YOU CAN COUNT ON PROMISED REWARDS FOR FAITHFUL SERVICE
Robert Hubbard: From Transjordan the focus quickly shifts west of the Jordan to the land of Canaan. Comparable opening and closing formulae (“Now these are the areas/territories …”) bracket the lengthy summary (chs. 14–19) of what lands the Israelites “received” as their inheritances (naḥal qal) in Cisjordan (v. 1; cf. 19:51). Indeed, the formulae stamp the summary as primarily retrospective—a backward look at the results of the process, not necessarily a report of how it was done.
Trent Butler: Josh 14:1 introduces the major unit of 14:1—17:18, which describes inheritances west of the Jordan just as chap. 13 describes the inheritances east of the Jordan. Chap. 18 then changes geographical location and in so doing creates a clear transfer to a new major literary unit. The subunits first set the scene for distributing territory to the two major tribes, Judah with Caleb and Joseph divided into Ephraim and Manasseh. A reference to the Canaanites closes each subunit (15:63; 16:10; 17:12–13; 17:18).
Donald H. Madvig: The amount of space devoted to the description of the territory of each of the tribes and the order of presentation correspond to the importance of each particular tribe in Israel’s history. Accordingly, Judah – the tribe of David, Solomon, and their successors – is treated most thoroughly. Then the tribes of Joseph are considered, who so predominated the northern kingdom that Ephraim became one of its names. The third and last tribe to be given special treatment is Benjamin, the tribe of Saul, Israel’s first king.
Wayne Barber: Today as we get into chapter 14, God is working in mighty power, all of His almighty power in the lives of the Israelites. Why? Because they’ve returned to obeying Him. Now that they are yielded to Him and His will, their enemy is completely helpless; helpless before them as they possess the land that God has given to them. God has just absolutely crippled the enemy. The enemy has no power. God told them in chapter 1, very clearly, “No man will be able to stand before you. No man can take from you what I have given to you, if you’ll consider every step holy unto Me.” Remember that in chapter 1? And what a beautiful picture this is to you and me. As we possess the life that Christ has given to us, as we learn to say yes to Him, and we take every step and make it holy unto Him—when we’re yielded to Christ, and when we’re saying yes to Him—we experience His power. Our enemy is not flesh and blood. Our enemy is the world, the flesh, and the devil. And all of our enemies, the spiritual enemy that we come up against, is immediately defeated when we say yes to Christ. We saw this last time. It is confused. It is crushed. It is consumed in an instant. When we say yes to God, sin has no power in our lives. Victory is never us trying to overcome sin; victory is Jesus who has overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. It’s Him living in us, overcoming us. Once Israel listened to God, the last part of chapter 10, chapter 11, and chapter 12 is simply a blow-by-blow account of them possessing the land God said was theirs. It’s history. When a believer gets into a yielded position, when a believer says yes to God, the rest of his life is history—it’s victory, after victory, after victory and this begins to be our testimony to others.
A. W. Pink: The land of Canaan had already been conquered, so far as its standing armies had been completely routed, its principal strongholds destroyed, and its kings slain. Yet much of its actual territory was still in the hands of its original inhabitants, who remained to be dispossessed. It is important to distinguish between the work which had been done by Joshua and that which still remained for Israel to do. He had overthrown the ruling powers, captured their forts, and subdued the Canaanites to such an extent as had given Israel firm foothold in the country. But he had not exterminated the population in every portion of it, yea, powerful nations still dwelt in parts thereof, as is clear from Judges 2:20–23, and 3:1–4; so that much was still demanded from Israel. (Gleanings in Joshua)
I. (:1-5) LOGISTICS OF DISTRIBUTION OF THE LAND OF CANAAN
Jerome Creach: Joshua 14:1–5 introduces the allotments west of the river with three pieces of information that are essential for understanding the apportionment of the land:
- First, the priest, Eleazar, who helped commission Joshua in Numbers 27:21 (and there is named as keeper of the sacred lots), shares the duty of assigning the land, as do the “heads of the families of the tribes” as well. Therefore, the process is democratic, as far as human involvement goes, and reflects the radical concern for inclusion and equality.
- Second, the land is apportioned by lot, as Joshua 14:2 Although the Hebrew term for this object, goral, recurs throughout the rest of the report of the allotment west of the river (15:1; 16:1; 17:1, 21:8), the Greek version has a term meaning “boundary” in these subsequent references. This may indicate that the original reading in Hebrew actually had the similar term, gĕbûl (the difference in Hebrew being only one letter), meaning “boundary” or “border,” which would make sense in each case. Regardless of which reading is correct, the mention of the lot in Joshua 14:2 still makes clear that Joshua and Eleazar meted out the land according to divine instructions.
