Joshua 22:1-6 – Lessons from the Eastern Tribes

For those who follow after God, these six verses of Joshua 22 issue a hefty challenge.
  • It only takes a little digging to see where the challenge comes.
    • (1) Obedience – Submitting to Authority
    • (2) Connectedness of the “Body”
    • (3) Clinging to God


Joshua 22:1–3 (ESV) — 1 At that time Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 2 and said to them, “You have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you and have obeyed my voice in all that I have commanded you. 3 You have not forsaken your brothers these many days, down to this day, but have been careful to keep the charge of the Lord your God.

Our first three verses lead us into some background.
  • We need to take a look at Numbers 32 and Joshua 1.

Numbers 32:
“Moses the servant of the Lord commanded” what?
  • In Numbers 32, the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh (vs. 33) are given the land on the east side of the Jordan.
  • Their first inclination, once given the land, was not surprising.
  • Numbers 32:5 (ESV) — 5 And they said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession. Do not take us across the Jordan.”

Moses was not pleased.
  • Numbers 32:6 (ESV) — 6 But Moses said to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben, “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here?
  • The answer, of course, was “NO!”
  • Among other things, Moses said it would “discourage the heart of the people of Israel” (vs. 7).

Then Moses warned them:
  • Numbers 32:15 (ESV) — 15 For if you turn away from following him, he will again abandon them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all this people.”
  • The last time some of the Israelites refused to cross the Jordan, they wandered for 40 years.
  • Moses is suggesting something like this will happen again.

Wisely, their response was:
  • “…we will take up arms, ready to go before the people of Israel, until we have brought them to their place…” (vs. 17).
  • We will not return to our homes until each of the people of Israel has gained his inheritance” (vs. 18). 

Joshua 1:
What was Joshua’s “all that I have commanded you”?
  • We find it in Joshua 1.
  • Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you…” (vs. 13).
  • Joshua simply repeated the commands of Moses.
  • Simple enough, but would they submit to the new leadership of Joshua.
  • Moses’ authority was established, but Joshua had yet to solidify his leadership.

Their response to Joshua:
  • 16 And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses!

Joshua commended the people for their obedience to Moses and to himself.
  • There are a number of reasons why this obedience was so important.
    • More soldiers.
    • Unity and morale.

But, one is difficult for Westerners to understand.
  • It is profoundly offensive to the individualistic culture of the West.
  • It has to do with the individual’s responsibility to the “body”.


Moses made it clear that the 2 ½ tribes had a responsibility to join with their brothers in the Conquest of Canaan.
  • Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here?” (vs. 6).

We saw earlier that the 2 ½ tribes first response to this responsibility was essentially, to give it a Western spin, “we got ours, leaves us alone”.
  • Their actual words were, “Do not take us across the Jordan” (vs. 5).

Moses had some harsh words for this rebellion.
  • Numbers 32:23 (ESV) — 23 But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.
  • As part of the elect nation of Israel, called out by God to bless the nations, the 2 ½ tribes had responsibilities to the group – well beyond themselves.
  • To abandon this responsibility to the group was a sin “against the Lord”.

But worse than that, their “we got ours, leave us alone” sin would impact the body of Israel negatively.
  • Moses said, it would “discourage the heart of the people of Israel” (vs. 7).
  • This was itself sinful; a stumbling block.

So the 2 ½ tribes desire to stay behind on their rightful land was both –
  • (1) A sin against God – that would have affected their standing with God.
    • For which they sin would be “found out” – ominous language.
  • (2) A sin against the body of Israel – that would have been a stumbling block.

But wait, there is more:
  • (3) Their sin would have also resulted in their absence from fellowship.
  • Or to put more severely, it would have severed the fellowship of the body of Israel.
  • As the body of Israel sought to pursue God’s will in the Conquest, they would have been absent.
  • They would have missed out on all that God had done on Israel’s behalf – the work of God in redemptive history.

