Hittites in the Bible: Uriah

There are a few references to Hittites in the Bible. Hittites are first noted interacting with the early characters of the Old Testament, Abraham (Genesis 23:10), Isaac (Gen 25:9), Esau (Gen 26:4), and others. Some of these indicate intermarriage as well as other close relationships. During a time of famine, the Israelites moved to Egypt. When they returned with Moses their close relations with the Hittites were long forgotten. Coming into the promised land the Israelites saw the Hittites as an enemy. According to the Bible they were told that God would drive the peoples occupying the area before them, among these are numbered the Hittites.

Yet, evidently, the Hittites remained in proximity to the Israelites. There is an intriguing story about King David (1040 - 970 B.C.) in the Old Testament book of Samuel (2Samuel 11:1 - 11:27) involving his dealings with a Hittite named Uriah. It begins with King David having sent his army off to Ammon. Meanwhile the king remained behind in Jerusalem.

And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman [was] very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and enquired after the woman. And [a counselor] said, "[Is] not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"

King David, in his lust, while her husband was out of town, "lay with her". Bathsheba informed the king that she was with child. Meanwhile Uriah returned. The King wished him to sleep with his wife so that he would not know that she had conceived a child by another man. But noble Uriah refused to lay with his wife while there was war going on. He wished to join the fight. It was then that King David obliged the Hittite.

And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, his general, and sent [it] by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, "Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die." And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men [were]. And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell [some] of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also.

After a period of mourning, David took Bathsheba to be his wife. The prophet, Nathan, said that David was cursed by his misconduct. The first child of the union dies. However, later children survived and eventually Bathsheba bore Solomon, the Wise.

This is a story that is oft repeated in literature. With rulers sending off warriors to their death in order to be rid of them for one reason or another. Even Thackeray's Barry Lyndon has a scene at which Lyndon raises a regiment partly in hopes that his step-son will join it and meet his end on the battlefield to make way for his own son Brian.

Uriah is described as "the Hittite". The Hittites had been in the region of the Palestine since before Abraham. They seem to have been a people capable of assimilation. As Hittite history shows, they quickly adopted civilization after seeing it in the region of the fertile crescent. Uriah was obviously of Hittite descent, but probably had adopted the Israeli God and Israeli customs. He must have been a trusted leader because his house was very near the king's palace, and he must have been an admired individual because David's misconduct towards him was vociferously vilified. In fact all of David's misfortunes thereafter were attributed to this sin.

Eventually, the Hittites would be completely assimilated by invaders, both in their homeland and in Canaan. Records of them as a distinct people disappear after about 900 BC.

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Interesting Fact:

Even though the Hittites were mentioned in the Bible, no archeological evidence for their existence was found until the early 1900s.

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