Hittites

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The Hittites were a northern Indo-European people who called themselves “Aryans” (like the Persians)—a term meaning “noble people”, they established an empire formally known as the Kingdom Of Hatti which stretched from Anatolia (modern Turkey), Canaan (Palestine and Jordan) and Syria to northern Mesopotamia (northern Iraq). Its capital was Hattusa, located in northeastern Turkey.

The Kingdom Of Hatti (red) at the height of its power and Egypt (green) during the 14th century B.C.

In 1650 B.C., they were able to gain control of most of Mesopotamia largely because of their advanced warfare, including horse-drawn chariots. Under their rule, life in the Babylonian empire did not flourish artistically or culturally as it did under others’ rule.

Biblical references to the Hittites were once used by skeptics to question the historical validity of the Bible, since at that time there was no other known reference to them. This ended in 1906 when the German archaeologist Hugo Winckler unearthed the long-buried capitol of the Hittite Empire, along with many stone tablets in Hittite script.

Contents

Biblical references to the Hittites

In the Old Testament, the Hittites are mentioned more than 50 times, and are described as having descended from Ham's grandson Heth (Genesis 10:15). Biblical references to the Hittites include Abraham’s purchase of a burial site from Ephron the Hittite (Gen 23:1-20; 25:7-10) and King David's murder of Uriah the Hittite to cover up his sin with Bathsheba II Samuel 11:3-27).

Because no trace of this ancient civilization could be found for a long time, skeptics claimed it proved that the Bible was an unreliable source. However, in 1906-1907 and 1911-1912 when thousands of cuneiform tablets were discovered in Boghaz-keui a Hittite capital. The finds did much to further the credibility of the Bible as a historical record.[1]


Origin of the Hittites

The Hittites (at one time called Hattians) were descendants of Canaan's second son Heth (Genesis 10:15, I Chronicles 1:13, Canaan being a grandson of the Biblical Noah through his son Ham. It is believed that the family grew into a tribe in the Balkans, migrating to Anatolia about 2500 B.C., and establishing themselves along the Halys River in what is now Central Turkey. They then spread west and south in the peninsula before the time of Abraham (about 2,000 B.C.).[2] After 2200 B.C. they were overrun by an Indo-European speaking people from the north, who became the ruling class, and the two cultures intermingled.[3]


Old Hittite Kingdom 1650-1500 B.C.

In 1650 B.C. Hattusulis I established the capitol at Hattusas, probably named after himself, and founded the Hittite Kingdom. In 1500 B.C. Musilis I advanced down the Euphrates and captured Babylon. Later he retreated, only to be assassinated upon his return home. These years have been described as a time of anarchy. The Old Kingdom uses horses and chariots and produced good brzone daggers.[4]


Middle Hittite Kingdom 1500-1450 B.C.

The Middle Kingdom years brought obscurity and decline. The Hittites had expanded into Syria because of the strategic trade routes that passed there, but in these years Syria was wrested from them. However, it appears that during these years, iron-making was begun amongst the Hittites. Some feel this may have been the first time in the postdiluvian world that a people used iron. The Hittites of this era raised horses, cattle, sheep, goats and bees, and manufactured cloth, shoes, pottery, and metal.[5]


New Hittite Kingdom 1450-1294

In 1450 Tudhaliyas I founded a new dynasty which brought the Hittites to the zenith of their power, followed by a period of decline. [6]The Hittite state has been described as basically a military organization, which fits the Biblical picture of them as a warlike people and explains one of the reasons Israel feared them.[7]


Relations with Egypt and Assyria

The Hittites were an important power in the 14th and 13th centuries B.C. and their expansion towards the Red Sea brought them into conflict with Egypt, leading to numerous skirmishes and battles of which the Battle of Kadesh was the most important.

The Battle Of Kadesh was a result from growing tension between the superpowers of the ancient near east, Egypt, Hatti and Assyria, these nations were competing over the smaller states. One of these small states was Amurru, located in present day Syria, after it had been under Hittite influence during the 14th century B.C. it defected to Egypt in 1299 B.C.

When the Hittites threatened to restore their power through means of violence, Amurru pleaded with Pharaoh Rameses II for help in 1274 and got it in the form of two Egyptian divisions, one of which, lead by Rameses II himself was ambushed near the village of Kadesh by a numerically superior Hittite chariot force, but the other division arrived just in time to prevent an Egyptian defeat. Although the battle ended in a draw, Egypt gave up its colonies in Syria.

For Rameses II, who was in just in his 5th year of his reign, Kadesh was a test that he had to pass to gain the respect of the Egyptian aristocracy.

In 1258 B.C. Pharaoh Rameses II and King Muwatalli of Hatti signed the world's first known peace treaty [8] (a copy of which hangs on the walls of the United Nations headquarters), which also established an alliance against Assyria.

Demise

Hatti and Egypt two coexisted peacefully for seventy years, but by then Hatti had been weakened by Assyria and was sacked by the "Sea Peoples" a loose coalition of which the Philistines were a member.

Although Egypt was also attacked it was able to drive the attackers back and continue to prosper, Hatti however never recovered and continued to decline until the official fall of the kingdom around 1160 B.C.

After the kingdom had fallen, most of its former territories were annexed by Assyria, with some Hittite city-states remaining independent until the 8th century B.C.

References

  1. Lorella Rouster, A Creationist Considers the Hittite, CSSH Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 2, Winter 1979, p 22-25
  2. Merrill C. Tenney, The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, (Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 1963,1967), p. 356
  3. Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 13, Hittites (Danbury: Connecticut:Americana Corporation, 1978), p. 250
  4. Compton's Encyclopedia, Vol. 11, Hittites, (Chicago:F.E. Compton Co., Division of Encyclopedia Britannica, 1971), p. 180
  5. Compton's, p. 180
  6. Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 13, Hittites, (Danbury, Connecticut,: Americana Corporation, 1978), p. 250.
  7. Compton's, p. 180
  8. Egyptian-Hittite peace treaty
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