The Hittites

The original Hittites were an Indo-European people who settled in Anatolia, modern-day Turkey, around 2,000 BCE.  They became one of the Near East’s greatest empires, calling themselves Hatti.  Their capital was the central Anatolian city of Hattusa. Although they contended with Egypt for control of the Levant, Hittite rule never extended further south than some Syrian vassal states.  The Hittite Empire eventually collapsed amid droughts, migrations, and invasions around 1180 BCE.  Its successors were several Neo-Hittite kingdoms that emerged in southern Anatolia and northern Syria, as they became vassals of the Assyrian empire and were eventually assimilated completely.  The use of the term “Hittite” in Assyrian inscriptions changed over time.  During the time of Shalmaneser III in the 9th century BCE, it referred to the neo-Hittite states, Carchemish in particular.  After this, the neo-Hittite states lost their independence and ethnic identity.  By the time of Sargon, around 720 BCE, Hittite had become a synonym for Amorite and was used to indicate all of Syrian-Palestine.  By the neo-Babylonian period, around 626 BCE, Hatti had replaced Amurru as the standard term for Palestine, including the kingdom of Judah.  In fact, Judah was explicitly referred to as part of the Hittite region in the Babylonian Chronicles’ account of Nebuchadnezzar.  In fact, we have a description of the fall of Jerusalem from this Babylonian king.  In the seventh year, 598-597 BCE, the month of Kislev, the king of Akkad mustered his troops, marched to the Hatti-land, and encamped against the city of Judah, Jerusalem, and on the second day of the month of Adar, Mar 16, 597, he seized the city and captured the king.  He appointed there a king of his own choice Zedekiah, received its heavy tribute, and sent them to Babylon.  The Pentateuch presented the Hittites as one of the seven stereotyped nations of the Promised Land, to be eradicated by the Israelites.  Apart from this list, all references to Hittites in the Pentateuch are found in verses attributed to the Priestly author, who probably revised and augmented earlier versions of the text.  This term was basically synonymous with “Canaanite”.  In the Table of Nations in chapter 10 of Genesis, Heth, the Hittite “founder” was a prominent son of Canaan.  The Hittites appeared in other books of the Hebrew Bible.  In summary, while Kings understands the Hittites to be a group of northern kingdoms, the Pentateuch and Joshua use it as a label for all the pre-Israelite inhabitants of Palestine.  This closely resembles the term’s use in neo-Babylonian texts from the time of Sargon onward.  If the biblical authors are attempting to give the appearance of antiquity by using it this way, they were writing later still.  There is no shortage of reasons why Old Testament scholars do not regard the Bible as a wholly accurate account of historical events.  Have you ever heard of the Hittites?

Ezra explains the role of Abraham (Neh 9:7-9:8)

“You are Yahweh,

The God who chose Abram,

You brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans.

You gave him the name Abraham.

You found his heart faithful before you.

You made with him a covenant,

To give to his descendants

The land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite,

The Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite.

You have fulfilled your promise.

You are righteous.”

Besides creation, Yahweh gave us Abraham, who accepted his call from Ur. He had a faithful heart so that the covenant of the land for his descendents was made. They were to inherit the land of Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, and the Girgashites. These are the classic land battle enemies of Israel. Now the promise was fulfilled because Yahweh is righteous as was outlined in Genesis, chapters 12-25.


Marriages with foreigners (Ezra 9:1-9:4)

“After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said. ‘The people of Israel, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations. They were intermingling with the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons. Thus the holy seed has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. In this faithlessness the officials and leaders have led the way.’ When I heard this, I tore my garments and my mantle. I pulled hair from my head and beard. I sat appalled. Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered round me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice.”

Once they were settled, a new problem arose. The returning Jews from the exile were marrying the locals who had stayed behind, the hated “people of the land.” Not only the Jews in general but also the priests, the Levites, the officials, and the leaders were involved in marriages with non-Jewish people. Some of them were not Jews but the hated list of the usual suspects, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. Now this had not been a problem for Moses or King Solomon since they married non-Jewish wives. The fear as usual was that the female wives would want to worship their gods rather than Yahweh. Thus these wily females would lead astray the poor weak Jewish men into false worship. This had been a problem in the northern area of Israel before the captivity. The new post-exilic group wanted a pure race of Jewish people. They did not want the holy seed mixed with “the people of the land.” When Ezra found out about this, he was really upset. He tore his clothes and pulled his hair out. As he said in the first person singular, “I was appalled.”

The enslavement of the people (2 Chr 8:7-8:10)

“All the people who were left of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, were not of the people of Israel. Their descendants were still left in the land, since the Israelites had not destroyed them. These, Solomon conscripted for forced labor, as it is still the case today. But of the people of Israel, King Solomon made no slaves for his work. They were soldiers, and his officers, the commanders of his chariots and cavalry. These were the chief officers of King Solomon, two hundred and fifty of them, who exercised authority over the people.”

Once again, this is based on 1 Kings, chapter 9, with a few minor exceptions. Notice that the newly conscripted peoples the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, are the old list of enemies from the time of Abraham. In fact, this biblical author points out that they are still slaves in forced labor even today. Thus the prejudice against the lowly slaves was justified by calling them the enemies of 800 to 1,000 years earlier. Notice the slight nuance change here from 1 Kings. Here it is the people not destroyed, while in 1 Kings, these people were not able to be destroyed. None of the Israelites became slaves. However, in 1 Kings, chapter 5, there is a statement that 30,000 people from all of Israel were conscripted to work. 10,000 of them worked a month in Lebanon and then they had 2 months off. That text seems to indicate that they were Israelites. Here it seems to indicate that the Israelites were the soldiers, officials, commanders, and captains of his chariots and cavalry. That may be so. However, there seems to be only 250 Israelite officials for all this slave labor which is a lot less than the 3,600 mentioned earlier in chapter 2 of this book.

People nations that remained in Canaan (Judg 3:1-3:6)

“Now these are the nations that Yahweh left, to test all those in Israel who had no experience of any war in Canaan. It was only that successive generations of Israelites might know war, to teach those who had no experience of it before. The five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as the Lebo-hamath. They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of Yahweh, which he commanded their ancestors by Moses. So the Israelites lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. They took their daughters as wives for themselves, and their own daughters they gave to their sons. They worshipped their gods.”

Once again we have the traditional enemies that came be found as far back as Genesis, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The Israelites needed to learn about war and so they were tested. Yahweh let these 6 groups remain. However, 2 new groups were added, the Philistines and the Sidonians. The Israelites were not following Yahweh’s law because they intermarried with these other groups and worshipped their gods, a very serious transgression.

The coalition against Israel (Josh 9:1-9:2)

“Now when all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, they gathered together with one accord to fight Joshua and Israel.”

This is the classic list of usual suspect enemies that goes back to Genesis. These six groups seem to be the mortal enemies of Israel. The Hittites were the descendants of Heth, a Canaanite tribe near Hebron. The Amorites were the mountain dwellers in Canaan as opposed to the Canaanites, who were the low land inhabitants. The Perizzites were the village dwellers in Canaan on both sides of the Jordan. The Hivites were the descendants of Ham and lived in western Canaan. The Jebusites were the descendants of Jebus and lived around the area of Jerusalem.