Biblical Archaeology Review 5:5, September/October 1979

Hittites in the Bible: What Does Archaeology Say?

By Aharon Kempinski

People called Hittites are frequently mentioned in the Biblical account of Israelite history. In the past 100 years the archaeologist’s spade has unearthed Hittite civilization: It has proved to be both large and important. Does it accord, however, with what the Bible tells us about the Hittites?

One of the best-known references in the Bible to a Hittite appears in Genesis 23. In that chapter Ephron the Hittite sells Abraham the patriarchal burial ground of Machpelah at Hebron. Ephron lived with his kinsmen, the “children of Heth.” The Bible frequently refers to the Hittites by this appellation, a reference to their eponymous ancestor, the second son of Canaan (Genesis 10:15). Ephron offered to give the cave and field of Machpelah to Abraham, but Abraham wanted to make sure he held good title, so he insisted on paying for it. Ephron the Hittite then charged him full price—and more—400 shekel-weights of silver. Abraham paid the asking price and buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field. Later, he himself was buried there. Still later, Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah were buried at Machpelah. Only Rachel, who died in childbirth on the way to Canaan, was buried elsewhere.

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