The Hittites And Their World, by Billie Jean Collins
What aspects of the Hittites and their world are of most interests to others? Much depends on what angle you approach this subject from. A reader like myself, for example, is most interested in seeing the Hittites understood on their own terms as much as possible given the literary and material remains that can be found as well as the understanding of how the Hittites fit into biblical history. While such interests may be common for those who come to this subject as readers, those who write about the subject of Hittite history often have other interests which hinder them from recognizing the biblical insight for its true worth and which lead them to have a much higher interest in the field of Hittite studies than they do in the history of the Hittites as a people themselves. This is not an uncommon problem but is rather the sort of problem that one finds often in scholarly exercises. Fortunately, there is enough here to be of interest to readers even if the writer herself is clearly very interested in writing about subjects that interest specialists in the field more than the general reader of ancient history.
This book is a bit more than 200 pages and is divided into five chapters with other materials. The book begins with a preface, list of figures, and abbreviations and keys by which the author shows her scholarly credentials. After that the author discusses briefly the history of Hittite Studies, a field she is obviously a part of and therefore interested in (1). After that comes a somewhat lengthy discussion of the political history of the Hittites (2), which focuses on the Hittite Empire as might be expected. This leads to a discussion of Hittite society, at least insofar as it can be known from text, which shows free people and deportees and slaves and a heavy interest in agricultural labors for the seemingly underpopulated empire (3). After that the author discusses the religion of the Hittites and how it changed over time (4), and finally the author belatedly and not very competently discusses Hittites in the Bible (5). After that there is an afterword, some suggestions for further reading, a subject index, and finally an index of ancient texts as well as modern authors that the author has consulted in her work.
What aspects of the world of the Hittites is most of interest to contemporary readers? As a people, the Hittites themselves lasted until about the 8th century BC when they were conquered by the Assyrians and basically disappear from the historical record. Those who read and are interested in biblical history are probably the most obvious group of people to appreciate the Hittites because of the mentions of the people implicitly (in Genesis 14) or explicitly in scripture in the period from 1800BC or so through 600BC or so, a very long period indeed as far as scriptural references go. Yet the author, and many authors who study the Hittites, appear not to want to emphasize the biblical history even if it is the most relevant history for the book’s audience. Quite honestly, few readers of this book are going to care about the founding of the field of Hittite studies, which has the pride of place for this author in terms of her discussion of the world of the Hittites. It is as if, in the eyes of the author, those who study an ancient people are of greater interest than the ancient and long-lost peoples themselves. This is not the case, but people are more interested in writing about themselves than in trying to understand others.