(Rabʹbah) [Many; Abundant].
1. A city in the W extremity of the ancient kingdom of Ammon after its loss of territory to the Amorites. Rabbah is the only city of the Ammonite kingdom that is named in the Biblical record, so it is assumed to have been the capital. It lay about 37 km (23 mi) E of the Jordan. The city was on a tributary of the upper Jabbok and was thus in position to benefit from the rich fertility of that region. Also, it was an important link in the trade route between Damascus and Arabia.
“Rabbah of the sons of Ammon” (Rab·bathʹ benehʹ ʽAm·mohnʹ) is first mentioned in the Bible as being the location of the iron bier of Og, king of Bashan. (De 3:11) When the Israelites came to the Promised Land, the tribe of Gad received Amorite land (formerly, it seems, held by Ammon) “as far as Aroer, which is in front of [perhaps to the NE of] Rabbah.”—Jos 13:25.
Captured by David. The city is mentioned again in connection with war resulting from the abuse of David’s messengers by King Hanun of Ammon. (2Sa 10:1-19; 1Ch 19:1-19) Joab and his troops fought Syrians hired by the Ammonites, while the Israelites under Abishai went up against the Ammonites “at the entrance of the city,” evidently Rabbah. (1Ch 19:9) When the Syrians were defeated, the Ammonites retreated into the city. The next spring Joab and his army besieged Rabbah. It was during this campaign that David in Jerusalem sinned with Bath-sheba. The king sent her husband Uriah the Hittite back to battle, and according to David’s instructions, Uriah was put in the front lines. When some Ammonites sallied forth from Rabbah, the battle brought Uriah close enough to be killed by an archer on the wall.—2Sa 11:1-25; 1Ch 20:1.
In time Joab succeeded in his fight against Rabbah to the point of capturing “the city of waters.” (2Sa 12:27) Since Joab then informed David of the situation so that the king would come and complete the conquest and thus get credit for capturing Rabbah, it seems that Joab captured only a portion of the city. The expression “city of waters” may refer to a part on the riverbank, as distinguished from some other part of the city, or it may mean that he secured control of the city’s principal water supply.—2Sa 12:26-28.
David came and completed the capture of Rabbah, and “the spoil of the city that he brought out was very much.” (2Sa 12:29-31; 1Ch 20:2, 3) Eventually the Ammonites became independent again. In the ninth century B.C.E., Amos foretold judgment against the Ammonites and he specifically mentioned that Rabbah would be burned. (Am 1:13, 14) Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel also delivered messages against Rabbah. As shown under AMMONITES, these prophecies were evidently fulfilled in Nebuchadnezzar’s time.—Jer 49:2, 3; Eze 21:19-23; 25:5.
In the third century B.C.E., Ptolemy Philadelphus rebuilt Rabbah and renamed the city Philadelphia. It was later included among the cities of the Decapolis and apparently was quite prosperous and strong. The modern city of ʽAmman is located here, and there are considerable ancient ruins, including a huge amphitheater, but these date mainly from Roman times.
2. One of the cities given to the tribe of Judah in its territorial allotment. Its exact location is unknown. In Joshua 15:60 it is listed with Kiriath-jearim, which was in the hill country of Judah 13 km (8 mi) WNW of Jerusalem.
[Picture on page 724]
Ruins at ʽAmman, the location of ancient Rabbah of Ammon and later of Philadelphia in the Decapolis