Descendants of Heth, Ge 10:15, a Canaanite tribe dwelling near Hebron in the time of Abraham, Ge 15:20-21, and subdued in the Israelitish invasion, Ex 3:8; Jos 3:10. They were not, however, exterminated: Uriah was a Hittite, 2Sa 11:3; Solomon used their services, 1Ki 10:29; 2Ki 7:6; and they were not lost as a people until after the Jews' return from captivity, Ezr 9:1. See CANAANITES.
Palestine and Syria appear to have been originally inhabited by three different tribes. (1.) The Semites, living on the east of the isthmus of Suez. They were nomadic and pastoral tribes. (2.) The Phoenicians, who were merchants and traders; and (3.) the Hittites, who were the warlike element of this confederation of tribes. They inhabited the whole region between the Euphrates and Damascus, their chief cities being Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Kadesh, now Tell Neby Mendeh, in the Orontes valley, about six miles south of the Lake of Homs. These Hittites seem to have risen to great power as a nation, as for a long time they were formidable rivals of the Egyptian and Assyrian empires. In the book of Joshua they always appear as the dominant race to the north of Galilee.
Somewhere about the twenty-third century B.C. the Syrian confederation, led probably by the Hittites, arched against Lower Egypt, which they took possession of, making Zoan their capital. Their rulers were the Hyksos, or shepherd kings. They were at length finally driven out of Egypt. Rameses II. sought vengeance against the "vile Kheta," as he called them, and encountered and defeated them in the great battle of Kadesh, four centuries after Abraham. (See Joshua.)
They are first referred to in Scripture in the history of Abraham, who bought from Ephron the Hittite the field and the cave of Machpelah (Ge 15:1; 23:3-18). They were then settled at Kirjath-arba. From this tribe Esau took his first two wives (Ge 26:34; 36:2).
They are afterwards mentioned in the usual way among the inhabitants of the Promised Land (Ex 23:28). They were closely allied to the Amorites, and are frequently mentioned along with them as inhabiting the mountains of Palestine. When the spies entered the land they seem to have occupied with the Amorites the mountain region of Judah (Nu 13:29). They took part with the other Canaanites against the Israelites (Jos 9:1; 11:3).
After this there are few references to them in Scripture. Mention is made of "Ahimelech the Hittite" (1Sa 26:6), and of "Uriah the Hittite," one of David's chief officers (2Sa 23:39; 1Ch 11:41). In the days of Solomon they were a powerful confederation in the north of Syria, and were ruled by "kings." They are met with after the Exile still a distinct people (Ezr 9:1; comp. Ne 13:23-28).
The Hebrew merchants exported horses from Egypt not only for the kings of Israel, but also for the Hittites (1Ki 10:28-29). From the Egyptian monuments we learn that "the Hittites were a people with yellow skins and 'Mongoloid' features, whose receding foreheads, oblique eyes, and protruding upper jaws are represented as faithfully on their own monuments as they are on those of Egypt, so that we cannot accuse the Egyptian artists of caricaturing their enemies. The Amorites, on the contrary, were a tall and handsome people. They are depicted with white skins, blue eyes, and reddish hair, all the characteristics, in fact, of the white race" (Sayce's The Hittites). The original seat of the Hittite tribes was the mountain ranges of Taurus. They belonged to Asia Minor, and not to Syria.
Illustration: Hittite Seal
Descended from Cheth or Heth, second son of Canaan. (See HETH.) A peaceable and commercial people when first brought before us at Kirjath Arba or Hebron (Ge 23:19; 25:9). Their courteous dignity of bearing towards Abraham is conspicuous throughout. As he took the Amorites as his allies in warfare, so he sought: from the Hittites a tomb. The Amalekites' advance necessitated their withdrawal to the mountains (Nu 13:29). In Joshua (Jos 1:4; 9:1; 11:3-4; 12:8) they appear as the principal power occupying upper Syria, between Palestine and the Euphrates. The Egyptian monuments represent them (Sheta) as forming a confederacy of chiefs, Egypt's opponents in the valley of the Orontes, during the 19th and 20th dynasties of Manetho, including Joshua's time. Sethos I took their capital Ketesh near Emesa, 1340 B.C.
Two or three centuries later the Assyrian inscription of Tiglath Pileser (1125 B.C.) mentions them. As the Philistines appear in Joshua (Jos 13:3; Jg 3:3) predominant in S. Canaan toward Egypt, so the Hittites in the N. Their military power is represented in Joshua as consisting in chariots (1Ki 10:29; 2Ki 7:6). A hieroglyphic inscription of Rameses II mentions Astert (Ashtoreth) as their god. Uriah, the unsuspicious, self-denying patriot, whom David so wronged though of his own bodyguard "the thirty," was a Hittite, and showed the chivalrous bearing which Ephron the Hittite and his people had showed of old.
The names of Hittites mentioned in Scripture, Adah, Ahimelech, etc., seem akin to Hebrew. (See HEBREW.) G. Smith has just discovered their capital lying about half way between the mighty cities of the Euphrates valley and those of the Nile. Their art forms the connecting link between Egyptian and Assyrian art. The name of their capital is identical with that of the Etruscans. This implies a connection of the Hittites with that people.
A people said in the Jahwist document (Ex 3:8,17) to have been one of the pre-Israelitish occupants of Palestine. The Elohist document says they lived in the mountains (Nu 13:29). They are often included by Deuteronomist and his followers among the early inhabitants of the land, while Priestly Narrative tells us (Ge 23) 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 K
The descendants of Heth, a son of Canaan, and hence descendants of Ham: a numerous race who inhabited Palestine. In God's covenant with Abraham their territory was to be possessed by his descendants. Ge 15:20. On the death of Sarah, Abraham bought the field and cave of Machpelah from the Hittites. His intercourse and contract with them show that they were a civilised race, used to commercial transactions. Ge 23:3-20. This was near or at Hebron in the south of Palestine, whereas other passages speak of them in the north, between the Lebanon and the Euphrates, which was probably where they originally settled, Jos 1:4; and there are intimations that they continued a powerful and warlike race after Palestine was possessed by Israel. 1Ki 10:29; 2Ki 7:6. Ahimelech and Uriah, eminent men in the time of David, were Hittites. 1Sa 26:6; 2Sa 23:39.
In various parts of Palestine and Syria monuments have been found of the Hittites, and in Egypt there are records of a long defensive treaty that was made between the Egyptians and the Hittites, showing that the latter were an important race. The Tell Amarna tablets show that they seized upon Damascus then held by Egypt. Letter after letter urged Egypt to come to the rescue. Their features even are now well understood on the monuments, being described as a people with yellow skins and 'mongoloid ' features, receding foreheads, oblique eyes, and protruding upper jaws.