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Excavations by J. B. Hennessy revealed a Late-Bronze (1550-1200 b.c.) temple. Remains exist from the Roman period on the citadel above Philadelphia (the name of the city in the Roman times) and in the city below. These include a beautifully preserved, six-thousand-seat theater, a smaller odeum (music hall), and a nymphaeum. These all date to the second century a.d. The principal remains are on Citadel Hill, which contained all the public buildings, temples, churches, etc.
RABBAH răb’ ə (רַבָּֽה, great or populous). Rabbah is, literally, the great city, i.e. the capital.
The complete name is Rabbath of the Children of Ammon (
In the first reference to the city (
By the time of Amos the city was again an independent capital of the Ammonite kingdom which was expanding its boundaries up into Gilead. Because of the ultra-brutal ruthlessness of this military conquest Amos predicted the destruction of Rabbah (
The first reference to Rabbah after the close of the OT is its capture by Ptolemy Philadelphus. The city was renamed Philadelphia in his honor and it continued to bear that name through the Rom. period, although occasionally the older name Rabbath-ammon appeared in historical writings. Antiochus the Great captured the city in 218 b.c. after a long siege. In 199 b.c. it returned to the Ptolemaic sphere of influence. The city became Rom. when Pompey took over Pal. in 63 b.c. The Nabataeans, who were its normal occupants in the 1st cent. b.c., were conquered by Herod the Great c. 30 b.c. Under the Romans Philadelphia became one of the cities of the Decapolis, the southernmost city of that confederation.
4 Archeological history. Rabbah’s abundant water supply was the secret of the city’s continuing life. Archeological artifacts show occupation from the Palaeolithic through the Neolithic and Chalcolithic times. The same is true of its occupation in all the Bronze and Iron Ages (except Iron III), as well as the Hel. and Rom. periods. A tomb from the Hyksos period shows the wealth of the city at that time. Still more interesting is a Late Bronze Age temple in open country c. two and a half m. from the city. The richness of the finds seems to show that commerce from the Mediterranean of significant volume and great wealth was passing through Rabbah in addition to the normal N-S commerce of theshortly before the Israelites under Moses came through Trans-Jordan. The main commercial route was always this one between Arabia and Damascus.
The great Roman and Byzantine buildings on the citadel hill are too valuable to be removed in order to uncover earlier history. The cost of land purchase in the modern city around the citadel also makes it too expensive for archeological digging. The only Biblical phase found to date is a part of the city’s Iron Age wall.
The archeological remains above ground are almost all from the Rom. period, esp. 2nd and early 3rd centuries a.d., Byzantine or Omayyad. From Rom. times there can be seen today the great theater (cut in part out of the solid rock of the hill) seating c. 6,000 people. It is still used on special occasions. Nearby is an odeum, i.e. a small theater for various types of performances. There are also two temples, a nymphaeum, a bath, an aqueduct, and remains of various colonnaded streets. These great buildings of the Rom. period are valuable for NT parallels since the basic architectural forms changed little, and one can have a good idea of what Jerusalem, Jericho, and Samaria looked like when Jesus visited these cities. Still finer examples of a Palestinian Rom. city can be found at Jerash. It is one of the spectacular ruins of the Near E.
F. M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine (1933); G. L. Harding, The Antiquities of Jordan, 45-54 (1959).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(1) (rabbah; Rhabba, Rhabbath, Rhabban. The full name is rabbath bene `ammon; he akra ton huion Ammon, Rhabbath huion Ammon, "Rabbah of the children of Ammon"): This alone of the cities of the Ammonites is mentioned in Scripture, so we may take it as the most important. It is first named in connection with the "bed" or sarcophagus of Og, king of Bashan, which was said to be found here (
In the utterances of the prophets against Ammon, Rabbah stands for the people, as their most important, or perhaps their only important, city (
The city retained its importance in later times. It was captured by Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 BC), who called it Philadelphia. It was a member of the league of ten cities. Antiochus the Great captured it by means of treachery (Polyb. v.71). Josephus (BJ, III, iii, 3) names it as lying East of Peraea. In the 4th century AD, it ranked with Bostra and Gerasa as one of the great fortified cities of Coele-Syria (Ritter, Erdkunde, XV, ii, 1154 f). It became the seat of a bishop. Abulfeda (1321 AD) says that Rabbah was in ruins at the time of the Moslem conquest.
Rabbah is represented by the modern `Amman, a ruined site with extensive remains, chiefly from Roman times, some 14 miles Northeast of Heshbon, and about 22 miles East of the Jordan. It lies on the northern bank of Wady `Amman, a tributary of the upper Jabbok, in a well-watered and fruitful valley. Possibly the stream which rises here may be "the waters" referred to in
The place is now occupied by Arabs and Circassians who profit by the riches of the soil. It is brought into contact with the outside world by means of the Damascus-Hejaz Railway, which has a station here.
(2) (ha-rabbah; Codex Vaticanus Sotheba; Codex Alexandrinus Arebba): An unidentified city of Judah named along with Kiriath-jearim (