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HESBON (Ἐσεβών, LXX., Hesych.; Ἐσσεβών, Euseb. Onom.: Eth. Ἐσσεβών, Ἐσσεβωνῖτις, Judith, 5.15; Σασφών Χασχώρ; 1 Macc. 5.26, 36: Hesbân, Hiisbân), a town in the territory of the Hebrews, E. of the Jordan, and parallel with Jericho, nearly midway between the rivers Jabbok and Arnon. It originally belonged to the Moabites, but had been wrested from them by their northern neighbours the Amorites a short time before the arrival of the Israelites from Aegypt. (Numbers, 21.23--26; comp. Ewald, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, vol. ii. p. 212.) At that time it was the capital of Sihon, the Amoritish chieftain who “reigned in Heshbon.” (Numbers, [p. 1.1063]21.26; Deut. 2.9; Josh. 3.10.) It belonged to the tribe of Reuben (Numbers, 32.37; Josh. 13.17); but, as it was on the confines of Gad, is sometimes assigned to the latter tribe (Josh. 21.39; 1 Chron. 6.81). When the ten tribes were carried off, Hesbon fell into the hands of the Moabites, and is mentioned by the prophets in their denunciations against that people. (Is. 15.4; Jer. 48.2, 34, 45.) Under king Alexander Jannaeus it was again reckoned as a Jewish city. (J. AJ 13.15.4.) Ptolemy (5.17) mentions it under the name Esbuta (Ἐσβούτα), and the “Arabes Esbonitae” of Pliny (5.12) must be referred to this place. Eusebius and Jerome (Onom.) speak of it as a place of some consequence in their day, under the name of Esbus (Ἐσβούς), at a distance of 20 M. P. from the river Jordan. There is a coin of the emperor Nero, with the epigraph HEEBA, the type a female figure with a crown and palm. (Mionnet, Supplément, vol. viii. p. 387.) But the best known are the coins of Caracalla, with the type a temple of Astarte, or a “Deus Lunus” with a Phrygian cap, and the epigraph ΕΞΒΟΥ (Eckhel, vol. iii. p. 503; Mionnet, vol. v. p. 585.) It occurs in the list of the Eparchies of Arabia under the name of Ἔσβους. (Reland, Notit. Vet. Eccles. p. 218), but is not mentioned by Hierocles, though a πόλις Ἐσβοῦντων occurs in the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon. Under the name of Chosban it became the metropolis of El-Belka. (Abú--l-fedá, Tab. Syr. p. 11.)

The region of the Wady Hesbán was first visited in modern times by Leetzen (Zach's Monatl. Corr. xviii. p. 431), then by Burkhardt (Trav. p. 365), and afterwards by Irby and Mangles (Trav. p. 471). These latter writers speak of the “ruins as uninteresting, and the only pool they saw too insignificant” for the “fish-ponds” famous in Hebrew poetry. (Cant. 7.4.) Near the tent village of Hüsban are the ruins of ancient Hesbon, where there are some wells excavated in the rock, a ruined castle, and a large cistern, which only requires to be cleared of the rubbish to be still available. (Chesney, Exped. Euphrat. vol. i. p. 516.)

(Reland, Palestina, vol. ii. p. 720; Rosenmüller, Handbuch der Bibl. Alt. vol. ii. pt. i. p. 266; Von Raumer, Palestina, p. 253; Winer, Biblisches Realwörterbuch, s.v. Bitter, Erdkunde, vol. xv. pp. 114, 143, 574, &c.)


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