There are many reasons why modern historians assume a very different attitude toward the Bible from the attitude maintained a few decades ago. These reasons might be epitomized in this brief statement: Archeology has brought to light many tangible proofs of the historicity of the Bible records.
All Seventh-day Adventist workers are aware of this. But there is a special joy in finding a confession of the fact in the writings of men who may be considered the successors to those who, with Jean Astruc, laid the foundations for "higher criticism." And this is just what one is able to find when he reads the principal books that have been written on the Hittites during the last few years.
The Hittites are mentioned more than forty times in the Bible. Twice we are told that Heth, their father, was a son of Canaan, one of the four sons of Ham. From the picture the Genesis narrative presents, at least one tribe of the Hittites was established in the land of Canaan in the time of Abraham, and this patriarch bought a property from them near Hebron. Later, one of Isaac's sons, Esau, married Hittite wives. When Israel went up to conquer the Promised Land, the Hittites were among the peoples that the Lord promised to drive out. The language of some passages would seem to give to the Hittites more importance than is given the other Canaanitish populations, and to make them a great power.
Even if the Hittites seem to have taken an important part in the confederation that opposed Joshua, which suffered a tremendous blow at Hazor, they do not seem to have been entirely destroyed, as the Hittites are frequently mentioned in the subsequent history of Israel. We.find that David had Hittite soldiers in his army, before and after his accession to the throne. Under Solomon, the remains of the Hittites and other Canaanites were finally subjected to tribute or bond service. But we are also told that Solomon and his company of merchants carried on an immense trade with "the kings of the Hittites" and "the kings of Syria," especially in horses from -Egypt.
In spite of all that the Bible has to say about the Hittites, "scarcely a generation ago, . . • many scholars claimed that the Hittites were but a mythical race of people. . .. We are told that Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah from a Hittite, that Esau took Hittite women. . . . In spite of these and a score of other references to the Hittites, the scholars continued to assert that if such a people ever existed, they were merely a small tribe of Palestine occupying but a village or two."—"The Bible and the Spade," Edgar J. Banks, p. 97.
But "the spade of the explorers has brought this forgotten nation to light." And as the discoveries have revealed the place it had in ancient history, the attitude of historians has changed. This change is well illustrated by the following lines taken from a French authority on Hittite questions: "The Hittites were, since long ago, known to the Bible, but they were considered as one of the many small peoples that occupied the land of Canaan before the Israelites' arrival, and it had never been thought of to take advantage of the importance ascribed to them by the Old Testament."—"La Civilization des Hittites et des Mitaniens," Georges Contenau, p. 14. Paris, 1934. From the same authority, we quote further :
"It is hard to understand, when we weigh the mass of documents concerning the Hatti [Hittites], how their true importance may have been mistaken, and how they may have been for so long lowered to the rank of one of these small peoples that we see swarming in ancient history. For, if the Assyrians and the Bible reveal to us the Hittites of the first millennium, the Egyptians, thanks to their monuments, the Amarna letters, and the Bible, allow us to go up to the Hittites of the great epoch, those of the second millennium B. C.
"These informations lacked the direct source, the one that could be furnished by the Hittites themselves ; the excavations at Boghaskeui have brought it."—Id., p. 22.
According to Contenau, "the Bible alludes to Hittites of two different periods: those of the second millennium, of whom Israel spoke from hearsay, and those of the first millennium, whom they knew well."—Id., p. 18.
It would seem that this statement might be corrected in that Israel's acquaintance with the Hittites of the second millennium was firsthand and not by hearsay. Even the Hittites of the third millennium may have been known to at least the great ancestor of Israel—Abraham.
For, as far as we can judge, the Hittites' history, as presented by Contenau and others, extends over parts of three millenniums before Christ. To the Hittites of the first millennium belong "the kings of the Hittites" who dealt with Solomon (about 900 B. c.). They formed a confederation of Mitanni-Hittite princes long after the destruction (c, 1200) of the empire that centered around Hattusas, now Boghaskeui. In fact, the remains of that empire in the form of a Syrian confederation, held Assyria in check until the battle of Carchemish in 717 B. c. Contenau himself says that Assyrian -documents speak year after year of "struggles against some of the Hittite confederates, when it is not against a coalition of them all."