BTW – Is the body of Christ participating/fellowshipping together in worship, sacraments, learning and teaching a work of God in redemptive history?

We have just discovered the connectedness of the body of Israel.
  • The actions of a few have consequences for the many.
  • This was true whether they believed it or not.
  • This concept clashes with Western individualism.

Connectedness – A Western Hang-up:
It is an affront to everything American to teach that sin is not a private affair!
  • A Barna survey revealed the following about American Christianity –
  • “The Christian faith is less a life perspective that challenges the supremacy of individualism as it is a faith being defined through individualism…with feelings and emotions more significant” than Scripture – John Jefferson Davis.

However, theologically, the Church is put together in such a way that, just as we are in union with Christ, we are in union with our brothers and sisters.
  • Union with Christ is not individualistic!
  • The implications of this are many.

Joshua 22 speaks of one such implication:
  • Joshua 22:18b (ESV) — 18b And if you [2 ½ tribes] too rebel against the Lord today then tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel.
  • Achan’s sin also affected the body of Israel.

Paul also speaks about the implications of this union.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:26–27 (ESV) — 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
  • And speaking about the Church and how it is defiled he says, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Cor. 5:6b).
    • The leaven is sin (an act of sexual immorality); the lump is the Church.

If you are in Christ, you are no longer your own!
  • The 2 ½ tribes who were “in Israel”, were no longer their own.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 (ESV) — 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

The Blessing of Obedience and Connectedness:
Joshua 22:4 & 6 (ESV) — 4 And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brothers, as he promised them. Therefore turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan…6 So Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents.

The 2 ½ tribes obedience to God, Moses and Joshua to join with their brothers bore fruit:
  • They presumably already had rest in their land – it had been conquered.
  • But, now their rest included a participation in the rest of their brothers.

In fact, in Joshua 22 we see just how much they came to value this connectedness of the body of Israel.
  • They built an altar to bear witness to it.
  • Joshua 22:24 (ESV) — 24 No, but we did it from fear that in time to come your children might say to our children, ‘What have you to do with the Lord, the God of Israel?


Joshua 22:5 (ESV) — 5 Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

After Joshua commended them for their obedience he offered a word of exhortation.
  • He quoted Moses quoting God:
  • Deuteronomy 6:4–5 (ESV) — 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Some 1400+ years later the other Joshua – Jesus – would say:
  • Matthew 22:37–40 (ESV) — 37 …“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” 

Joshua’s words make clear, as we have seen previously, that obedience to the covenant sworn at Sinai was needed.
  • Israel had obligated itself to the law at Sinai.
  • If there were disobedience, Israel itself would come under a “cherem”.
  • Disobedience by any tribe would also bring God’s curses upon the entire body – as we just saw.

But, behind this outward conditional “works” based obedience, there was an inward heart issue.
  • Cling to him and…serve him with all your heart and with all your soul”.
  • Joshua exhorts the tribes to “cling” to God serving Him with all their heart and soul.
  • The Hebrew carries with it the idea of being physically “joined” to something.

The Greek LXX chose a word for “cling”, “kollao”, that is often used in texts that speak of sexual union.
  • Ephesians 5:31 (ESV) — 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

The point, apparently, was to convey how dependent upon and intimate the clinging was to be.
  • Theologically speaking, they were to be one with God with their heart, soul and mind.

Paul speaks of this intimate clinging too:
  • 1 Corinthians 6:17 (ESV) — 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

Who powers the “clinging” that Joshua exhorts?
  • Who is the Joiner?
  • Jeremiah 13:11 (ESV) — 11bso I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.
  • God chose Israel as His people; they did not choose him.
    • In fact, they failed over and over.
  • He chose to join Himself to them in covenant.

So, it seems that when Joshua spoke of clinging to God, he was alluding not just to being faithful to God in obedience as His chosen people.
  • He already said that.

