Land of a Thousand Gods
“ONE of the striking confirmations of Bible history to come from the science of archaeology,” says John Elder in Prophets, Idols and Diggers, “is the ‘recovery’ of the Hittite peoples and their empires. Here is a people whose name appears again and again in the Old Testament, but who in secular history had been completely forgotten and whose very existence was considered to be extremely doubtful.
◆ “In Genesis 26:34, Esau takes a Hittite girl for wife, to the great grief of his mother. In the Book of Exodus, the Hittites are frequently mentioned in the lists of people whose land the Hebrews set out to conquer. In Joshua 11:1-9, the Hittites join in the confederation of nations that try to resist Joshua’s advance, only to be defeated by the waters of Merom. In Judges, intermarriage occurs between the Hebrews and the Hittites. In 1 Samuel 26, Hittites enroll in David’s army, and during the reign of Solomon he makes slaves of the Hittite element in his kingdom and allows his people to take Hittite wives. But until the investigations of modern archaeologists, the Hittites remained a shadowy and undefined people.
◆ “Clay tablets found in Assyria and Egypt give us our first picture of the Hittites and their way of life. Egyptian artists depicted them as having features we identify as Armenian. . . . An Egyptian tablet records a fierce battle between Rameses II and the Hittites at Kadesh on the Orontes River. . . . On the first day of battle Rameses was defeated and captured, but the timely arrival of reinforcements on the second day turned the tide of battle. . . .
◆ “It remained to Dr. A. H. Sayce, the Assyriologist, and Dr. William Wright, . . . to recover the first actual remains of the Hittites. In time these were found throughout western Asia Minor and modern Turkey. Sayce recorded the story of his finds in the book The Hittites, Story of a Forgotten Empire. In 1906, Dr. Hugo Winckler, excavating at Hoghos-Keui on the Halys River ninety miles east of Ankara, discovered the former capital and a treasure trove of inscriptions on clay tablets in cuneiform script and written in the Babylonian and Hittite languages. It took some time to decipher the Hittite tongue, but it was accomplished. . . .
◆ “The earliest international treaty so far recovered is one signed between Rameses II of Egypt and Hattushilish II of the Hittite Empire—a treaty promising the maintenance of peace and harmony between them.”
◆ Much of the text of this peace treaty is quoted in C. W. Ceram’s book The Secret of the Hittites. The official treaty was engraved upon a plaque of silver. It says: “The treaty which the Great Prince of Hatti, the mighty Hattusilis [Hattushilish II] . . . made upon a silver tablet for Rameses II, the Great and Mighty Ruler of Egypt, . . . the good treaty of peace and brotherhood which shall create peace between them for all time.”
◆ The concluding sentence of the peace treaty interestingly tells us something about the number of Hittite deities: “And as for these words which are written upon these silver tablets for the Land of Hatti and the Land of Egypt—whosoever does not obey them, may the thousand gods of the Land of Hatti and the thousand gods of the Land of Egypt destroy his house, his land and his servants!”
◆ A few of the Hittite deities are mentioned by name in a hieroglyphic Hittite sacrifice formula translated by H. T. Bossert in 1953: “But for them among these gods will be bled, for annual food: to the god Karhuha one steer and one sheep; to the goddess Küpapa one steer and one sheep; to the divinity Sarku one sheep; and a kutupalis sheep to the male divinities.” The Hittite nation, says writer Ceram, “was not spiritually united by a single religion. (‘The Hittites have a thousand gods.’) There were many religions side by side, mingled with innumerable national and local cults.”
◆ The false gods of the Hittites could not prevent the overthrow of their nation by the Assyrian King Sargon II; as a people the Hittites disappeared from secular history. Students of the Bible, however, did not have to wait for the archaeological resurrection to know about the Hittite people. The Hittites were Canaanites, being descendants of Heth, the son of Canaan.—Gen. 10:15.