(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 (De 3:11). It lay East of the territory assigned to Gad (Jos 13:25). Whatever may have been its history in the interval, it does not appear again in Scripture till the time of David. This monarch sent an embassy of sympathy to King Hanun when his father Nahash died. The kindness was met by wanton insult, which led to the outbreak of war. The Ammonites, strengthened by Aramean allies, were defeated by the Israelites under Joab, and took refuge in Rabbah. After David's defeat of the Arameans at Helam a year later, the Ammonites were exposed alone to the full-force of Israel, the ark of the covenant being carried with the troops. The country was ravaged and siege was laid to Rabbah. It was during this siege that Uriah the Hittite by David's orders was exposed "in the forefront of the hottest battle" (2Sa 11:15), where, treacherously deserted by his comrades, he was slain. How long the siege lasted we do not know; probably some years; but the end was in sight when Joab captured "the city of waters" (2Sa 12:27). This may mean that he had secured control of the water supply. In the preceding verse he calls it the "royal city." By the chivalry of his general, David was enabled in person to enjoy the honor of taking the city. Among the booty secured was the crown of Melcom, the god of the Ammonites. Such of the inhabitants as survived he treated with great severity (2Sa 12:26-31; 1Ch 20:1 ff).
In the utterances of the prophets against Ammon, Rabbah stands for the people, as their most important, or perhaps their only important, city (Jer 49:2-3; Eze 21:20; 25:5; Am 1:14). Jer 49:4 speaks of the "flowing valley"--a reference perhaps to the abundance of water and fruitfulness--and the treasures in which she gloried. Eze 21:21 represents the king of Babylon at "the head of the two ways" deciding by means of the divining arrows whether he should march against Jerusalem or against Rabbah. Amos seems to have been impressed with the palaces of Rabbah.
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 2Sa 12:27. Ancient Rabbah may have stood on the hill now occupied by the citadel, a position easy of defense because of its precipitous sides. The outer walls of the citadel appear to be very old; but it is quite impossible to say that anything Ammonite is now above ground. The citadel is connected by means of an underground passage with a large cistern or tank to the North, whence probably it drew its watersupply. This may be the passage mentioned in the account of the capture of the city by Antiochus. "It is," says Conder (Heth and Moab, 158), "one of the finest Roman towns in Syria, with baths, a theater, and an odeum, as well as several large private masonry tombs built in the valley probably in the 2nd century. The fortress on the hill, now surrounding a considerable temple, is also probably of this same date. The church with two chapels farther North, and perhaps some of the tombs, must belong to a later age, perhaps the 4th century. The fine mosque and the fine Moslem building on the citadel hill cannot be earlier than the 7th, and are perhaps as late as the 11th century; and we have thus relics of every building epoch except the Crusading, of which there appears to be no indication."
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 (Jos 15:60).