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Verse 14

I will kindle afire in the wall of Rabbah - Rabbah, literally, “the great,” called by Moses “Rabbah of the children of Ammon” Deuteronomy 3:11, and by later Greeks, “Rabathammana” , was a strong city with a yet stronger citadel. Ruins still exist, some of which probably date back to these times. The lower city “lay in a valley bordered on both sides by barren hills of flint,” at 12 an hour from its entrance. It lay on a stream, still called by its name Moyet or Nahr Amman, “waters” or “river of Ammon,” which ultimately falls into the Zurka (the Jabbok) . “On the top of the highest of the northern hills,” where at the divergence of two valleys it abuts upon the ruins of the town, “stands the castle of Ammon, a very extensive rectangular building,” following the shape of the hill and wholly occupying its crest. “Its walls are thick, and denote a remote antiquity; large blocks of stone are piled up without cement, and still hold together as well as if they had been recently placed; the greater part of the wall is entire. Within the castle are several deep cisterns.”

There are remains of foundations of a wall of the lower city at its eastern extremity . This lower city, as lying on a river in a waterless district, was called the “city of waters” 2 Samuel 12:27, which Joab had taken when he sent to David to come and besiege the Upper City. In later times, that Upper City was resolutely defended against Antiochus the Great, and taken, not by force but by thirst . On a conspicuous place on this castle-hill, stood a large temple, some of its broken columns 3 12 feet in diameter , probably the Grecian successor of the temple of its idol Milchom. Rabbah, the capital of Ammon, cannot have escaped, when Nebuchadnezzar , “in the 5th year of his reign, led an army against Coele-Syria, and, having possessed himself of it, warred against the Ammonites and Moabites, and having made all these nations subject to him, invaded Egypt, to subdue it.”

Afterward, it was tossed to and fro in the desolating wars between Syria and Egypt. Ptolemy II called it from his own surname Philadelphia , and so probably had had to restore it. It brought upon itself the attack of Antiochus III and its own capture, by its old habit of marauding against the Arabs in alliance with him. At the time of our Lord, it, with “Samaria, Galilee and Jericho,” is said by a pagan to be “inhabited by a mingled race of Egyptians, Arabians and Phoenicians.” It had probably already been given over to “the children of the East,” the Arabs, as Ezekiel had foretold Ezekiel 25:4. In early Christian times Milchom was still worshiped there under its Greek name of Hercules . Trajan recovered it to the Roman empire , and in the 4th century it, with Bostra , was still accounted a “vast town most secured by strong walls,” as a frontier fortress “to repel the incursions of neighboring nations.” It was counted to belong to Arabia . An Arabic writer says that it perished before the times of Muhammed, and covered a large tract with its ruins . It became a station of pilgrims to Mecca, and then, until now, as Ezekiel foretold , a stable for camels and a couching place.

I will kindle a fire in the wall - It may be that the prophet means to speak of some conflagration from within, in that he says not, as elsewhere, “I will send afire upon,” but, “I will kindle a fire in” Amos 1:4, Amos 1:7, Amos 1:10, Amos 1:12; Amos 2:2, Amos 2:5. But “the shouting” is the battle-cry (Job 39:25; Jeremiah 20:16; Zephaniah 1:16, etc.) of the victorious enemy, the cheer of exultation, anticipating its capture. That onslaught was to be resistless, sweeping, like a whirlwind, all before it. The fortress and walls of Rabbah were to yield before the onset of the enemy, as the tents of their caravans were whirled flat on the ground before the eddying of the whirlwinds from the desert, burying all beneath them.

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