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Unearth the mysteries of the Hittites in ancient times. Discover the rise and fall of this influential civilization, its cultural heritage, and the groundbreaking archaeological findings that shed light on its history. Immerse yourself in the captivating world of the Hittites.
HITTITES (Pertaining to Heth)
The Hittites emerged from the lineage of Heth, who was the second son of Canaan, as detailed in Genesis 10:15. Their ancestry is Hamitic, as suggested in Genesis 10:6.
In the times of Abraham, the Hittites were established in Canaan, the very region where Abraham was directed by God. As recorded in Genesis 15:18-21, God promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit Canaan, a land populated by several nations, the Hittites being one of them. However, God also imparted to Abraham that “the iniquity of the Amorites [often a blanket term for the Canaanite nations] is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16 ASV). Respecting the Hittites’ possession of the land, Abraham negotiated with Ephron, the son of Zohar the Hittite, to acquire a cave as a burial place for his wife Sarah, as depicted in Genesis 23:1-20.
In the period of Joshua, the geographical extent of the Hittite kingdom is described as “from the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites” (Joshua 1:4 ASV). The Hittites were likely dwelling primarily in the mountainous areas, potentially including regions of Lebanon and Syria (Numbers 13:29; Joshua 11:3).
The Curse of Noah
Being descendants of Canaan, the Hittites fell under Noah’s curse on Canaan, and Israel’s conquest over them fulfilled Noah’s prophecy (Genesis 9:25-27). The Hittite religion was fundamentally pagan, most likely reflecting the phallic worship common among the Canaanite cultures. This caused grief to Isaac and Rebekah, parents of Esau, when Esau chose to marry Hittite women (Genesis 26:34, 35; 27:46).
God characterized the land inhabited by the Hittites and other related nations as “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8 ASV). However, the moral decadence of these nations resulted in the defilement of the land (Leviticus 18:25, 27). God issued numerous warnings to Israel about the potential dangers of fraternizing with these nations and their repugnant practices. He outlined several immoralities, admonishing the Israelites to refrain from them and stated: “You shall not become unclean by these; for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean” (Leviticus 18:1-30 ASV).
The Hittites, along with six other nations, were designated for eradication. These nations were “greater and mightier” than Israel, suggesting they constituted a population exceeding three million individuals at the time. The Hittites, fortified in their mountainous bastion, would have presented a formidable adversary (Deuteronomy 7:1, 2 ASV). Their hostility was apparent when they joined forces with other Canaanite nations to confront Israel (under Joshua’s leadership) upon hearing of Israel’s advance across the Jordan and the demolition of Jericho and Ai (Joshua 9:1, 2; 24:11 ASV). Therefore, the Hittite cities should have been razed, and their inhabitants extinguished to safeguard Israel’s allegiance to God and avert His wrath (Deuteronomy 20:16-18 ASV). However, Israel only incompletely executed God’s command, leaving these nations as persistent nuisances (Numbers 33:55, 56 ASV).
Because of Israel’s failure to entirely wipe out the Canaanite nations as God had commanded, God decreed, “I will not drive them out before you; but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you” (Judges 2:3 ASV). Canaanites who remained among the Israelites were generally tolerated, with a few holding respectable and responsible positions. Intriguingly, among the Canaanite nations, only the Hittites seemed to sustain national prominence and strength (1 Kings 10:29; 2 Kings 7:6 ASV).
Two Hittites, Ahimelech and Uriah, served as soldiers, potentially officers, in David’s army. Uriah, particularly, was known for his zealous pursuit of Israel’s victories and adherence to the Law. David’s scandalous affair with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, and his orchestration of Uriah’s death on the battlefield led to divine retribution (1 Samuel 26:6; 2 Samuel 11:3, 4, 11, 15-17; 12:9-12 ASV).
King Solomon conscripted men from the Hittites for forced labor (2 Chronicles 8:7, 8 ASV). Nonetheless, Solomon’s foreign wives, including Hittite women, enticed him away from God (1 Kings 11:1-6 ASV). The Hittites, mentioned in the Scriptures for their monarchical leadership and martial prowess as late as King Jehoram’s reign in Israel (circa 852-841 BCE), were eventually subdued by Syrian, Assyrian, and Babylonian invasions (2 Kings 7:6 ASV).
Following Israel’s restoration from exile in 537 BCE, Israelites, including priests and Levites, married women from Canaanite nations, including Hittites, breaching God’s law. This resulted in Ezra’s rebuke and led to an agreement to renounce their foreign wives (Ezra 9:1, 2; 10:14, 16-19, 44 ASV).
Jehovah, through the prophet Ezekiel, figuratively used “Hittite” in addressing Jerusalem. He declared, “Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite” (Ezekiel 16:3 ASV). Jerusalem, the national capital where Jehovah had placed His name, was initially a Jebusite city when Israel entered the land. However, the Amorites and Hittites were among the most influential tribes, symbolizing the Canaanite nations, including the Jebusites. Despite its humble origins, Jehovah graced Jerusalem with grandeur through King David, the Ark of the Covenant on Mount Zion, and the glorious temple constructed by Solomon, David’s son. Yet, Jerusalem, ensnared by corruption and immorality akin to the surrounding Canaanite nations, was ultimately brought to desolation by Jehovah (Ezekiel 16:14, 15 ASV).
Historical and Archaeological Exploration
Historians and archaeologists have endeavored to correlate the Hittites of the Bible with secular history. This is primarily achieved through linguistic analysis, comparing words that share auditory or orthographic similarities.
