Heshbon was an ancient city in Moab located about 20 miles / 32 kilometers east of The Jordan River and the north end of The Dead Sea. In early Bible History, the Amorite king Sihon captured it from the Moabites, and then the Israelites took it at the end of their Wilderness Journey, not long before they crossed the Jordan into the western section (see Eastern Tribal Lands) of the Promised Land. The ruins of the town are still visible.
The first Biblical mention of Heshbon is when Sihon captured it:
"For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and taken all his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon." (Numbers 21:26 RSV)
Sihon then made the mistake of refusing simple passage of the advancing Israelites under Moses:
"Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, "Let me pass through your land; we will not turn aside into field or vineyard; we will not drink the water of a well; we will go by the King's Highway, until we have passed through your territory."
"But Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his territory. He gathered all his men together, and went out against Israel to the wilderness, and came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel. And Israel slew him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as to the Ammonites; for Jazer was the boundary of the Ammonites. And Israel took all these cities, and Israel settled in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all its villages." (Numbers 21:21-25 RSV)
Under the Israelites, Heshon was among the cities in the territory of Gad that were set aside for the Levites:
"And to the rest of the Levites, the Merarite families ... out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with its pasture lands, the city of refuge for the slayer, Mahanaim with its pasture lands, Heshbon with its pasture lands, Jazer with its pasture lands" (Joshua 21:34,38-39 RSV)
In later years, by the time of Isaiah, Heshbon was taken back by the Moabites:
"Heshbon and Elealeh cry out, their voice is heard as far as Jahaz; therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud" (Isaiah 15:4 RSV)
Fact Finder: Who were the Moabites?
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