- Third, the text explains that Joseph was divided into two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, but that the Levites did not receive an inheritance of land; thus the number of tribal groups receiving allotments remained at twelve, the perfect number.
A. (:1) Logistics Administered by Eleazar, Joshua and the Tribal Leaders
“Now these are the territories which the sons of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the households of the tribes of the sons of Israel apportioned to them for an inheritance,”
Richard Hess: The land of Canaan recalls the designation of Canaan as the land west of the Jordan. Eleazar the priest appears here for the ﬁrst time in the book of Joshua. He is both a son and successor of Aaron and also the leader of the Levites. Involved in the commissioning of Joshua, he was to determine God’s will from the Urim in order to guide Joshua (Num. 27:19–22). With Aaron, Eleazar is commanded to allot the land in Numbers 34:17. As already noted, the son of Nun is applied to Joshua to identify him with his earlier appearances in the Pentateuch and in Joshua. Thus the same Joshua who led Israel in the conquest of the land here prepares to apportion that land.
Trent Butler: The people of God are not called to act on their own initiative and desire, nor to set their own goals. God has set the goals and issues the commands which lead to their achievement.
B. (:2-4) Logistics Determined by Lot as Moses Commanded with No Land for the Levites
“by the lot of their inheritance, as the LORD commanded through Moses, for the nine tribes and the half-tribe. 3 For Moses had given the inheritance of the two tribes and the half-tribe beyond the Jordan; but he did not give an inheritance to the Levites among them. 4 For the sons of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, and they did not give a portion to the Levites in the land, except cities to live in, with their pasture lands for their livestock and for their property.”
Robert Hubbard: Lots (goral) were probably small stones or pieces of wood with markings keyed to the decision sought, which an authority placed in a receptacle, shook, and cast out on the ground to render it. Whatever the matter at hand, Israel understood the lot to deliver “the final decision of Yahweh, against which there was no appeal.” Though humanly carried out, the distribution of land by lot marked the process and its results as Yahweh’s own doing. In this case, land ownership by Israel as a whole is already a given; the process simply decides which Israelite gets which land as his inheritance.
David Howard: The casting of lots to determine Israel’s inheritance had been commanded by God (Num 26:52–56; 33:54); thus, far from being a matter of chance, God himself was in control of the lot (cf. 18:6, 8, 10; Prov 16:33). This is the first reference in the book to the lot, but it is mentioned again in 15:1; 16:1; 17:1; 18:6, 8, 10.
The arithmetic of the number of tribes is explained: Jacob had twelve sons, but the descendants of one of these (Joseph) became two tribes (Ephraim and Manasseh), both receiving inheritances. The Levites’ “landless” condition kept the number of tribal territories fixed at twelve.
Kenneth Gangel: Quoting Campbell — According to Jewish tradition the name of a tribe was drawn from one urn and simultaneously the boundary lines of a territory from another. This method designated each tribal inheritance. But blind chance did not decide the tribal location, for God was superintending the whole procedure (cp. Prov. 16:33). The inequities of assignments that existed and that caused some tensions and jealousies among the tribes should have been accepted as a part of God’s purpose, not as something that was arbitrary and unfair (Campbell, BKC, 356).
C. (:5) Logistics Governed by God’s Instructions
“Thus the sons of Israel did just as the LORD had commanded Moses,
and they divided the land.”
Bruce Hurt: This is a good start for the sons of Israel. The first step to blessing and victory is always the step of obedience! There are simply no short-cuts to “spiritual success.” You can go to all the Christian seminars you want, read all the books on the deeper life you want, etc., etc., but they are all “wood, hay and stubble,” if they are not undergirded by the firm foundation of unhesitating, Spirit enabled obedience to the Word of the LORD.
II. (:6-12) LOYAL SERVICE OF CALEB = BASIS FOR HIS REWARD REQUEST
A. (:6) Appeal of Caleb to His Faith Partner Joshua for Promised Reward
“Then the sons of Judah drew near to Joshua in Gilgal, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, ‘You know the word which the LORD spoke to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh-barnea.’”
David Howard: Though Caleb is called a “Kenizzite” (14:6, 14; cf. Num 32:12), he was also from the tribe of Judah (Num 13:6; 1 Chr 2:9; 4:15). Since we know that a non-Israelite group called Kenizzites lived in Canaan like the Kenites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, et cetera (Gen 15:19), scholars have puzzled over Caleb’s exact lineage. The simplest solution is to remember that the term “Kenizzite” means “son of Kenaz.” Caleb’s brother Othniel is called “son of Kenaz” in Josh 15:17, so Caleb may have been a “Kenizzite” by virtue of being associated with a relative or ancestor named Kenaz. Thus the Kenizzites of Caleb’s line were one of the family groups within the tribe of Judah and were not related at all to the non-Israelite Kenizzites of Gen 15:19. This is made more plausible by the fact that Caleb himself had a descendant named Kenaz (1 Chr 4:15).
