🔼The name Hittite: Summary
- Terrors, Terrible
- From the noun חתת (hatat), terror.
🔼The name Hittite in the Bible
The name Hittite comes from the name Heth — or directly from the Hebrew word חת (hat), see below — but there are probably two groups called Hittites in the Bible. The famous Hittites, who had their empire north of Israel just prior to the time of the monarchy, are probably (or certainly, says the Oxford Companion to the Bible) not the same as the "sons of Heth" as mentioned in Genesis. These latter Hittites were more likely a local Canaanite clan descended from Heth, the great-grandson of Noah through Ham and Canaan (Genesis 10:5 and 15:20).
The early Hittites supplied Abraham with his cave in Machpelah, which was owned by Ephron the son of Zohar and which Abraham bought to bury Sarah in (Genesis 23:8). Abraham's grandson Esau, the brother of Jacob, acquired wives from the Hittites, namely Judith and Basemath. This was much to the grief of his mother Rebekah, and father Isaac sent Jacob to Haran for a more suited wife (Genesis 27:46, 28:2, 28:10). During the days of judge Othniel, the nephew of Caleb, the Israelites at large intermarried with the Canaan nations, including the Hittites (Judges 3:5-6).
The later Hittites were forgotten about by modern history, until excavations brought them back in the early 20th century. The capital of their empire was in modern Turkey. Archaeologists found temples and clay tablets engraved with Babylonian cuneiform script.
It appeared that the Hittites established their monarchy around 1750 BC and grew into such a formidable force that they rivaled Babylon and Egypt during the 13th century BC. The Hittite empire collapsed at some point just prior to the time of David (possibly due to the rise of the Philistines) but isolated cities continued as autonomous Hittite states. These proved strong enough to pose a threat even to the Arameans during the time after king Ahab and of the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 7:6).
Uriah, the unfortunate husband of Bathsheba, was a Hittite (2 Samuel 11:3), so was David's fellow Ahimelech (1 Samuel 26:6), and so were some of the wives of Solomon (1 Kings 11:1). After the return from exile, the Israelites intermarried again with the gentile nations, among which the Hittites (Ezra 9:1)
🔼Etymology of the name Hittite
The true etymology of the name Heth and the derived ethnonym Hittite is unknown, but the Hebrew spellings of these names are clearly kindred to the verb חתת (hatat):
The verb חתת (hatat) means to deplete of strength, courage, willpower or any essential support, which results in a collapse of sorts. Nouns חת (hat), חתת (hatat), חתה (hitta), חתחת (hathat) and חתית (hittit) describe the various nuances of debilitating or paralyzing terror or fear. The identical adjective חת (hat) means shattered or dismayed. Noun מחתה (mehitta) means destruction, ruin or terror.
The verb חתה (hata) means to seize or snatch up, usually of fire or coals. Noun מחתה (mahta), meaning fire pan or censer.
For the meaning of the name Hittite, neither NOBSE Study Bible Name List nor Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names list any suggestions but refer to the name Heth.
The name Hittite means Terrible or Fearsome.