The bulk of this chapter is concerned with a claim made by Caleb, to Joshua, about Hebron and its mountain range. When God promises something to us we must accept it implicitly, for what He promises will come about and be fulfilled. This might require much patience, but God never lets us down. He promises us His presence, so long as we obey and are faithful, and we must never lose sight of this truth.
See how before Israel had peace they had to fight constant war with God’s enemies. Why should we expect anything less in our day? Caleb was a seasoned warrior and even at age 85 he went out to war, because it was God’s will. How many today bother to shout at an enemy, let alone fight him? No, most Christians are now weak and spineless, with no desire to win the day. And so we perish.
Are we called to fight physically? No, at least not yet. But, the fight may become physical in the near future, and it will be blessed by God. Until that time our fight is spiritual, so at least our spirits must be strong and ready for combat. Are you ready?
And these are the countries which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance to them.
By lot was their inheritance, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half tribe.
For Moses had given the inheritance of two tribes and an half tribe on the other side Jordan: but unto the Levites he gave none inheritance among them.
For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim: therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell in, with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance.
As the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did, and they divided the land.
Two and a half tribes had already been given their part in the inheritance. (Note that an inheritance is a legally binding promise to receive something, given by one who can legally give it: from the verb, nachal). Now Canaan in its entirety was divided amongst the remaining nine and a half tribes. It was overseen by Joshua, Eleazar (son of Aaron) the high priest, and the tribal chieftains, who listed the various boundaries between tribal lands.
These lands were allocated by lot, usually deciding matters with the use of pebbles (‘lot’ meaning small stone: the method used is now not known for certain*). This time the lot cast was by the command of God to Moses, so the allocation of land was divided before Israel entered Canaan, and two and a half tribes were already given the east side of the Jordan.
The priestly Levites had no land inheritance, but were given cities to live in and cattle as food. The tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim arose from Joseph. (*Casting lots. There appears to have been some connection in ancient Israel to the breastplate worn by the high priest, using the two stones of sardonyx – possibly giving the answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’? The lots were taken to be answers given by God to important questions, and no-one argued against the decision given because the answers were seen to be from God and not randomly chosen by human beings).
Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the LORD said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadeshbarnea.
Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadeshbarnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart.
Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God.
And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children's for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the LORD my God.
And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old.
A delegation of elders of the tribe descended from Judah, Jacob’s son, visited Joshua in Gilgal, Caleb spoke to Joshua about his inheritance. Caleb was one of the original spies who went into Canaan before the Israelites first entered the land. His father was Jephunneh, a Kenezite (from the family of Kenaz, and possibly – but not proven – named after a victory over Kenaz) and descendant of Judah. Caleb reminded Joshua of what Moses promised him when they were in Kadeshbarnea, a desert area in the very far south of Judah (also known as Kadesh, the ‘wilderness of wandering’), where the Israelites waited for word from the spies.
Caleb was one of only two old men (Joshua being the other) allowed to live and enter the Promised Land. He was forty years of age when he went into Canaan as a spy, bringing his view that it was worth taking the land, even though the other spies warned the people not to go. Caleb believed his view was from God, and Moses recognised this fact, promising him all the land on which he trod during his espionage, in perpetuity.
In verse 10 we read that Caleb was about the same age as Joshua, 85, and now he awaited the fulfilment of God’s promise through Moses, forty five years later. It is worth acknowledging that human beings can be impatient. But, God does not always fulfil His promises in a day, or even a year, or ten years. There are times when He considers keeping back answers to our prayers for a long time. Why? Probably so that many other things are firstly concluded, including cleansing our souls and a holy growth in our spirits. We cannot argue against His timing, for it is always perfect.
As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in.
Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said.
See how Caleb was strong as an ox. And how full of strength Abraham was when a similar age, enabling him to fight as a warrior against bad kings! Men in the ancient days kept their vigour for a long time, and many of God’s men fought enemies on the battle field when they were in old age.
Caleb considered himself just as strong as when he was aged forty (feel envious?) and could still fight in a war. It seems he was reminding the now ailing Joshua of the reasons why Moses promised him land – those conditions still existed, and Caleb would willingly continue to fight the enemies of Israel and God.
Caleb asked Joshua to formally give him the mountain (that is, the entire mountain range and Hebron) he wanted, because it contained fortified cities belonging to the race of giants, the Anakims (‘sons of Anak’). Because he still had his physical strength and zeal, he would drive out the giants and take the cities.
It is a usual fact that when we honour and obey the Lord He does not just give us what He promised – He gives extra gifts or benefits as a reward for faithfulness. Joshua had already ruined the city of Hebron, but the giants on the mountain range had yet to be beaten, and this is the honour Caleb wanted for himself, especially as it was already promised to him by God through Moses.
How many Christians can claim such powers or certainty today? How many live self-defeating lives, doubting that God will come to their aid? Do you think God will help us when we admit to this defeat even before God does anything? As a general rule, no. Why should He reward doubt and fear, and a half-hearted reliance on Him?
And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance.
Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel.
And the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakims. And the land had rest from war.
Joshua listened and knew Caleb was speaking the truth. So, he blessed him unreservedly. With the elders of Judah present he gave Caleb Hebron and its mountain range (about 20 miles south of Jerusalem) as his special inheritance, because it was his reward for following the Lord wholly.
Note that though the name ‘Hebron’ (‘association’; also the name of one of Caleb’s descendants) is used in this text, until Caleb took it, it was named Kirjatharba. That is ‘city of Arba’, who was a great king of the giants and father of Anak. In the Old Testament we often come across a name of a place before the place was actually named in its history. When Caleb took the city and range, there was peace from war.
© September 2017