But, given the intimacy of the term and the source of the clinging, it appears he was referring to something like the faith of Abraham.
  • A trust in what God has done.
  • A trust that He will do what He says He will do – that He was a covenant faithful God.

This trust is the very opposite of the idolatrous trust in themselves or others.
  • Sadly, the type of trust Israel was quite good at – 12 spies, Achan, Ai, etc.
  • The type we just read about in Jer. 13:11.

Moses alluded to a heart based trust/clinging this way:
  • Deuteronomy 10:16 (ESV) — 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

And, looking forward in God’s redemptive history, this meant that they were to cling to Christ as found in the Pentateuch:
  • The “He” who crushes the serpents head (Gen. 3:15).
  • The Promised Offspring (Gen. 26).

Jeremiah sums up the kind of clinging that Joshua was advocating.
  • Jeremiah 17:5–8 (ESV) — 5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. 6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Joshua 20:1-9 – Cities of Refuge

Our text today begins with the words, “Then the Lord said to Joshua...appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses” (vs. 1).
  • What stands out about these words is what they say about the varied concerns of God’s redemptive history.

(1) God’s redemptive history is multifaceted.
  • OT Scripture reveals God’s concern for Israel, holiness, sin, and covenant – the obvious things.
  • But it also reveals God’s concern for the owner of a brothel (Rahab), a pagan capital city (Nineveh), farming cycles (Exo. 23:11), and “the manslayer who strikes any person without intent” (vs. 3).

(2) Every facet of God’s redemptive history has and/or will come to fruition.
  • In Numbers, God first expressed His will for the cities of refuge – Numbers 35:9ff.
  • In our text, the cities of refuge come to fruition.

(3) Every facet of God’s redemptive history fulfills a purpose.
  • And this is where I want to focus in today’s lesson.
  • What is the point of the cities of refuge?

Joshua 20:2 says, “which I spoke to you through Moses”.
  • God’s spoke to Moses about the cities of refuge in Exodus 21 and Numbers 35.

In Exodus, God revealed His will concerning a “place to which he [the manslayer] may flee”.
  • Exodus 21:12–13 (ESV) — 12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. 13 But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee.
  • Interestingly, this text contains a “God is Sovereign” view of accidental death.
    • God let him fall into his hand
  • "The theological assumption is that the death of the victim occurred by the intervention of Providence; thus, the manslayer was the unwitting agent" – Preston Mayes.

Exodus 21:14 goes on to make an important distinction between the murderer and the manslayer.
  • Exodus 21:14 (ESV) — 14 But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.
  • The murderer is to be subject to death, in contrast to the manslayer that is to be given refuge.

In Numbers 35 He provides more details of the murderer/manslayer distinction.
  • Numbers 35:21–24 (ESV) — 21b The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him. 22 “But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or hurled anything on him without lying in wait 23 or used a stone that could cause death, and without seeing him dropped it on him, so that he died, though he was not his enemy and did not seek his harm, 24 then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these rules.

BTW – The “place” alluded to in Exodus 21:14 that will give refuge to the manslayer is God’s altar.
  • In Numbers and Joshua the “place” that was formerly associated with God’s altar is associated with the cities of refuge.
  • “The exact relationship between the altar and the asylum city is never specified” – Preston Mayes.
  • However the practice of God’s altar as a specific place of refuge was not abandoned.
  • “This is illustrated by two episodes in 1 Kings, where Adonijah and Joab sought temporary refuge by clinging to the altar (1 Kgs 1:50–53; 2:28)” – David Howard.

Having understood the origin of the events in Joshua 20 we can now answer our question –
  • What is the point of the cities of refuge?

The answer will be found in three things:
  • (1) They are an expression of God’s grace
  • (2) They are a solution to bloodguilt
  • (3) They are part of, and point to the Gospel


Grace To the Manslayer:
And if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not give up the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unknowingly, and did not hate him in the past” (vs. 5).

