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The Courageous Faith of Caleb
Lola S. Richey
delegation from the tribe of Judah, led by Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, came to Joshua at Gilgal. Caleb said to Joshua, “Remember what the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, about you and me when we were at Kadesh-barnea.7 I was forty years old when Moses, the servant of the Lord, sent me from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land of Canaan. I returned and gave an honest report,8 but my brothers who went with me frightened the people from entering the Promised Land. For my part, I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.9 So that day Moses solemnly promised me, „The land of Canaan on which you were just walking will be your grant of land and that of your descendants forever, because you wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.‟10 Now, as you can see, the Lord has kept me alive and well as He promised for all these fortyfive years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old.11 I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then.12 So give me the hill country that the Lord promised me. You will remember that as scouts we found the descendants of Anak living there in great, walled towns. But if the Lord is with me, I will drive them out of the land, just as the Lord said.”13 So Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave Hebron to him as his portion of land.14 Hebron still belongs to the descendants of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite because he wholeheartedly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.15 (Previously Hebron had been called Kiriath-arba. It had been named after Arba, a great hero of the descendants of Anak). And the land had rest from war. Joshua 14:6-15 (NLT). Caleb stands as an inspirational model of courageous faith in God. He was faithful to God from the start1. Caleb was the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite (Joshua 14:6, 14; Numbers 32:12; 1 Chronicles 4:13-15). Thus, Caleb was a Kenizzite (Numbers 32:12) and Kenaz was an Edomite (Genesis 36:6, 9, 11). The Kenizzites were not Israelites originally (Genesis 15:19). The name Kenaz appears as a descendant of Esau by Eliphaz (Genesis 36:11). The Kenizzites lived in the Negev, the southern desert region of Canaan (see Genesis 15:18-21) and had affiliations with Judah and Edom. According to Numbers 32:12, Caleb’s father, Jephunneh, was a Kenizzite. Jephunneh may have married into the tribe of Judah a generation before Israel left Egypt.
Numbers 14:24, Numbers 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:34-36.
Caleb first appears as one of twelve spies sent by Moses to investigate and explore the political and military situation in Canaan, also called the Promised Land (Numbers 13:6; 30; Numbers 14:6, 24, 30, 38). He was chosen by Moses as Judah’s tribal leader (Numbers 13:6), and the fact that Caleb was a non-Israelite makes his selection by Moses to represent Judah all the more significant. Apparently, Caleb was a convert who was so thoroughly incorporated into the life and faith of Israel that Moses called upon him to represent the tribe of Judah (Numbers 13:6). At the time of his election, Caleb was forty years old (Joshua 14:7). Upon returning from the Promised Land, all twelve spies from Israel confirmed the land’s splendor and goodness. God had previously told the Israelites that the Promised Land was a good, rich, and magnificent land ― . . . flowing with milk and honey‖ (Numbers 13:27). The spies even brought back fruit from the land as proof. Not only that, God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that this bountiful land would be theirs as an inheritance (Genesis 15:16). The Promised Land was relatively small—150 miles long and 60 miles wide (Genesis 15:18-21). Overall, the spies could report plenty of good reasons for entering the land. However, ten of the spies could not stop focusing on their fear of the giants (descendants of Anak) and fortified cities, and they forgot God's promise to help (Numbers 13:31-33; Joshua 14:8). These ten spies frightened the Israelites. Compared to the giants in the land, these ten spies described themselves as ―grasshoppers‖ (Numbers 13:33, see also Genesis 6:4).
