At first glance, it’s probably not apparent as to why Judges 1:10 would prompt a devotional titled, “Lessons from the Life of Caleb.” After all, Caleb’s name isn’t even referenced in this verse. Well, while an exposition of this verse does not directly provide lessons from Caleb’s life, it does incite a walk down memory lane, biblically-speaking. And as we travel back in redemptive history we will be reminded of the faith of a man that, while imperfect, heartily followed the LORD (cf. Num. 14:24). Let’s see how we get there…
Upon reading through the Book of Judges one of the themes that would unfold before your eyes is the “Canaanization of Israel.” You may not initially define what you read as that, but nonetheless, it’s there, definitive, and progressive. The phrase itself deals with the land the children of Israel were commanded to conquer and what happened because they didn’t conquer it the way the LORD had commanded them to. When the children of Israel went into the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, they didn’t have to ‘wing it’, they were given specific instructions to possess the land and expel the inhabitants. Deuteronomy 7 lays this out very clearly:
As the Book of Judges opens there are two things that are immediately noticeable to the reader: (1) Joshua has died and so life without Joshua begins for the children of Israel, and (2), the children of Israel get off to a good start.
Joshua had led the people into the Promised Land and to many wonderful victories but now the nation was in a position where they needed to collectively rely upon God because the presence of an intercessor like a Moses or Joshua wasn’t there.
Then Caleb said, “Whoever attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife.” And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. Now it happened, when she came to him, that she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?” So she said to him, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. (Judges 1:12-15)
I think most people who have read through the Bible, even if they haven’t read through all of it, have at some point looked at a passage and asked the question, “Why is this here?” In some cases a person might scratch their head and wonder why God decided to include such a narrative in the canon. But hopefully such head scratching recognizes that there is no issue with God’s eternal decision to reveal what He has willed to reveal. The issue is always with us. After all, our finite minds fall well short of God’s infinite wisdom. But with that being said, it wouldn’t surprise me if the passage above has prompted some to ask something like the aforementioned question. Hopefully this teaching can provide some clarity to replace any potential confusion.
In Judges 9 the usual cycle of apostasy, oppression, groaning, and deliverance is put on pause while judgment arises, not from outside of Israel, but from within. The previous judge, Gideon, had not finished well; and his sins appeared to forecast what was going to follow in Israel after he died. Although he turned down the offer of kingship, he nonetheless lived like a king, gathered a harem, accumulated wealth, and made a golden ephod that became a snare to him, his family, and Israel. Yep, that’s the same Gideon from Sunday school class. Ironically, the man who rejected the kingship named the son of his concubine in Shechem, Abimelech, which means ‘my father is king’. It’s no surprise, then, that Abimelech coveted a place of kingship as he grew older. You could imagine him thinking (based on his name), ‘If my father was king then someone has to be his successor, right?’