighboring people who are, after all, distant cousins of the Israelites.