Jerome Creach: Hence, Caleb appears as a man of faith and courage, zealously committed to the Lord’s cause. That makes quite interesting the way he is introduced: his lineage indicates he is the son of a foreigner, a Kenizzite. With this introduction, Caleb, like Rahab, professes faith in an ideal way, even though his heritage is not pure. It increases the sense that the “outsiders” in Israel’s midst often are ironically more insightful and more zealous for the Lord than are the pedigreed Israelites.
Van Parunak: Josh. 14:6, 14; cf. Num. 32:12, he is called a “Kenezite.” The same term in Hebrew (though transliterated differently in English) appears in Gen 15:19 as one of the tribes of Canaan, and the base name reappears as the name of one of Esau’s grandsons in Gen 36:15, 42. Apparently some of Abraham’s peers threw in their lot with his clan and made their way into the family of Jacob, perhaps through intermarriage, before the time of Moses and thus the laws against intermingling.
B. (:7-8) Account of His Wholehearted Commitment to Following the Lord
- (:7) Mission Integrity
“I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart.”
- (:8) Motivational Faith
“Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the LORD my God fully.”
Richard Hess: In contrast, Caleb followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. This expression, ‘follow after the LORD’, is used of Caleb and Joshua (Num. 32:12; Deut. 1:36) in contrast with the rest of Israel who refused to follow after the LORD (Num. 14:43). Elsewhere, the term refers to serving the covenant of the God of Israel alone and not following other deities.
F B Meyer: Caleb followed the Lord wholly through the weary years in the wilderness. Amid the marchings and counter-marchings, the innumerable deaths, the murmurings and rebellions of the people, he retained a steadfast purpose to do only God’s will, to please Him, to know no other leader, and to heed no other voice. It was of no use to try and involve that stout lion’s whelp, for that is the underlying thought in his name, in any movement against Moses and Aaron. He would be no party to Miriam’s spite. He would not be allured by the wiles of the girls of Moab. Always strong, and true, and pure, and noble; like a rock in a changeful sea; like a snowcapped peak amid the change of cloud, and storm and sun. A man in whose strong nature weaker natures could hide; and who must have been a tower of strength to that new and young generation which grew up to fill the vacant places in the van of Israel.
C. (:9) Anticipation of Promised Reward
“So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God fully.’”
Richard Hess: Caleb refers to Moses’ promise and the faithfulness of God in maintaining him alive for forty-ﬁve years. This temporal reference bridges the gap between the past promise and its present fulﬁlment. Joshua, as Moses’ successor, is the appropriate representative for fulﬁlling the promise. The mention of the strength and vigour of Caleb emphasizes both that
(1) he is the same person who received earlier promises, and that
(2) he is physically capable of acquiring the allotment that was promised to him.
Indeed, the confession that God has kept Caleb alive (v. 10) suggests that Caleb’s present certainty of his prowess is divinely guaranteed.
Robert Hubbard: The promise rewards Caleb’s one sterling trait: He “followed the LORD … God wholeheartedly,” a trait the context recalls verbatim three times (v. 9; cf. vv. 8, 14). In my view, the Hebrew phrase (lit., “to fill behind”) is a short form of a longer idiom (lit. “to fill [one’s] heart to walk behind”). As Snijders writes of the phrase, “The heart contains nothing against Yahweh: it is fully, completely for or [my addition: following] behind the Lord.” In other words, what Caleb did was wholeheartedly—i.e., resolutely, unswervingly, unhesitatingly—to obey God’s will rather than his own or that of someone else. Therein lies what Yahweh himself calls the “different spirit” of Caleb that set him apart from his unfaithful comrades (Num. 14:24).
D. (:10-11) Advocating for the Reward
- (:10) Divine Sustaining of Life
“And now behold, the LORD has let me live, just as He spoke,
these forty-five years, from the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness;
and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today.”
- (:11) Divine Sustaining of Strength
“I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me;
as my strength was then, so my strength is now,
for war and for going out and coming in.”
David Howard: In vv. 10–11, Caleb’s focus shifts from the past to the present, specifically, on his own condition and readiness to claim his inheritance. Despite the fact that he was now eighty-five years old (adding the forty years of v. 7 to the forty-five years of v. 10), he still claimed physical vigor and a readiness and willingness to do battle. His words were insistent and animated, revealing the vigor and eagerness of a man far younger. For example, he used the expression “and now” three times (vv. 10[2x], 12), which shows him carefully, but insistently, building a logical case for himself; it can be translated as “now then,” as the NIV does at the beginning of v. 10. The reference to God’s promise is to Num 14:24.
