Friday, June 01, 2012

Amman, the biblical Rabbath Ammon

Amman is the capital of Jordon. Jordan is mainly desert except for the Jordan valley which is watered by the River Jordan and is a fertile area which produces fruits and vegetable. The ancient people of Jordon are the Ammorites who are the descendents of Ben-Ammi, the son of Lot and his younger daughter (Gen.19:38). The son of Lot and his older daughter is Moab who is the father of the Moabites (Gen. 19:37).The land of the Moabites lies between the Amorites in the north and Edomites (descendent of Esau) in the south. All these people provided challenges to the Israelites, the descendents of Abraham during the exodus. Somehow ancient quarrels are never forgotten. Saul protected Jabesh-Gilead against Nahash, king of the Ammon (1 Sam. 11:1ff) which made him a popular hero, popular enough to be confirmed as king.

In 250 BCE, the Greek general Ptolemy II Philadelphus built a new city over the ruins of Rabbath Ammon and named it Philadelphia (not to be confused with the church in Philadelphia in Rev. 3:7). Philadelphia is one of the ten cities of the Decapolis mentioned in the New Testament (Matt. 4:25; Mark 5:20; 7:31).

Travelling through Jordan, I cannot help but notice the desolation of the desert in spite of the modern highways and the air-conditioned bus we are in. Jordan is the beginning of the Great Arabian Desert. Water is scarce and precious. Water means life and death. I try to imagine the newly freed slaves from Egypt moving through these arid and hot plains but find it difficult. There was a King’s Highway which ran from south to north to join the great trade route. The highway was flat with water sources readily marked. Instead the Edomites refused the Israelites led by Moses passage through their lands  and the King’s Highway. The Israelites have to work their way north by the alternate wilderness way (Num.20:14-21).

Bedouin tents

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