A place identified with modern Hisban, a ruined city situated about 20 km (12 mi) SW of Rabbah (ʽAmman). It lies nearly midway between the Arnon and the Jabbok. (Jos 12:2) As yet no archaeological remains dating to the Canaanite period have been found there. A large ruined reservoir is located a short distance to the E of Heshbon, and about 180 m (600 ft) below the city there is a fountain that has formed a succession of pools.—Compare Ca 7:4; see BATH-RABBIM.
The Amorite king Sihon captured Heshbon from the Moabites and made it his royal residence. The Moabite defeat even provided the basis for a taunting proverbial saying, either of Amorite or Israelite origin. In the event this saying stemmed from the Amorites, it mocked the Moabites and memorialized King Sihon’s victory. But, if originating with the Israelites, it signified that just as Sihon had wrested Heshbon from the Moabites, so Israel would take this and other cities from the Amorites. The taunt would then be that the victory of Sihon paved the way for the Israelites to take possession of land to which they would otherwise not have been entitled.—Nu 21:26-30; De 2:9.
When King Sihon refused to allow the Israelites under Moses to pass peacefully through his land and instead prepared to battle against them, Jehovah gave his people the victory over Sihon. Amorite cities, undoubtedly including Heshbon, were devoted to destruction. (De 2:26-36; 3:6; 29:7; Jg 11:19-22) Afterward the Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon (Nu 32:37), it being included among the cities that Moses gave to them. (Jos 13:15-17) As a border city between Reuben and Gad, Heshbon later became a part of Gad’s territory and is named as one of the four Gadite cities assigned to the Levites.—Jos 21:38, 39; 1Ch 6:77, 80, 81.
At a later period Heshbon evidently came under Moabite control, as is indicated by the fact that both Isaiah and Jeremiah mention it in their pronouncements of doom against Moab. (Isa 15:4; 16:7-9; Jer 48:2, 34, 45) Jeremiah also refers to this city in a pronouncement against Ammon. (Jer 49:1, 3) Some commentators understand this to indicate that Heshbon had by then come into Ammonite hands. Others suggest that this may mean either that Heshbon of Moab would share the same fate as Ai or that a different Heshbon in the territory of Ammon is intended.
According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Heshbon was in the possession of the Jews in the time of Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.E.). Later, Herod the Great had jurisdiction over the city.—Jewish Antiquities, XIII, 395-397 (xv, 4); XV, 294 (viii, 5).