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The Hivites were one group of descendants of Canaan, son of Ham, according to the Table of Nations in Genesis 10 (10:17).


According to the Table of Nations (Genesis 10), the Hivites are one of the descendants of Canaan, son of Ham (also 1 Chronicles 1:13-15).One proposed origin of the name is in the Hebrew word chava ( חוה ), which means tent dweller.[1]

According to traditional Hebrew sources[which?], the name "Hivite" is related to the Aramaic word "Khiv'va" (HVVA), meaning "snake", and related to the word 'awwiah in Galilee, meaning serpent, since they sniffed the ground like snakes looking for fertile land.

There appears to be a possible connection (or confusion) between the Hivites and the Horites. In Genesis 36:2 a Hivite named Zibeon is also described in Genesis 36:20-30 as a Horite. Others[who?] claim that this confusion is a result of a scribal error, as both Hivites (Hebrew: חוי ) and Horites (Hebrew: חרי) differ in spelling by one letter of roughly similar shape, or they could refer to two individuals. Scholars have sought to identify the biblical Hivites with

(a) the Greek Achaeans, known from Homer,
(b) the Hurrians – one of the most important peoples in the ancient Near East – who are otherwise unmentioned in the Hebrew Bible, or
(c) settlers, who went to Shechem and the other locations from Cilicia, a region in Asia Minor, which is called Quwê in the Bible (1 Kings 10:28) and Huwi in cuneiform sources.[2]

No name resembling "Hivite" has been found in Egyptian or Mesopotamian inscriptions, though the Hiyawa in a Luvian-Phoenician bilingual has been linked to the Biblical Hiwwi. [3]


The Hivites dwelt in the mountainous regions of Canaan stretching from Lebanon – specifically Lebo Hamath (Judges 3:3) - and Mt. Hermon (Joshua 11:3) in the north to the central Benjamin plateau in the Hill country just north of Jerusalem. Within this region we find specific enclaves of Hivites mentioned in the Bible. Genesis 34 describes Hivites ruling the region of Shechem. Further south there were the four Hivite towns – Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim (Joshua 9:17) – involved in the deception of Joshua. (Joshua 9:3-27)

Joshua 11:3 described the Hivites as being "under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh" and in 2 Samuel 24:7 they are mentioned immediately after "the stronghold of Tyre."


Genesis 15:18-21 does not list the Hivites as being in the land that was promised to the descendants of Abraham.[4] However, Genesis 36:2 mentions that one of Esau's wives was "Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite" who is also described as "of the daughters of Canaan". The reference to "the daughters of Canaan" is considered to relate to their descent from the ancestor Canaan and to be a reference to a cultural distinctiveness or tribal affiliation. By the time that Jacob returns with his family to Canaan, Genesis 34 describes Hivites as rulers of the region of Shechem.

The Book of Joshua claims that Hivites were one of seven national groups living in the land of Canaan when the Israelites under Joshua commenced their conquest of the land (Joshua 3:10). They are referred to as one of the seven nations to be removed from the land of Canaan – Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites (Exodus 34:11, 23:23, Deuteronomy 7:1-3) – which had been promised to the Children of Israel. (Exodus 3:8) In Joshua 9, Joshua had ordered the Hivites of Gibeon to be wood gatherers and water carriers for the Temple of YHWH (see Nethinim).

The Hivites continued to exist as a distinct people group at the time of David, when they were counted in a regional census taken at this time. (2 Samuel 24:1-7) During the reign of Solomon, they are described as part of the slave labor for his many building projects. (1 Kings 9:20-21, 2 Chronicles 8:7-8) It is not clear if, when or how they ceased to be a separate group before the Israelite kingdoms came to an end.

Cultural distinctiveness[edit]

Several key features can be inferred about the cultural distinctiveness of the Hivite peoples.

First, in Genesis 34:2 it is mentioned that Shechem the son of Hamor was a Hivite. In Genesis 34:14, it is implied that the Hivites did not practice male circumcision, one of the few peoples living in the land of Canaan who did not.[5] Circumcision was a common practice among the peoples living in Canaan. Egyptians, Edomites, Ammonites, Moabites, and various Canaanite tribes practiced male circumcision along with the Hebrews. Other than Israel’s nemesis – the Philistines – the Hivites appear to be an exception to the rule of circumcision, lending them some distinction among the tribes of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 7:3 forbade Israelites from marrying Hivites, because they followed other gods; but it is not clear how strictly the prohibition was observed.

It appears that the Hivite cultural distinctiveness had ceased some time before the Assyrian conquest of the northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th century BCE.


  1. ^ John Day (2007). Robert Rezetko; Timothy Henry Lim; W. Brian Aucker, eds. "Gibeon and the Gibeonites in the Old Testament", Reflection and Refraction: Studies in Biblical Historiography in Honour of A. Graeme Auld. BRILL. p. 116. ISBN 90-04-14512-5. 
  2. ^ Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, 1986, reproduced at
  3. ^ Trevor Bryce, The World of the Neo-Hittite Kingdoms:A Political and Military history, Oxford University Press 2012 p.65
  4. ^ The group is not listed in the Hebrew text but appears in the Septuagint.
  5. ^ Jean-Jacques Aubert; Zsuzsanna Várhelyiauthor1=Jonathan P. Roth, eds. (1 January 2005). A Tall Order. "Distinguishing Jewishness in Antiquity," Writing the Social History of the Ancient World: Essays in honor of William V. Harris. Walter de Gruyter. p. 44. ISBN 978-3-11-093141-9. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Barker, Burdick, Stek, Wessel, Youngblood (Eds.). (1995). The New International Version Study Bible. (10th Ann ed). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Bright, John. (2000). A History of Israel. (4th ed.). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  • DeVaux, Roland. (1997). Ancient Israel. (John McHugh, Trans.) Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Freedman, David Noel (Ed.). (2000). Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. (pp. 597) Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
  • Wood, Millard, Packer, Wiseman, Marshall (Eds.). (1996). New Bible Dictionary (3rd ed.) (pp. 477). Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.