Rabbah (1 Chronicles 20)

Illustration: Rabbah of the Ammonites and Philadelphia of the Decapolis

Rabbah, the Ammonite capital, situated along the King’s Highway at the desert’s edge, controlled north-south commerce in ancient times. It plentiful water supply, fertile surroundings and defensible position afforded the city security, and a thriving caravan trade maintained its prosperity. Artefacts excavated from tombs demonstrate contact with Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Poeicia, Midian and Babylon from the Middle Bronze Age to the fifth century B.C. A crematorium (or possibly a temple) discovered on the current site of the Amman airport suggests the presence of Hittites there during the fourteenth – thirteenth centuries B.C.

The iron bed of Og of Bashan was located at Rabbah (Deuteronomy 3:11). Centuries later David conquered the city after its king had humiliated his ambassadors (1 Chronicles 19-20), and it was during the siege of Rabbah that he arranged to have Uriah the Hittite killed in battle (2 Samuel 11). David literally took the crown of the Ammonite king (thereby figuratively subduing him) and consigned the inhabitants to forced labour. Archaeological evidence of defensive wall reconstruction in the tenth century B.C. may be attributed to David’s campaign.

After the fall of Israel (722 B.C.), Ammonites annexed Gilead (the region where Rabbah was located). The site prospered, as evidenced by a seventh century B.C. residence excavated in the centre of Amman. It included four rooms, a courtyard and numerous costly artefacts. Recently discovered inscriptions and seals specify the names of 11 Ammonite kings from 1000 to 581 B.C., when Rabbah was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. Though uninhabited during the Persian period, the city was restored and renamed Philadelphia during the Hellenistic period. It then became one of the cities of the Decapolis under the Romans.


 

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