By Bill Echols
Archaeology is constantly adding to our knowledge of one of the most remarkable people of antiquity, the Hittites. We now have available a great deal of information that reveals much of the Hittite history, but I more must be uncovered before the complete story of these people will be known. At one time the only knowledge the world had of the Hittites was that found in the Old Testament. This led many to doubt or deny the existence of such a people. Some charged the Bible with error because it mentioned a people of which the historians had no known record.
As more and more is revealed of the Hittites, we can see that the Bible picture of them is accurate. This is just another example of how archaeology is shedding light on God’s Word. Such evidence is strengthening to our faith in the revelation of God. This is especially true when we remember that many archaeologists do not look upon the Bible as source material for historical information.
We want to observe some Bible references to the Hittites and compare them with present knowledge from the archaeologist. Since there are gaps and uncertainties in the history of the Hittites in the archaeological field, we cannot always make definite connections. The earliest Biblical references to the Hittites are in Genesis. There they are referred to as only one among a number of distinctive tribes. This picture is accurate, as we know that the earliest history of the Hittites was that of city-states. The dates assigned to this period of their history corresponds with that of the Bible. The great Hittite empire was subsequent to these Bible references. Numbers 13:29 speaks of the Hittites as dwelling in the hill country. This also harmonizes with what archaeology has shown us. The Hittites greatest power was in modern Turkey but extended down to the hill country north of Canaan.
Studies at Hattusas, the ancient capital of the Hittite empire, has revealed that the Hittites were a mighty nation. Their greatness lay in the military and political fields. There is one Bible reference that makes it clear that they were feared as a military power. In II Kings 7:6 the Syrians that had been besieging Samaria were made to hear the noise of chariots. They said, “Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us.” Here the Hittites are joined with the most powerful rulers of ancient times, the Egyptians. They are mentioned first. This indicates that the Hittites were feared as warriors, and that they were considered a great power.
Discoveries now reveal that the Hittites built an empire that challenged Egypt. This empire was built by King Suppiluliumas who extended his kingdom as far as Lebanon. He seemed so powerful that the Egyptian queen, a widow, asked that one of his sons become her husband. This union, however, never materialized. The rise of Suppiluliumas and the Hittites tended to neutralize Egyptian influence over Canaan soon after Israel’s entrance under Joshua.
A few years later in 1288 B. C., the Hittites and Egyptians met in the battle of Kadesh where the Pharaoh was defeated and barely escaped with his life. The battle was followed by one of the world’s first peace treaties. It appears that the peace following this treaty is the same as that mentioned in Judges 3:12-30. The first accounts of the battle of Kadesh that were discovered were Egyptian, and were written in terms to imply that Egypt had been victorious. Many older histories of that period record an Egyptian victory. A study of the peace treaty and other historical accounts show that the Hittite were the victors although the victory was not complete. The Bible reference in II Kings which ranks the Hittites with the Egyptians is clear.
What we know today of the Hittites’ warring ability easily explains why the Syrians fled in fear. The period of real Hittite power had passed, but their reputation for fighting still lived. The Hittites either invented or perfected the light war chariot. It was so new in its day that there was little or no defense against it. Its great advantage lay in its speed and mobility. Each war chariot carried three men, a driver and two warriors. Since other nations fought primarily with foot soldiers, the charge of a mass of chariots was enough to frighten even the bravest of men. If the infantry should withstand the first charge, they would soon be surrounded and smashed. It was just such tactics that enabled the Hittites to defeat Egypt and to build an empire.
II Chronicles 8:7 tells us that Solomon levied a tribute on “the people that were left of the Hittites.” By Solomon’s time the great empire was a thing of the past. Only small Hittite kingdoms continued to exist, some of which were in north Syria and over which Solomon had some economic control. By 700 B. C. the Hittites had disappeared from history and remained lost until modern times.
The Hittite religions were many. They had a thousand gods. Among the many women Solomon loved were women of the Hittites. These helped in turning his mind to other Gods (1 Kings 11:1-8).
Although there are other Bible references to the Hittites, these will suffice to show that as history, the Bible is accurate. More information will be coming forth as studies in Turkey are continued. Few have yet to write a history of this empire, and a complete bibliography about it is unavailable. A people once mentioned only in the Bible is giving the world a whole new branch of archaeological science–Hittitology.
Truth Magazine, VI: 3, pp. 11-12