That Magnificent Old Man - Part One

THEME: Caleb’s History

This week’s lessons teach us about Joshua’s companion in the conquest of Canaan, and what it was that made Caleb a great man.

SCRIPTURE:
Joshua 14:6-15


The magnificent old man to which I am referring here in Joshua 14 is Caleb, who was Joshua’s companion and fellow soldier during all these long years of the conquest of Canaan. It’s often the case that in the presence of an outstanding leader, other people are overlooked. And it’s not because the other people are not great in themselves. Sometimes they’re even greater in some ways than the leader who’s getting all the attention. But, for one reason or another, perhaps just because he or she has a position of visibility, the leader gets the attention, and the other people are overshadowed. 

That was true of Joshua himself when he was associated with Moses, because Moses was the one to whom everyone looked. Joshua was there to support him. And it was true of Caleb in his association with Joshua. Joshua was the general, at least the chief general. Caleb unfortunately was overlooked, because he was a really great man, as we’re going to see. He was greatly honored by God and by the people. We may forget him, but God didn't forget him. And the people didn't forget him either. 

In this portion of Joshua that we’re studying, we find that as they came to the end of the seven years of fighting in the land and were about to divide up the land for settlement, Caleb came forward to claim a portion of the land that he had expressed an interest in 45 years earlier and which had been promised to him by Moses. God honored him for his service, and he was given the land. Now Caleb isn't mentioned in a lot of places in the Old Testament—only a half dozen or a dozen passages. There are only three references in the book of Joshua (14:6-15; 15:13-19; 21:12). 

But the first place we find Caleb in the Bible is not in the book of Joshua, but in Numbers 13, which contains the story of Moses' choice of the 12 spies, who were initially sent into the land to bring back a report. Israel had only been in the wilderness two years after they had come out of Egypt, and Caleb was 40 years old at the time. Early on in Numbers 13, there’s a listing of these 12 spies and the tribes that they represented. In that chapter Caleb, who is the son of Jephunneh, is said to be from the tribe of Judah. But in Joshua 14 Caleb is referred to as the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite. 

The interesting thing about that is that the Kenizzites were not Jews; they were people who lived in the land. As a matter of fact, if you go back to that first promise of the land to Abraham that you find in Genesis 15, you find that the Kenizzites are mentioned there as being among the people that the Jews at a later date were going to drive out. God said to Abraham, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.” 

So Caleb, or at least his father, was a foreigner. We don't know how he got to be with the Jewish people. He may very well have gone down to Egypt for one reason or another, and suffered the same kind of abuse and perhaps imprisonment that they suffered, and so have fallen in with them that way. At some point in that long history, Jephunneh identified himself with the Jewish people. And Caleb, his son, picked up that identification and was a member of the tribe of Judah.


STUDY QUESTIONS:

  • Though serving in the shadow of Joshua, Caleb did not show bitterness or jealousy.  What does this tell us about his view of God, and also about his view of himself?
  • What interesting point is brought up about Caleb’s genealogy?

REFLECTION:

Have you ever felt discouraged because you often serve in ways that go largely unnoticed?  What does the Bible teach about this?  How can you glorify God in these specific labors?    

APPLICATION:

Not everyone is called to serve in prominent positions, but no service is ever forgotten by God.  How can you encourage others in your church in their work for the Lord?  

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

Thinking and Acting Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Thinking and Acting Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.