Nabatea

F16 on the Map

Nabataean Kingdom. The Nabataeans were an Arabian people, occupying Edom, southern Transjordan, and SE. Syria, with its capital at Petra (1 Macc. 5:25) it was a client kingdom of Rome, 1st cent. B.C. - 1st cent. A.D. under kings who were rivals of the Herods, including Aretas (2 Cor. 11:32). Nabataea was made the province of Arabia in 105, governed by a praetorian legate with one legion.

Tiglath-pileser III (reigned 745-727 BCE) devastated Israel in 734-733, sent its people into exile, and divided the country into provinces under Assyrian governors. This policy of direct rule continued until the fall of the Assyrian empire in 612 BCE. The Assyrian texts are the first to refer to the Nabataeans, who at that time occupied the land south and east of Edom (ancient Midian). After the fall of Assyria, the Moabites and Ammonites continued to raid Judah until the Ammonites were conquered by the Neo-Babylonians under Nebuchadrezzar II. Little is known of the history of Jordan under the Neo-Babylonians and Persians, but during this period the Nabataeans infiltrated Edom and forced the Edomites into southern Palestine.

It was not until the Hellenistic rule of the Seleucids and the Ptolemies that the country prospered, trade increased, and new towns were built. Rabbath Ammon was renamed Philadelphia, and Jarash became Antioch-on-the-Chrysorrhoas, or Gerasa. Hostilities between the Seleucids and Ptolemies enabled the Nabataeans to extend their kingdom northward and to increase their prosperity based on the caravan trade with Arabia and Syria. The northern part of Jordan was at that time in Jewish hands, yet there were constant struggles between the Jewish Maccabees and the Seleucids. It is to this period that the majority of the Dead Sea Scrolls may be attributed.

During 64-63 BCE the kingdom of Nabataea was conquered by the Romans under Pompey, who restored the Hellenistic cities destroyed by the Jews and set up the Decapolis. The country remained independent but paid imperial taxes.

Roman policy seems to have been to maintain Nabataea as a buffer state against the desert tribes. In 25-24 BC it served as a starting point for Aelius Gallus' expedition in search of Arabia Felix. Nabataea was finally absorbed into the Roman Empire by Trajan in AD 106 as the province of Palaestina Tertia. Under Roman rule Jordan prospered, and many new cities were established.

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