The first reference in the Tanakh to Heshbon is found in the Book of Deuteronomy (2:24), where it is mentioned as the capital of Amorite king, Sihon (Sehon). It is later mentioned in Numbers 21:21-35, which tells the story of the Israelite victory over Sihon the Amorite during the time of the Exodus under Moses. In this passage, Heshbon is highlighted due to its importance as the capital of Sihon, King of the Amorites:
Similar passages appear in Deuteronomy and Joshua, with the primary emphasis being the victory of the Israelites over King Sihon at the site of Heshbon, which was his capital. These events occurred during the time of Moses, who soon after died in the region, after viewing the "promised land" from the top of Mount Nebo. Following the death of Moses, Heshbon became a town at the border between the Tribe of Reuben and the Tribe of Gad. Further biblical evidence suggests that the town later came under Moabite control, as mentioned by Isaiah and Jeremiah.
Heshbon also makes it into the Canticle of Canticles, biblical love poem of Song of Solomon where, in verse 7:4, the poet likens his love's eyes to "the pools of Heshbon." The speaks of the magnificent fish-pools of Hesebon. The Prophets mention it in their denunciations of Moab (Isaiah 15:4, 16:8, 9; Jeremiah 48:2, 34, 45).
After the Jewish War (A.D. 68-70) the country was invaded by the tribe that Pliny calls (Hist. Nat., V, xii, 1) Arabes Esbonitae 'Arabs of (H)esebon'. Restored under the name of Esboús or Esboúta, it is mentioned among the towns of the Roman Arabia Petraea by Ptolemy (Geogr. V, xvi). Under the Byzantine domination, as learned from Eusebius' Onomasticon, it grew to be a town of note in the province of Arabia; George of Cyprus refers to it in the seventh centuty and it was from Hesebon that the milestones on the Roman road to Jericho were numbered.
At the beginning of the Arab domination Hesebon was still the chief town of the Belka, a territory corresponding to the old Kingdom of Sehon. It seems never to have been taken by the Crusaders. The town is believed to have been located at the ruin called Hisban or Hesbân, about 20 km (12 miles) southwest of Amman, to the north of Mâdaba, on one of the highest summits of the mountains of Moab. A large ruined reservoir is located east of the place, and below the town there is a fountain.
From the Byzantine era two churches have been discovered and both churches produced impressive remains of mosaic floors. Particularly interesting is the nilotic mosaic of the presbytery of the North Church where the mosaicists have created a motif of a turtledove set on a nest made of an imaginary flower.
Eubel (Hierarchia Catholica, II, 168) mentions two Latin titulars of Hesebon in the latter part of the fifteenth century.
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