A 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. 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, 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. 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.’ “Now, as you can see, the LORD has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old. 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. 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.” So Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave Hebron to him as his portion of land. Hebron still belongs to the descendants of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite because he wholeheartedly followed the LORD, the God of Israel. (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)
Every good story has subplots built in that serve as the story within the story. The book of Joshua is no different, utilizing this conversation between Joshua and Caleb as its own “story within a story.” The twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the Book of Numbers gives us the background to the dialogue above. When the children of Israel left Mt. Sinai, they headed to Kadesh Barnea, a place that would be the launching point for the Canaan campaign. Upon the arrival of the army, Moses sent 12 spies into the land on a reconnaissance mission. While in the land they made two basic observations. First, the land was fertile and fruitful beyond their wildest imagination. On the other hand, though, the indigenous people were large. Very large. So big, in fact, the spies felt like “grasshoppers” next to them (Numbers 13:33). When the spies returned, ten chose to emphasize the giants, while two chose to emphasize the fruitfulness. Since human nature loves the negative, the people believed the majority report. They were so overwhelmed by their giant fears they confessed their desire to return to Egyptian slavery. (Isn’t it interesting that some people would rather live in the security of slavery than face the giants before them?)
Caleb and Joshua were the two who gave the minority report. Forty five years separates Numbers 13 and Joshua 14. Caleb is ready to advance and realize his dream. This week I want to post some observations about this remarkable man and highlight some of the things that made him special.