Biblical Rabbah is the same place as today’s capital city Amman of Jordan. It was the royal city of the Ammonites (2 Sm 12:26).  It is located approximately 30 km east of the Jordan River and 20 km northeast of Heshbon.

The area around Rabbah is fertile farmland suitable for farming and grazing. The source of Jabbok River is nearby so there is plenty of water.  It is also strategically located on the ancient King’s Highway – an artery of military and trade route in ancient times. During the time of King David, Rabbah is divided into upper and lower cities. The upper city is the capital and the lower city is called the City of Waters.

Archaeologists found human occupation artifacts dated ten thousand years ago to the Neolithic age. They found ruins of stele and rock reliefs of c. 8000 B.C., city walls of c. 2000 B.C. and temples of c. 1000 B.C. Extensive archaeological excavation is not possible nowadays since the modern city of Amman is built on top of the ancient Rabbah. However, there is plenty of theaters and temples of ancient Roman and Greek era around the city as well as churches and bathhouses of the Roman Empire period.

Throughout history, Rabbah was conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and became part of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires.  Around the 3rd century B.C. Ptolemy II (Ptolemy Philadelphus) of Egypt renamed the city to be Philadephia.  During the time of Jesus, Rabbah was under Roman rule.  The Arabs came and renamed it Amman in 635 A.D. For many centuries, it remained to be in wasted ruins.  A new village was built on top of the ruins after WW1.  Amman became the capital city of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1946.

In Biblical history, it is cited the “iron bed” of Og, king of Bashan, remained in Rabbah (Dt 3:11). The interpretation of this “iron bed,” may possibly be a sarcophagus or coffin. When the Israelites arrived, the tribe of Gad settled in the parcel of land where Rabbah was located near the eastern boundary. (Jos 13:24-25).

King David befriended King Nahash of the Ammonites.  After Nahash died, his son Hanun succeeded him.  When David sent an envoy to express his condolences, Hanun became suspicious and hired the Arameans to fight David.  David sent Joab and defeated the Arameans.  The Ammonites receded back to Rabbah and Joab returned to Jerusalem. (2Sm 10:1-14; 1Ch 19:1-15)

The following year, David sent Joab to besiege Rabbah while he remained in Jerusalem.  Because of David’s love affair with Bathsheba, he set up a plot with Joab and had Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed in battle (2Sm 11:1-17).  Later, Joab sent for David to come and lead the army. (2 Sam 12:26-29; 1Ch 20:1).

When King David fled from Jerusalem to Mahanaim during the Absalom uprising, Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah brought David food and supplies. (2Sm 17:27-29).

Prophet Jeremiah said the Lord will sound the battle alarm against Rabbah of the Ammonites; it will become a desolate mound, and its villages will be burned with fire; then Israel will dispossess their dispossessor. (Jr 49:2-3).

Prophet Ezekiel said the Lord will allow the Babylonians to defeat Rabbah (Ezk 21:20) and Rabbah will become a pasture for camels (Ezk 25:5).

Prophet Amos said the Lord will punish the sins of the Ammonites; the fire will devour Rabbah; and their king will go into exile (Am 1:13-15).

There is another place called Rabbah mentioned in the Bible.  It would be on the Judean hills near Jerusalem as part of the territory designated for Judah (Jos 15:60).  The exact location of this town is not known.

A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.——Ecclesiastes 1:4

Filming at Rabbah

聖經地名詞典 白雲曉編著 北京中央編譯出版社 2001.12
聖經地理 馬自毅編著 上海學林出版社 2005.7
簡明聖經史地圖解 梁天樞著 上海人民出版社
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