Yet Caleb and Joshua brought back a good report (Numbers 13:30; Joshua 14:7) and did not focus on the land’s frightening inhabitants. Caleb and Joshua alone reported that God would give Israel success in conquering Canaan (Numbers 13:6, 8, 16, 30; Joshua 14:6-9). Caleb and Joshua also saw the fortified cities in the land, but they reacted with faith in God rather than fear; they believed that God could help Israel to conquer the Canaanites and take the land (Joshua 14:6-9). Caleb and Joshua encouraged Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites to invade the Promised Land immediately from Kadeshbarnea and act on God's promise (Numbers 13:30). The people rejected Caleb and Joshua’s advice (Numbers 14:6-10). The Israelites listened to the ten faithless spies, failed to trust in God’s faithfulness, and chose to retreat from the Promised Land. The people’s hearts melted in fear and distrust in God and they threatened to stone Joshua and Caleb. But, God protected Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:1-4, 10) and punished the unfaithful Israelite people (Numbers 14:11-38). Because Israel adopted the majority report of the ten faithless spies, God imposed on Israel a forty-year sentence of wandering in the wilderness until that faithless generation died (Numbers 14:20-23); the Israelites spent forty years on a journey that should have lasted eleven days (Deuteronomy 1:1-2). Kadesh-barnea was near the Promised Land’s southern borders, but because of the Israelites' lack of faith, they needed more than a lifetime to travel from Kadesh-barnea to the Promised Land.
After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, God gave an entirely new generation of Israelites a new opportunity to enter into the Promised Land (Numbers 26:1-65). This generation had hearts ready and willing to obey and follow God (see also Isaiah 1:19). Everyone in the previous generation that had left Egyptian slavery died out in the wilderness except Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 26:63-65). Among all the Israelites that left Egyptian slavery, only Caleb and Joshua were permitted to survive (Numbers 14:38), because they ―followed the Lord‖ (Numbers 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:9). Like Joshua, Caleb had a different spirit and followed God wholeheartedly (Numbers 14:24). Joshua inherited Moses’ position as the new leader of Israel (Numbers 27:12-23; Joshua 1:1-18), and Caleb later played an important role as the first to inherit in the Promised Land (Joshua 14:6-15). This new generation of Israelites saw a manifestation of God’s mercy. Caleb may be singled out—even from Joshua—because although he was not a native Israelite (Numbers 13:6), he was faithful to God (Numbers 14:24). As a non-Israelite, Caleb’s faith as an ―outsider‖ should have been an example to his ten other fellow spies. Caleb’s faith did not lessen during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. He was eighty-five years old, but he did not look for an easy job suited to an ―old man‖: Caleb asked Joshua for mountains to climb and giants to conquer. His strength was in God, and he knew that God would never fail him. Eventually, God rewarded Caleb for his wholehearted faithfulness and loyalty in Him as God. Caleb not only entered Canaan, but he helped Moses divide the Promised Land (Numbers 34:16, 19). Moreover, God gave Caleb the
vicinity of Hebron as his inheritance in the Promised Land (see Joshua 14:1215; Judge 1:20) and led his people, Judah, in the possession of their territory. The assignment of cities in Canaan to Caleb (Judah) and Joshua (Ephraim) frame the account of territorial divisions west of the Jordan (Joshua 14:6-15; Joshua 19:49-50). Caleb, of the tribe of Judah (Numbers 13:30), received his inheritance first (Joshua 14:6-15). Joshua, the other faithful spy, was the last to receive his inheritance (Joshua 19:49-51). Only Caleb and Joshua had expressed faith in God that Israel could conquer the land (Numbers 13:30; Joshua 14:6-9). Joshua 14:6-15 emphasizes the courageous faith and obedience of Caleb. Even though Caleb was now eighty-five years old, he was yet as strong and capable as forty years