“And the man went to the land of the Hittites; and he built a city and he called its name Luz. It is named that up to this day.”
This phrase, “up to this day,” is found 90 times in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the majority of cases, the phrase is used to communicate the idea that even as this text is being written, years after the actual events, the city or location is still known to the audience of the author’s day. Why is this important? It serves two purposes. First, it gives younger members of the community the background behind the cultural tensions between Israel and their surrounding neighbors. And yes, the Hittites would become an ongoing enemy of the Israelites. Though the empire itself began to collapse in the 12th century B.C. (toward the end of the time of the Judges), there were regional groups (sometimes called “Neo-Hittites”) who still caused Israel a great deal of grief even into the time of the Kings. Most scholars today place the relocated Luz just north of the Golan Heights in the region that would have (at the time) been part of the Hittite empire.
While the first reason spoke to the people of the author’s day, the second reason for the significance of this phrase speaks to us in modern times. Were this a mythological or legendary story, as many liberals would assert, historical place-names would not be mentioned. Think about the folk-stories that you know: Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk, or even King Arthur. These stories are all very vague in terms of times and place names…the reason: so that they cannot be disproven.
But the Bible gives numerous place names and ties the historical events therein to many events that are outside of the region of Israel (in this case, to the Hittite Empire). That gives us a way to verify their historicity but it also stands as an apologetic to the world around who would be inclined to dismiss the text as ahistorical. Thus, as we make an apologetic for the Christian faith and for the truth of the Bible, we need to recognize that these statements were intentionally put in place for our benefit. The author is essentially saying to us, “Look, I too am separated in time from these events, but the cities and places still exist today and thus my audience can go there and verify them firsthand.” While it may be a bit tougher for us to verify these things firsthand as more history has transpired and ruins of these cities don’t always still remain, the historical record stands as a witness to us that these events were not manufactured. That should encourage us in our faith as well as be a tool in our apologetic for the faith. The bottom line is that our Bible is reliable and statements like this reinforce that great truth.