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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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RABBAH . 1 . The capital city of the Ammonites (wh. see). Rabbah was situated on the upper Jabbok on the site of the modern ’Ammân . It was distant from the Jordan about 20 miles, though the distance by way of the Jabbok is much greater, for the stream at Rabbah flows towards the N.E. and reaches the Jordan only after a wide detour. The Ammonite city was situated on the hill-top to the N. of the river. From its position it commanded a wide view in all directions, but especially extensive to the N.E. Rabbah is mentioned in Deuteronomy 3:11 as the place where Og’s ‘bedstead ‘might still be seen. This is thought by some to be a reference to a large dolmen still visible not far from ‘Ammân . In Joshua 13:25 Rabbah is mentioned in defining the boundaries of the tribe of Gad. The chief event connected with Rabbah which the OT relates is its siege by Joab, in connexion with which Uriah the Hittite, by the express direction of king David, lost his life (see 2 Samuel 11:1; 2 Samuel 12:26-27; 2 Samuel 12:29 and 1 Chronicles 20:1 ). The city was at this time confined apparently to the hill mentioned above: and since the sides of the hill are precipitous (see the photograph in Barton’s Year’s Wandering in Bible Lands , opp. 156), the task of capturing it was difficult, and the siege was stubborn and prolonged. These conditions gave Joab his opportunity to carry out David’s perfidious order ( 2 Samuel 11:15 ff.).

From 2 Samuel 12:26-29 it appears that the city consisted of two parts, one of which was called the ‘royal city’ or the ‘city of waters.’ This Joab captured, after which David came and captured Rabbah itself. What relation this ‘royal city’ bore to Rabbah proper, it is difficult now to conjecture. It is probable, however, that the text of Samuel is corrupt that we should read ‘city’ or ‘cistern of waters’ and that Joab, like Antiochus III. and Herod in after centuries, captured the covered passage by which they went to a cistern for water, or the fort which defended it, and so compelled a surrender to David. This cistern was discovered by Conder (see Survey of Eastern Pal . p. 34 ff.).

The Israelites did not occupy Rabbah, but left it in the possession of the Ammonite king, who became David’s vassal. When David later fled to Mahanaim, east of the Jordan, because of Absalom’s rebellion, the Ammonite king was residing in Rabbah (2 Samuel 17:27 ).

In the time of Amos ( c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 750 Rabbah was still the capital of the Ammonites ( Amos 1:14 ), and such it continued to be down to the time of Nebuchadnezzar, who, if we may judge from the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel ( Jeremiah 49:2 , Ezekiel 21:20; Ezekiel 25:5 ), punished Rabbah for a rebellion of the Ammonites by a siege. Whether the siege resulted in a capture we do not know, but it probably did. Only cities situated like Tyre, which was partly surrounded by water, could withstand the might of that monarch.

For a time the city (one of the Decapolis group) bore the name Philadelphia , given to it by Ptolemy Philadelphia (b.c. 285 247), but finally received its modern name, ‘Ammân . It is to-day quite a flourishing city, inhabited partly by Arabs and partly by Circassians. The latter form a more energetic element than is found in most Syrian cities, and give ‘Ammân a greater air of prosperity. The Haj railway, from Damascus to Mecca, passes near ‘Ammân , which has a station on the line.

2 . A city in Judah ( Joshua 15:60 ); site unknown.

George A. Barton.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Rabbah'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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