For example, Adad-nirari III (811-783 B. c.), grandson of Shalmanezer II, says in one of his inscriptions: "On the west of the Euphrates I subjugated the land of Khatti." Tiglathpileser III (745-727) "did not rest until he had brought all the Hittite and Semitic countries under his sway. This took him three years, from 734-732."—"Historian's History of the World," Vol. I, pp. 389, 399, 393. The same work mentions how "in the year 717 Sargon had to suppress a dangerous rising. Pisiris, the Hittite prince of Carchemish, which was one of the keys to the West, attempted . . . to make himself independent. But his city was taken, the majority of his subjects carried off," and that was the end of any Hittite opposition to Assyria. (Page 398.)
This makes clear who the Hittites of the first millennium were. Now let us see who those 'of the second millennium were. They also are now well known to history. They appear in the Amarna letters, and from these letters and from the records found in many places, but specially at Boghaskeui, site of their capital Hattusas, they appear to have been a strong empire. This empire came to its peak under Suppiluliuma (1390-1351 B. c.), and extending its domination over the Mitanni in northern Syria and Canaan, maintained the balance of power between Egypt and Assyria for more than a century.
"With Suppiluliuma, the 'new empire' makes its entrance, on an equal footing, among the states that constituted then the civilized world, presenting itself at the same time as the bulwark of this world against northwestern barbarism."—"Le problerne hittite, Eugene, Cavaignac, p. 39. Paris, 1936.
"There is even a century—from 1360 to about 1260 B. c.—when 'it is the Hittite kingdom, and not the Egyptian court that becomes the political center of the Oriental world; the point where intrigues are tangled and untangled, where forces oppose and balance each other under the impulse and supervision of chiefs of state vigorous and resolute.' "—Berr, Henri, in Preface to "Les Hittites." DelaPorte, Louis T. Paris, 1936.
All of this, referring to the Hittites of the second millennium, or second Hittite empire, would suffice to justify the importance ascribed to them by the Bible. . But history has also pushed back the veil that hid the facts about the Hittites of the third millennium, and from what we already know about them, the Bible has been vindicated.
Cavaignac mentions- "the conquerors of what we call "the old Hittite empire' " and says that "they had been but barbarians." These barbarians seem to have grafted themselves on an older Hittite stock, and to have taken their civilization and their name to evolve the "new empire" that culminated with Suppiluliuma.
This first empire of Hatti, that centered around Hattusas, the ruins of which are found at Boghaskeui, near Angora, the capital of present Turkey, reached a high degree of civilization around 2000 B. C. But this empire, of Indo-European origin, as were the barbarians who submerged them, possibly in connection with the Hyksos wave that conquered Egypt later, had no more sight to bear the name of Hittites than the second or new empire. The true Hatti were an older people, who occupied the region of Hattusas and very likely were descendants of Heth, as the Bible says.
Here is what Contenau says about this old empire, also called the Nesians, because the language they spoke flourished especially in the region round what was later Nyssa in Asia MinOr : "What is interesting is the fact that the scribes of the old Indo-European empire have reserved the name 'Hittite' for the language of those who occupied the country before them. These Hatti are then the true Hittites, . . and the Nesians who under the name of Hittites have made this people famous, had no right to bear the name. However, conforming to usage, besides the Hittites or Nesians (Indo-Europeans), we will call the Hatti Proto-Hittites, as does Mr. Forrer, to distinguish them." —Id., p. 35.
In his book "Les Hittites," Delaporte states that "Cuny, Petersen, and Sturtevant have emitted recently the opinion that Hittite and Tokharian [a language of the Kent= group spoken in Chinese Turkistan until 700 B. c.] are only 'languages very near the Indo-European (and more archaic), although independent and relatively akin to the HamitoSemitic'."—Pages 392, 303.
If even before the old Hittite or Nesian empire was founded in Anatolia, there were a people bearing the name of Hatti and speaking a language with Hamito-Semitic affinities, it stands to reason that Abraham could well find people of the same stock in Canaan, or even a ramification of the old empire that also bore the name of Hittites. In every one of its essential details, therefore, the truthfulness of the Bible record is established. As one writer says :
"The discovery and decipherment of the ancient records of the Hittites form one of the most notable achievements of recent archaeology; and the facts discovered (though not always the theories built upon those facts), concerning the Hittite Empire, and its associated peoples, have witnessed to the truthfulness of the Scripture references, Professor Garstang, in his 1910 volume on 'The Land of the Hittites,' ranks the Scriptures as the most important of the sources for Hittite history. . . . For the nineteenth-century critics of the Bible, ... the Biblical references to the Hittites demonstrated the ignorance of the Biblical writers. For the twentieth-century archaeologists, the same references constitute the Scriptures the most important of the sources for Hittite history."—"The Bible Triumphant," C. Urquhart, p. 130. London.