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HIVITES (hī'vīts, Heb. hiwwî). One of the seven nations of the land of Canaan that the Lord delivered into the hand of Joshua (Josh.24.11: “the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites”). They are generally named in conjunction with other tribes of the land. In the original table of the nations (Gen.10.1-Gen.10.32) they are listed with the Canaanite descendants of Ham, Noah’s youngest son. All of these differed characteristically from the Japhethites who moved westward to the Mediterranean, northward into northern Europe, and eastward toward Persia and India. They differed also from the Semites who later occupied Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Arabia. The word “Hivite” probably comes from a word meaning “village of nomads”; and the Hivites seem to have been located in diverse places. In the time of Jacob, the city of Shechem, in the middle of Palestine, was ruled by the “son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area” (Gen.34.2). They seem to have been a peaceable commercial people (Gen.34.21), though with Canaanite morals.

Later in Joshua’s time “the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah” are mentioned (Josh.11.3); thus they lived in the land east of the Sea of Galilee. Again, in Josh.9.1, Josh.9.7 the people of Gibeon just a few miles north of Jerusalem are classified as “Hivites.” This indefiniteness of locality (or this variety of localities), plus the derivation of the word itself, seems to indicate that the Hivites were not a compact tribe, as the Jebusites of Jerusalem were (15:64); nor representatives of a great nation, as the Hittites were; nor descendants of one person, as the Moabites and the Ammonites (Gen.19.37-Gen.19.38) were, but villagers moving from place to place as business or politics dictated. The latest reference to them is in 2Chr.8.7, an account of Solomon’s conscripting some of the people as slave laborers. Some scholars doubt whether they ever had a separate existence. There is a possibility that they were the same as the Horites.——ABF

It has been maintained that, since no name that closely resembles Heb. חִוִּ֖י has yet been found in extra-Biblical sources, the Biblical name should be viewed as a corruption of Horite, and that both Hivites and Horites should be seen as groups related culturally and linguistically to the Hurrians (q.v.).


E. Meyer, Die Israeliten und deren Nachbarstämme (1906), 328-345; E. A. Speiser, AASOR, 13 (1933), 26-31; H. A. Hoffner, Jr., Tyndale Bulletin, 20 (1969), 27-37.