If the manslayer is not guilty of murder, why does he need God’s grace for protection?
  • There are at least two reasons the “manslayer” needs God’s grace.

(1) “In the ancient world blood revenge was widely practiced. The moment a person was killed, his nearest relative took responsibility for vengeance” – BKC.
  • If the “manslayer” was not afforded protection, the “avenger of blood” had a right to take his life.
  • “The avenger of blood had a legal status in society to carry out society’s (i.e., God’s) judgments and was by no means one who was to exact private vengeance” – David Howard.
  • Our text acknowledges this practice.
  • They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood” (vs. 3).
  • And if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not give up the manslayer into his hand” (vs. 5).

(2) Also, “it must…be recognized that whenever an innocent man is slain, the law considers the slayer guilty in [some] measure” – Preston Mayes.
  • Why?
  • The sanctity of human life.

“The reason lies in the ultimate respect that the Scriptures have for human life and for the land as the dwelling place of Yahweh Himself. Shedding an innocent man's blood, even unintentionally, involved bloodguilt, and no manslayer was considered clear of this guilt.” – Preston Mayes.
  • This means the “manslayer” had blood on his hands – even if he didn’t commit murder.
  • Our text “affirms the sanctity of human life, in that even an accidental death caused blood guilt that could be avenged if the killer did not go to a city of refuge” – David Howard.
  • It “breathes the sanctity of human life—both the manslayer’s and the dead man’s” – Dale Davis.

BTW – The distinction between “manslayer” and murderer and the nature of the bloodguilt underlies an important principal.
  • All sin is not equal and judgment is meted out accordingly.
  • “This shows that the biblical legislation did make distinctions in degrees of guilt and that God’s law was sensitive to motives and intent of the heart, in providing more lenient treatment for what modern criminal codes call “manslaughter” (as opposed to premeditated murder)” – David Howard.

This principal will even be in effect at judgment –
  • Revelation 20:12 (ESV) — 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

Grace To the Sojourner:
…and for the stranger sojourning among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there…” (vs. 9).

God’s grace extended beyond the Israelite to the sojourner.
  • The sojourner was a foreigner living in Israel – like Rahab and her household.
  • He was to enjoy “the same rights as the Jew” – Boice.
  • This practiced testified to “the oneness of the human race” as later testified to by Paul.
  • That this practice was in the OT “adds to the inclusive vision found in the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua” – David Howard.

BTW – Importantly, “Israel should not oppress [the sojourner] because they themselves were oppressed and know his soul (Ex 22:21 [H 20]; Deut 10:19). They were to love him as themselves (Lev 19:34)” – TWOT.
  • This is referring to Israel’s time in Egypt.


…a refuge from the avenger of blood” (vs. 3).
that he might not die by the hand of the avenger of blood…” (vs. 9).

An innocent human being had been killed.
  • This created a problem – blood had polluted God’s land.
  • “Both [murder and manslayer] incur bloodguilt and pollute the land, and both require atonement: murder by the execution of the murderer and manslaughter through the natural demise of the high priest” – Gordon Wenham.
  • Blood pollutes the land, whether that blood was shed via murder or manslaughter” – Dale Davis.

Preston Mayes puts the complexity of the problem as follows:
  • “Any shedding of innocent blood would defile the land in which Yahweh dwelled. The failure to execute a murderer would defile the land, for no other punishment was fitting for this crime. The execution of a manslayer would also pollute the land in which Yahweh dwelled, unless he was put to death because he left his city of refuge”.

Bloodguilt brought even more problems –
  • “If Israel failed to keep the land from being polluted, the implication of Numbers 35:34 is that Yahweh would no longer be with his people in the land and that Israel would no longer be successful in the land” – DOT:P.

Solution to Bloodguilt:
So how did the cities of refuge solve the bloodguilt problem?
  • And he shall remain in that city until he has stood before the congregation for judgment, until the death of him who is high priest at the time. Then the manslayer may return to his own town and his own home, to the town from which he fled” (vs. 6).

