Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom
Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom

Are There Any Calebs Among Us?

Karen VanTil Gushta, Ph.D.

For anyone of retirement age or older, the story of Caleb is an amazing one. When he was 40, he was sent by Moses with 11 others spy out the land of Canaan. Upon their return, the majority reported that the land was fruitful, but the cities were fortified and large and the people were too strong to overcome, “for they are stronger than we are. . . . and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them” (Numbers 14:31, 33).

Caleb, however, refused to go along with the majority report: “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 14:30). Nevertheless, the majority ruled and the result was disaster. The people rebelled and were even ready to stone Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb. Only God’s intervention prevented them. But as a consequence, God said that everyone 20 and over who had grumbled against Him would die in the wilderness.

This was not the end for Caleb, however. God promised that He would bring “my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully,” into the land and his descendants would possess it. (Numbers 14:24).

In Joshua 14, we encounter Caleb again at age 85. As Joshua is dividing the land of Canaan west of the Jordan, Caleb comes with his request, and it is nothing short of astounding. In fact, Dr. Kennedy called it “one of the most astonishing requests to be found anywhere in Scripture—perhaps anywhere in all of human history!”

What was Caleb’s astonishing request?

Before making his request to Joshua, Caleb first set the context:

Behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in.

Then he made his request:

Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.” (Joshua 14:10-12 NKJV)

Caleb asked Joshua to give him a mountain. Jesus said, “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Caleb wanted to move mountains. He wanted to claim mountains for the Lord, to displace the pagan inhabitants with godly believers; to build a culture that was God-glorifying, and to settle the land so it had rest from war. And this he did.

Joshua 14 says that Joshua blessed Caleb and gave him Hebron for an inheritance, “And the land had rest from war” (Joshua 14:15).

While Caleb could have asked for any of the cities that he spied out, Hebron was one of the most historically significant sites in the land of Canaan. It was long associated with the history of Israel, starting with Abraham. When Abraham separated from Lot, he moved his tent there and settled by the oaks of Mamre and “there he built an altar to the LORD” (Genesis 13:18). Later, Sarah died there and Abraham bought the field of Machpelah with its cave as a burial site for Sarah. Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham in the cave and Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Leah were buried there as well.

In asking for Hebron and settling the hill country around it, Caleb was reclaiming land that had belonged to Abraham. Hebron continued to be a significant city in Israel. It was one of the three cities of refuge on the west side of the Jordan, and David lived there during the first seven and a half years of his reign.

As an interesting historical footnote, during his reign, Herod the Great, who was known for his many building projects, including the temple in Jerusalem, built a large rectangular enclosure over the cave of Machpelah. Today, the “Cave of the Patriarchs” still survives and is the only intact Herodian structure from the period of Hellenistic Judaism. But the city of Hebron is located in the southern West Bank about 19 miles south of Jerusalem in occupied Palestinian territory with a population of over 200 thousand Palestinians and between 500-850 Jewish settlers. More Jews live today in the adjacent community of Kiryat Arba. As Joshua 14:15 says, “Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba. (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim).” The Anakim were the fearsome tribe of giants feared by the other spies sent with Caleb.

In his sermon, “Give Me This Mountain,” Dr. Kennedy pointed out that Goliath was of this tribe of giants; he was 9 ½ feet tall and weight probably as much as 800 pounds! Given that people in general were shorter at that time, Caleb might have been only a little more than half that height at 5 ½ feet and about 150 pounds. In addition, Caleb was 85 years old. Yet, he said, “Give me this mountain.”  Actually, he was asking for the whole area surrounding Hebron, as the ESV translates it, Caleb asked for this “hill country.”

And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.       (Joshua 14:10-14)

And so he did. Joshua 15:14 records that Caleb drove out from Hebron the giants of the land, the three sons of Anak: Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai. Hebron became Caleb’s inheritance “because he wholly followed the Lord, the God of Israel” (Joshua 14:14).

How many of us are ready to drive out the giants in our land? There is only one instance of "retirement" in the Bible. The Levites who served in the Tabernacle were only allowed to serve between the ages of 25 and 50. But even after that they still ministered in the Tabernacle by keeping guard (Numbers 8). Our work on earth is not done until the Lord takes us home to heaven. If our physical strength is waning, we can still engage in the greatest spiritual work of all—prayer. In this coming year, let us ask God to give us the hill country—the mountains of influence in our culture. Let us determine to drive out the “giants” so that Jesus may reign as Lord of all in every area of culture and society. It is time for us to reclaim the godly inheritance of our nation.