Last evening I was looking at the biblical account of David’s battles against the Ammonites (2 Samuel 10-11).
In the spring of the year, at the time when kings normally conduct wars, David sent out Joab with his officers and the entire Israelite army. They defeated the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed behind in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1 NET)
You probably know the rest of the story. David is attracted to Bathsheba, commits adultery, learns Bathsheba is pregnant, calls Uriah home in hope that he will spend the night with Bathsheba. Uriah acted in the true warrior way by not enjoying the benefits of the marriage bed while his companions were camping in the open field. David sent Uriah back to the battle with a letter to Joab to put Uriah in the forefront of the battle.
Have you thought about the journey made by Uriah and the other Israelite soldiers as they traveled from Jerusalem to Rabbah and back? You know where Jerusalem is located. It is situated on the eastern side of the water parting ridge of Israel at an elevation of about 2400 feet above sea level. Numerous times we have discussed the journey from Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley. See here and here.
The distance from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea is not more than 20 miles. The elevation drops from about 2600 feet at the Mount of Olives to (currently) about 1384 feet below sea level at the surface of the Dead Sea. The point of crossing at the Jordan River would be a little higher. From there one must go up into the Transjordan Tableland to reach Rabbah. The general elevation of the Transjordan Tableland is about 3000 feet above sea level. Amman is about 2500 feet above sea level. That makes this a difficult route of travel.
Rabbah (Rabbath), the capital of ancient Ammon, is the site we now know as Amman, capital of Jordan. During the Hellenistic period the city was renamed Philadelphia.
The total distance from Jerusalem to Rabbah is about 40 miles as the crow flies. Men rarely travel like crows. The distance by road is longer and more difficult.
The photo I wish to share today was made in early April. It was made along a road a little east of the Jordan Valley and the Plains of Moab. From here you can see the terrain David’s men, including Joab and Uriah, had to travel on their way from Jerusalem to Rabbah. Modern Amman is located in the mountains we see on the horizon.
Learning routes of travel is one of the most important values in visiting the Bible lands. I hope this photo will help you with your study of the biblical account.
Reprint from 12/2/10.
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