A people descended from Canaan the son of Ham. (Ge 10:6, 15, 17; 1Ch 1:13, 15) Hivites inhabited the city of Shechem in the days of the patriarch Jacob. The sons of Jacob, led by Simeon and Levi, killed every male and plundered the city because Shechem the son of Hamor the chieftain had defiled their sister Dinah.—Ge 34:1-29.
When Israel entered the Promised Land, the Hivites constituted one of the seven Canaanite nations that God promised to drive out before them. (Ex 3:8, 17; 13:5; 23:23, 28; 33:2; 34:11) These nations were said to be more populous and mighty than Israel. (De 7:1) Moses commanded the Israelites to devote them to destruction, leaving none alive when capturing their cities, because of their detestable practices and their false gods. Otherwise they would prove to be a snare and would cause Israel to come into God’s disfavor.—Le 18:27, 28; De 18:9-13; 20:15-18.
The Bible records Joshua’s total destruction of the cities of those nations. (Jos chaps 10, 11) Hivites residing “at the base of [Mount] Hermon in the land of Mizpah” were among the tribes joining the Canaanite kings against Joshua at the bidding of Jabin the king of Hazor. (Jos 11:1-3) Hivites are listed among those fighting against Israel and suffering defeat. (Jos 9:1, 2; 12:7, 8; 24:11) However, there was one group of the Hivite nation that was spared. (Jos 9:3, 7) This group was the Gibeonites, evidently representing three other Hivite cities as well. These alone feared Jehovah, recognizing that he was fighting for Israel. By a stratagem they managed to enter into a covenant with Israel’s leaders and so were not killed but were made menial servants of Israel. (Jos 9:1-15, 24-27) This is one instance of the fulfillment of Noah’s curse upon Canaan, in that the Gibeonites and their associates, though not destroyed, became slaves of the Semites.—Ge 9:25-27.
Jehovah indicated his approval of Israel’s faithful keeping of their covenant with these Hivites by fighting for Gibeon’s protection against the surrounding Canaanite nations that came against them as a result of their covenant with Israel. (Jos 10:1-14) From this time on the Gibeonites dwelt peaceably with Israel. (2Sa 21:1-6) They are called “Amorites” at 2 Samuel 21:2, but this is evidently because “Amorite” was a term often applied to the Canaanite nations in general, since the Amorites were one of the most powerful tribes. (See AMORITE.) At the time of Joshua’s conquest, these approved Hivites resided in the city of Gibeon, located not far NW of Jerusalem, also in Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kiriath-jearim. Gibeon is described as ‘a great city, like one of the royal cities, and greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty ones.’—Jos 10:2; 9:17.
After Joshua’s death Israel failed to continue to clear out the Canaanite nations as God had commanded, but even intermarried with them. Hence, the Bible record reads: “Now these are the nations that Jehovah let stay so as by them to test Israel . . . The five axis lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, even the Sidonians and the Hivites inhabiting Mount Lebanon from Mount Baal-hermon as far as to the entering in of Hamath . . . and they [the Israelites] took up serving their gods.”—Jg 3:1-6.
This passage locates the Hivites as mountain dwellers in the Lebanon Range clear up to the northernmost part of the Promised Land. (Nu 34:8; Jos 11:1, 3) When Joab and his men took a census at King David’s command, “they came to the fortress of Tyre and all the cities of the Hivites.” (2Sa 24:7) Tyre was evidently just below the southern end of the Hivite territory.
During Solomon’s nationwide building program, he used Canaanites, including Hivites, for forced labor under the direction of Israelite overseers. This further fulfilled Noah’s prophetic curse on Canaan.—1Ki 9:20-23; 2Ch 8:7-10.
Hivites, Horites, and Hurrians. At Genesis 36:2 Zibeon, the grandfather of one of Esau’s wives, is called a Hivite. But verses 20 and 24 list him as a descendant of Seir the Horite. The word “Horite” may be derived from the Hebrew chor (“hole”) and may mean merely “cave dweller.” This would eliminate any seeming discrepancy between the texts at Genesis 36:2 and verses 20, 24.—See HORITE.
Archaeologists have unearthed ancient writings that scholars have interpreted as proof that a nation called Hurrians inhabited the regions of Armenia, Anatolia, Syria, and parts of Palestine from patriarchal times; and they believe that this people included the Hivites, Horites, and Jebusites. They equate “Horite” with “Hivite” and believe that somehow the Hurrians came to be called Hivites. Their theory is based to a great extent on linguistic similarities, particularly in proper names. The name Horite is, therefore, generally thought by them to be related to “Hurrian” rather than to mean “cave dweller.”
The Bible, however, seems to make a definite distinction between these tribes, and it does not mention the name Hurrian. Therefore it is wiser to await further evidence before accepting such identification as conclusive.