King’s Highway

KING’s HIGHWAY (דֶּ֧רֶכְ הַמֶּ֣לֶכְ, meaning the king’s way). An important road running N and S from Damascus to the Gulf of Aqabah, E of the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley.

Direct reference is made to the King’s Highway (Num 20:17; 21:22; Deut 2:27). Moses requested permission to use this highway for passing through the territory of the Edomites, and of Sihon, the Amorite king, promising to keep strictly to the highway in passing. It was one of the essential caravan routes in international commerce. It ran through Bashan, Gilead, Ammon, Moab, and Edom, and connected with roads across the Negeb leading into Egypt.

This route of travel is known to have existed well before 2000 b.c. A number of Bronze Age fortresses have been discovered. The invasion of Chedorlaomer and his allies (Gen 14) apparently followed it; they destroyed its fortresses and captured the towns as they proceeded. Control of this road prob. lay behind the invasion.

Fortifications at strategic points guarded the road when the Edomites and Ammonites objected to Israel’s use of the highway. During Solomon’s reign it was an important trade link between Ezion-geber, Judah, and Damascus. In the 2nd cent. a.d. the Romans under Trajan incorporated it in their important highway across Trans-Jordan. The modern auto road follows the old track.

Bibliography N. Glueck, The Other Side of the Jordan (1940), 10-16; J. A. Thompson, Archaeology and the Old Testament (1957), 57, 58.