earlier (Joshua 14:11). At the age of eighty-five, Caleb conquered Hebron (Joshua 14). God appeared to prolong Caleb’s life as a reminder to a younger generation that He keeps His promises to those who are faithful and endure (see also 1 Peter 1:6-7). Although Caleb was eighty-five years old, he judged himself to be as fit as he had been at age forty (Joshua 14:11). Caleb drove out the Anakites to acquire Hebron—a direct response to the fearfulness shown by his Israelite peers forty years earlier at Kadeshbarnea, who wailed about ―giants‖ in the Promised Land (Numbers 13:31-33; Joshua 14:12; Joshua 15:13-14). The conquering of Canaan seemed to happen quickly. Joshua 11:18 reported simply that Joshua’s campaign took a ―long time.‖ Because Caleb was eighty-five years old at Joshua 14, many scholars believe the conquering of
Canaan took seven years. The Book of Joshua does not say how long the conquering of Canaan lasted, but the calculations reveal that the fighting had been going on for about seven years. Caleb was forty years old when Moses first sent him and the other eleven spies to scout out the Canaan land (Numbers 14:7). Israel spent thirty-eight years in the wilderness afterwards (Deuteronomy 2:14), making Caleb approximately seventy-eight years old when Israel finally invaded Canaan. Since he had now reached eighty-five years old, the last seven years of Caleb’s life had been devoted to the military campaign of conquering Canaan. Thus, Caleb and Joshua were the oldest Israelites after Israel conquered Canaan, as all the others of their generation had died in the desert (Joshua 12:23). The importance of Hebron as an inheritance cannot be ignored. Hebron was located about twenty miles south of Jerusalem (not far from Kenizzite territory). The conquering of Hebron is recorded in Joshua 10:36 and Joshua 11:21-22 by Joshua himself. Hebron’s conquering is recorded again in Joshua 14:12-15 and Joshua 15:13-19 by Caleb. The fifth notice of the conquering of Hebron occurs at Judges 1:10, by Caleb’s descendants of Judah. Also, Hebron was at one time known as Kirjath, named after Arba, a giant of the Anakim; thus, Hebron was occupied by giant Anakites. The Anakites were a race of strong giants who inhabited parts of the land before Joshua's conquest (Numbers 13:22, 28). The family of Goliath may have been descended from these people (see 2 Samuel 21:16-22). Israel had stayed out of Canaan for almost forty years because they feared these giants (Numbers 13:28, 33), yet
the two believing spies, Joshua and Caleb, did not fear the Anakites, instead trusting God for victory. Both Joshua and Caleb expressed faith that God would give them success in their endeavors and God proved faithful to both Caleb and Joshua (Joshua 11:21-22; Joshua 14:12). Joshua defeated the Anakites in Joshua 11:21-22 and Caleb also defeated the Anakites in Joshua 14:12-15. Even more importantly, Hebron was the burial site of the Patriarchs: Abraham (Genesis 23:19; Genesis 25:7-10), Isaac (Genesis 35:27-29), and Jacob (Genesis 50:12-13). Thus, it is easy to see why Caleb would request this village as his inheritance. Ironically, King David of the tribe of Judah was not the first giant-slayer (1 Samuel 17). David’s ancestor Caleb, also of Judah, was the first giant-slayer. Before David defeated Goliath, a giant man over nine feet tall, Caleb killed the giants of the Promised Land first. The first generation of Israelites leaving Egypt feared the giants living in the Promised Land (Numbers 13:32-33). Caleb and David both had courageous faith in the true and living God (1 Samuel 17:45–47).These giants did not realize that in fighting Caleb and David, they also had to fight God. Caleb and David both had a heart for God (Deuteronomy 1:36; 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). Like David, Caleb had an unmovable belief in the faithful and almighty God. Caleb and David knew they would not be alone when they faced any giants; God would fight with them. While the rest of the people stood around, Caleb and David knew the importance of taking action because God would fight for them. No wonder the Lord Jesus Christ descended from this great tribe of Judah.