References to “Hatti” recur in the Assyrian cuneiform texts, usually in contexts suggesting Syria or Palestine. These may correspond to the Hittites of the Bible. However, scholars have utilized this term, “Hatti,” to draw connections between the biblical Hittites and the so-called Hittite Empire centered in Asia Minor, a region considerably north and west of Canaan. The following outlines their conjectural method, which encompasses three distinct populations.
Distinct Populations “Identified”
Numerous ancient texts have been excavated in Asia Minor, specifically Anatolia (modern-day Turkey), at Bogazköy, formerly “Hattushash,” the capital of a region modern scholars have designated as Hatti. The inhabitants of this region spoke “Hattic,” a language distinct from the ones that followed. Evidently, conquerors supplanted these original settlers, introducing an Indo-European language written in cuneiform script, colloquially referred to as “cuneiform Hittite.” Subsequently, a different Indo-European language emerged that utilized hieroglyphic script, known as “hieroglyphic Hittite.” Instances of this language have been discovered in both Asia Minor and northern Syria. Scholars propose these three languages represent three different groups, yet no evidence definitively links these groups to the biblical Hittites. Renowned historian Martin Noth has stated: “The term ‘Hittite’ is not found in the ancient texts, but was invented by modern students, resting on the historical connection between this language and the kingdom of Hatti in Asia Minor.” Regarding “Hittite hieroglyphs,” he claims: “The conventional term Hittite is irrelevant and confusing when applied to them.” (The Old Testament World, 1966, p. 231) Similarly, historian E. A. Speiser concludes: “The problem of the Hittites in the Bible is… complex. To begin with, there is the question as to which type of Hittites may be involved in any given Biblical passage: Hattians, Indo-European Hittites of the cuneiform records, or hieroglyphic Hittites.” (The World History of the Jewish People, 1964, Vol. 1, p. 160)
New Research Indicates Turkish Artwork Could Reveal Ancient Hittite Beliefs About the Universe
Relatively new research suggests that ancient stone carvings found in Turkey might hold clues to the cosmology of the Hittite civilization. The carvings, located in an outdoor shrine called Yazılıkaya, date back approximately 3200 years. They depict over 90 figures and were discovered close to the former Hittite capital, Ḫattuša, nearly 200 years ago. Although scholars identified the figures as gods based on deciphered hieroglyphs, the exact meaning of the site remained a mystery.
A team of international experts from the Luwian Studies foundation has proposed a fresh interpretation. They argue that the sanctuary reflects the Hittite understanding of the universe, symbolizing their beliefs about the underworld, earth, sky, lunar cycles, and changing seasons. According to their theory, the reliefs depict a procession of Hittite gods, with the most important ones positioned in the center, facing north. These central gods are believed to correspond to a specific area of the sky where stars are always visible.
The researchers note that Hittite beliefs share some similarities with the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian belief systems. However, critics of the theory suggest that it relies more on texts from neighboring civilizations rather than Hittite texts, which provide limited information about astronomy.
The Bible mentions the Hittites over 45 times, but most references pertain to a different group of Hittites from the Anatolia region in modern-day Turkey. For a deeper exploration of the Hittites in relation to the Bible, you may find Dr. Bryant Wood’s insightful article on the subject helpful. You can access it through the provided link.
- – https://www.jpost.com/archaeology/crazy-archeological-find-is-there-an-underworld-under-the-earth-671590
- – https://www.newscientist.com/article/2280860-3200-year-old-shrine-in-turkey-may-be-an-ancient-view-of-the-cosmos/
Archaeology and the Hittites
The Hittites were an ancient Anatolian people who established an empire in modern-day Turkey and northern Syria around 1600-1180 BC. They had a distinct culture, religion, and language. Archaeologists have discovered a wealth of material evidence that has provided insight into Hittite civilization. Here are a few significant archaeological discoveries:
Hattusa: The most important archaeological site related to the Hittites is the ruins of their capital city, Hattusa (now Bogazköy, Turkey). The site was first excavated in the early 20th century and has yielded thousands of cuneiform tablets providing a wealth of information about Hittite law, history, and diplomacy.
Yazilikaya Rock Sanctuary: This open-air temple near Hattusa is known for its rock carvings depicting gods and goddesses of the Hittite pantheon.
Alacahöyük: This site, which predates the Hittite Empire, was apparently a significant Hittite city. Excavations here have uncovered royal tombs, artifacts, and symbolic artifacts suggesting a rich cultural history.
Cuneiform Tablets: Thousands of clay tablets inscribed in cuneiform script have been found in Hattusa and other Hittite sites. These tablets, written in the Hittite language and other languages like Akkadian and Hurrian, have provided scholars with a wealth of information about the political, economic, religious, and cultural life of the Hittites.
The Kadesh Treaty: Among the Hittite tablets discovered, one of the most significant is the treaty between the Hittite King Hattusili III and the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II after the Battle of Kadesh (around 1259 BC). This treaty is considered one of the oldest surviving peace treaties in history, with a copy displayed at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Art and Artifacts: Numerous Hittite artifacts such as pottery, sculptures, seals, and jewelry have been found and show the sophistication of Hittite art and craftsmanship.
Remember, our understanding of the Hittites is still evolving as new archaeological discoveries continue to be made.
From the above, it’s clear that any presumed identification of the Hittites of the Bible with the “Hittite Empire,” with its capital city at Hattushash, remains speculative and unproven. Owing to this uncertainty, this document above places references to the secular “Hittites” in quotation marks to remind readers that such identification is not proven, and that we do not consider the evidence strong enough to deem such identification as conclusive.