Trent Butler: The forty-five years here in opposition to the forty years in v 7 appear to allow five years for the conquest between the forty years in the wilderness and the present day. Caleb is now forty-five years older, but he reports that he is strong as ever, a condition credited to a God determined to keep the promise to Caleb.
Van Parunak: Application: Why did the Lord leave Caleb strong to conquer Hebron, while taking Joshua’s health? It is up to him to dispose of his servants as he sees fit.
E. (:12) Appropriation of the Reward = Hill Country of Hebron
- Reward Is Deserved
“Now then, give me this hill country
about which the LORD spoke on that day,”
- Reward Will Reap Dividends
“for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out as the LORD has spoken.”
III. (:13-15) LOYAL SERVICE OF CALEB REWARDED WITH GIFT OF HEBRON
A. (:13) Response of Joshua
- Blessed Caleb
“So Joshua blessed him,”
- Bequeathed Inheritance of Hebron to Caleb
“and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance.”
Donald Campbell: Joshua’s response to Caleb’s request was twofold:
(a) he blessed Caleb, that is, he set him apart for God’s enablement so he would be enriched and successful in his task, and
(b) Joshua gave him Hebron, a statement which emphasizes that this land grant was a legal transaction.
David Howard: This verse records only the second instance in the book of a blessing (brk). The concept of a blessing is a rich one in biblical thought. God’s blessing upon his people bestowed abundant and effective life upon them (e.g., Gen 27:27–29; 49:1–28). It involved bestowing material abundance upon them, such as children (e.g., Gen 1:28; 28:3), land (Gen 26:3; 28:4), or wealth (Gen 28:12–14), as well as upon others (Gen 12:3; 22:18). When people blessed God, they were worshiping him, ascribing worth to him and his great name (e.g., Ps 103:1–2; 104:1). When people blessed each other, it conveyed a desire for God’s best to befall them (e.g., Gen 47:10; Judg 5:24; Neh 11:2; Prov 30:11). Blessing someone was more than wishful thinking, however, since blessing in the name of the Lord tapped into the power and resources of God himself.
In the Book of Joshua blessings are bestowed by both God and men. God’s blessings through the reading of the blessings in the law were given to the people at Mount Ebal (Josh 8:33–34). Joshua blessed Caleb (14:13) and the Transjordan tribes (22:6–7), and Caleb’s daughter Achsah asked her father for a blessing of a land grant (15:19). And the Israelites blessed God (i.e., they praised him: see NIV) when the misunderstanding about the Transjordan tribes’ building of an altar was resolved (22:33).
Trent Butler: For Caleb, this [blessing] signified the promise of success, fertility, and military achievement. The blessing represents a promise for steady continued success over a long period of time, not just in one particular moment or event. In this case, the blessing is for the work of Caleb and his descendants in Hebron.
B. (:14) Reason for This Valuable Reward
“Therefore, Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh
the Kenizzite until this day, because he followed the LORD God of Israel fully.”
Richard Hess: The gift of Hebron is reafﬁrmed, suggesting that this text serves the theological purpose of demonstrating the blessing of God for those who, like Caleb, remain committed to God in spite of unpopularity.
C. (:15a) Reputation of the Inhabitants
“Now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba;
for Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.”
Robert Hubbard: A brief parenthesis notes that the ancient name for Hebron was Kiriath Arba (“city of Arba,” named for the greatest Anakite hero, v. 15). If, as I suggest elsewhere, Caleb “represents a non-Israelite clan incorporated into the tribe of Judah and larger Israel,” his settlement in southern Judah may have meant a return to his ancient, pre-Israelite ancestral land. Literarily, the comment pits the clans of two great heroes, the Anakite Arba and the Kenizzite Caleb, against each other for possession of a prized city and its surroundings, a battle whose outcome is soon to be told (cf. 15:13–19).
D. (:15b) Rest from War
“Then the land had rest from war.”
Robert Hubbard: Finally, the narrator notes that “the land had rest from war,” a verbatim echo of the conclusion of the conquest narrative (11:23). At first glance, the remark seems strange since chs. 13–14 neither report nor allude to any battles involving anyone, including Caleb. Probably, the writer repeats the line here as a literary cross reference to the prior, successful conquest that made possible the lengthy land distribution now to follow. Thus, the scene is set: Peace prevails, and the long-anticipated settlement can proceed.
Trent Butler: With the words “and the land had rest from war,” the editor reminds readers of the words in Josh 11:23, thereby taking up the story of the settlement and carrying it a step further. The editor does this by underlining the conditions that make the next step possible. After all the battles of conquest, God has brought peace to the land so that Joshua and his cohorts can distribute the land to the various tribes of Israel. God is the giver of victory in battle. He is also the provider of peace for normal existence.