Caleb’s spiritual strength is seen further in that he later gave up Hebron to the Levites and lived in the suburbs (Joshua 15:13-19; Joshua 21:11-13). Hebron later became a Levitical city of refuge (Joshua 21:13; 1 Chronicles 6:55-57). Moreover, Caleb later became the father-in-law of Othniel—the first of the judges—by giving him his daughter, Acsah (Joshua 15:16-19; Judges 1:1215, 20). Caleb's courageous faith rubbed off on his son-in-law Othniel. Othniel played an important role in reforming Israel by chasing away a cruel enemy army and bringing peace back to the land of Israel. Thus, Caleb's legacy of faithfulness continued to the next generation. Even more, King David and Jesus are both descendants of Caleb’s tribe Judah (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38). The Kadesh-barnea event recorded in Numbers 13-14 has the New Testament commentary found in Hebrews 3-4. The writer of Hebrews refers to this event in an effort to strengthen the faith of Christians whose trust in Jesus and the Good News was wavering (Hebrews 3:7-19; Hebrews 12:3, 25; see also Psalms 95:8-11). God wanted the people of Israel to enjoy the spiritual, cultural, and emotional rest of a right relationship with Him and each other, not just the physical rest of living in a secure and plentiful land (see Hebrews 4:1-11). For this modern generation of people, God warns everyone about ― . . . an evil heart of unbelief‖ (Hebrews 3:12). Unbelief is a terrible sin: to begin with, unbelief makes God a liar and questions His dependability and the dependability of His Word. Even more, unbelief wastes time: an eleven-day
journey from Kadesh-barnea into the Promised Land turned into forty years of wandering and death (Deuteronomy 1:1-2). Most importantly, unbelief steals God’s best blessings for our lives. God is patient, but He will not tolerate rebellion and unbelief from His people (Exodus 32:7-10). As Christians, our responsibility is not to question God but to wholeheartedly love, believe, and obey God (Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 22:34-40; John 15:1-7). Caleb of Judah and Joshua had hearts that believed and trusted God (Numbers 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:9). These two men did not look around at the problems and dangers, instead, Caleb and Joshua looked up to God who led the way and acted on their faith (see also Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3-6). Caleb and Joshua had God as their source of confidence as He was with them (Romans 8:31). Caleb can be described as a servant-leader, like Jesus of Nazareth, the Apostle Paul, Moses, and Joshua. He is said to have ― . . . followed the Lord wholeheartedly‖ (Deuteronomy 1:36; see also Numbers 14:24; Numbers 32:1112; Joshua 14:8-9, 14; 1 Kings 11:6). The secret of Caleb's success and courageous faith is found in a phrase that is repeated six times in the Holy Scripture: " . . . he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel" (Joshua 14:14; also see Numbers 14:24; Numbers 32:12; Deuteronomy 1:36; Joshua 14:8-9). Caleb had faith in God (see also 1 John 5:4). Caleb’s faith in God was still strong and unwavering even at age eighty-five. Although Caleb’s inherited land still had giants, Caleb continued to trust God to help him conquer and defeat those giants. Like Caleb, we too must continually be faithful to God and trust in Him
through our entire lives. We, as followers of Jesus, can capture mountains and conquer giants if we wholeheartedly follow God. No matter how old we may become, we must never stop loving, trusting, and serving God. Caleb was a celebrated man in Israel’s history (1 Chronicles 4:15). Moreover, Caleb is a case study and positive example of courageous faith. Like Joshua, Caleb had faith in a great God despite the serious obstacles. Caleb trusted God’s unbreakable promise that Israel would occupy Canaan. Even more, Caleb’s boldness came from his understanding of God, not from his confidence in Israel's abilities to conquer the Promised Land. With courageous faith, Caleb stood ready to conquer the Promised Land. Caleb’s devout confidence in God’s reliable promises earned him an honored place among the faithful. Caleb demonstrates the truth that ― . . . through faith and patience [we] inherit the promises‖ (Hebrews 6:12). Caleb had a ―living hope‖ because of his faith (see also 1 Peter 1:3): neither age, disappointment, nor giants frightened Caleb. Even at eighty-five years old, Caleb was saying, ―Give me this mountain‖ (Joshua 14:12) as he ― . . . wholly followed the Lord God of Israel‖ (Joshua 14). The God who gave Caleb his courageous faith and boldness is the same God who offers us the gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus.
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Believer‟s Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995. Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991. Coleson, Joseph. Joshua, Judges, Ruth. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2012. Douglas, J.D. NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible, New York: Zondervan, 1989. King James Version Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988. KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1994. Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005. New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan,1992. NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008. Spirit Filled Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991. Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989. Wiersbe, Warren W. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991. Word in Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996. Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
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