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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Hittites

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HITTITES . A people said in the J [Note: Jahwist.] document ( Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17 ) to have been one of the pre-Israelitish occupants of Palestine. The E [Note: Elohist.] document says they lived in the mountains ( Numbers 13:29 ). They are often included by D [Note: Deuteronomist.] and his followers among the early inhabitants of the land, while P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] tells us ( Genesis 23:1-20 ) that Abraham bought from a Hittite the cave of Machpelah at Hebron. They are probably the people known in Egyptian inscriptions as Kheta , in Assyrian annals as Khatti , and in Homer ( Od . xi. 521) as Kçteioi .

It is supposed that the carved figures found in many parts of Asia Minor, having a peculiar type of high hat and shoes which turn up at the toe, and containing hieroglyphs of a distinct type which are as yet undeciphered, are Hittite monuments. Assuming that this is correct, the principal habitat of the Hittites was Asia Minor, for these monuments are found from Karabel, a pass near Smyrna, to Erzerum, and from the so-called Niobe (originally a Hittite goddess), near Magnesia, to Jerabis, the ancient Carchemish, on the Euphrates. They have also been found at Zenjirli and Hamath in northern Syria (cf. Messerschmidt’s ‘Corp. Inscript. Hett.’ in Mitteilungen der Vorderas. Gesell . vol. v.; and Sayce, PSBA [Note: SBA Proceedings of Soc. of Bibl. Archeology.] vol. xxviii. 91 95). It appears from these monuments that at Boghazkui east of the Halys, at Marash, and at various points in ancient Galatia, Lycaonia, Isauria, and Cilicia the Hittites were especially strong. It is probable that their civilization was developed in Asia Minor, and that they afterwards pushed southward into northern Syria, invading a region as far eastward as the Euphrates.

This is confirmed by what we know of them from the inscriptions of other nations. Our earliest mention of them occurs in the annals of Thothmes iii. of Egypt (about b.c. 1500), to whom they paid tribute (cf. Breasted’s Ancient Records of Egypt , ii. 213).

In the reign of Amenophis iii. (about b.c. 1400) they attempted unsuccessfully to invade the land of Mittani on the Euphrates, and successfully planted themselves on the Orontes valley in Syria (cf. KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] v. 33, and 255, 257). In the reign of Amenophis iv. they made much greater advances, as the el-Amarna letters show. In the next dynasty Seti i. fought a battle with the Hittites between the ranges of the Lehanon (Breasted, op cit . iii. 71). In the reign of Rameses ii. Kadesh on the Orontes was in their hands. Rameses fought a great battle with them there, and afterwards made a treaty of peace with them (Breasted, op. cit. iii. 125 ff., 165 ff.). Meren-Ptah and Rameses iii. had skirmishes with them, the latter as late as b.c. 1200. From the similarity of his name to the names of Hittite kings, Moore has conjectured ( JAOS [Note: AOS Journ. of the Amer. Oriental Society.] xix. 159, 160) that Sisera ( Judges 5:1-31 ) was a Hittite. If so, in the time of Deborah (about b.c. 1150) a Hittite dynasty invaded northern Palestine.

About b.c. 1100 Tiglath-pileser i. of Assyria fought with Hittites ( KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] i. 23). In David’s reign individual Hittites such as Ahimelech and Uriah were in Israel ( 1 Samuel 26:6 , 2 Samuel 11:3 etc.). Kings of the Hittites are said to have been contemporary with Solomon ( 1 Kings 10:29; 1 Kings 11:1 ), also a century later contemporary with Joram of Israel ( 2 Kings 7:6 ). In the 9th cent. the Assyrian kings Ashurnazir-pal ( KIB [Note: IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek.] i. 105) and Shalmaneser ii. ( ib. p. 139) fought with Hittites, as did Tiglath-pileser iii. ( ib. ii. 29), in the next century, while Sargon ii. in 717 ( ib. ii. 43; Isaiah 10:9 ) destroyed the kingdom of Carchemish, the last of the Hittite kingdoms of which we have definite record. The researches of recent years, especially those of Jensen and Breasted, make it probable that the Cilicians were a Hittite people, and that Syennesis, king of Cilicia, mentioned in Xenopbon’s Anabasis as a vassal king of Persia about b.c. 400, was a Hittite. Possibly the people of Lycaonia, whose language Paul and Barnabas did not understand ( Acts 14:11 ), spoke a dialect of Hittite.

The Hittites accordingly played an important part in history from b.c. 1500 to b.c. 700, and lingered on in many quarters much longer. It is probable that a Hittite kingdom in Sardis preceded the Lydian kingdom there (cf. Herod, i. 7). The Lydian Cyhele and Artemis of Ephesus were probably originally Hittite divinities.

Jensen, who has made a little progress in deciphering the Hittite inscriptions, believes them to be an Aryan people, the ancestors of the Armenians (cf. his Hittiter und Armenier ), but this is very doubtful.

Politically the Hittites were not, so far as we know, united. They seem to have formed small city-kingdoms.

The religion of the Hittites seems to have had some features in common with Semitic religion (cf. Barton, Semitic Origins , pp. 311 316).

George A. Barton.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Hittites'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/h/hittites.html. 1909.

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