(1) Our text tells us that the “manslayer” is to make his case to the “congregation” at the city of refuge.
  • So his case is adjudicated, this is one way the problem of bloodguilt is addressed.
  • If they find him to be truthful he is to remain in the city of refuge.
  • Because of his bloodguilt the “manslayer” was still punished, in some measure.
  • “As Trent C. Butler says, the city is ‘at the same time refuge and prison’” – Dale Davis.

(2) The other way bloodguilt is addressed is given in the following stipulation –
  • He can only leave with “the death of him who is high priest” (vs. 6).
  • “The reasons behind this amnesty after the death of the high priest are not fully understood” – AYBD.

Bloodguilt Summary:
  • “The cities of refuge were, therefore, a provision that enabled Israel to keep the land. Without such a place, the avenger of blood would hunt the person down and kill the accused without any determination of guilt or innocence. If the accused was innocent and killed by the avenger of blood, this would pollute the land and lead to the loss of the land. This system was thus part of the Lord’s gracious provision that enabled a sinful people to live with a holy God” – DOT:P.

BTW – “The idea of asylum is not unique to the Hebrew tradition. Several ancient peoples, in the ancient Near East and elsewhere, had the idea that fugitives could gain sanctuary by proceeding to or fleeing to certain designated places” – AYBD.
  • But there was one distinction between Israel and its neighbors.
  • The distinction lays in “a basic difference in the evaluation of life and property” – Preston Mayes.
  • Israel’s neighbors allowed for economic or political solutions to the “manslayer” problem – Preston Mayes.
  • “Other ancient systems of law allowed the family of the victim to receive financial compensation from the murderer” – Preston Mayes.

Israel had no such option.
  • Numbers 35:32 (ESV) — 32 And you shall accept no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the high priest.
  • Life was priceless.

BTW 2 – The above expressions of God’s grace and how bloodguilt was handled seem to be in tension with the command to wipe out the Canaanites.
  • The tension seems all the more given that they are sandwiched within the Conquest texts.
  • How do we address this tension?


“In spite of the obvious differences, many have noted that Christ is indeed a refuge for us, like the refuge cities of Israel, and that many characteristics of these cities have spiritual parallels” – James Boice.
  • (1) “It was the duty of the Jews to clearly indicate the way to the cities of refuge” – Boice.
    • Jesus is the way and the truth and the life.
  • (2) “The doors of the cities of refuge were always unlocked” – Boice.
    • For God so loved the world…
  • (3) “The cities of refuge were not only for Jews but for people of all races” – Boice.
    • “Come to me all…”
  • (4) “If an ancient manslayer did not flee to one of the cities of refuge, there was no hope for him” – Boice.
    • “remain under God’s wrath”

The idea of refuge was not limited to the cities of refuge.
  • It pervades all of the OT.
  • It finds its most powerful expression when it is found in God.
  • Psalm 46:1–3 (ESV) — 1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
  • Psalm 62:6–7 (ESV) — 6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
  • Psalm 18:2 (ESV) — 2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

How do we find refuge in Christ?
  • Answer – in our union with Christ.
  • Romans 8:1 (ESV) — 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

This is why the author of Hebrews says:
  • Hebrews 6:18b (ESV) — 18b we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
  • Christ is the “hope set before us”.


Joshua 14:6-15 – Caleb Is Not About Us

Joshua 12 gives an overview of the Canaanite kings defeated by both Moses and Joshua.
  • In chapters 13-21, the land is distributed to the tribes of Israel by lot.
  • Joshua 19:51 (ESV) — 51 These are the inheritances that Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel distributed by lot at Shiloh before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land.
  • By lot” is meant to reveal the “active role of Yahweh” – EBD.
  • Israel was the steward of the land; God was the owner – EBD.

The Levites were also allotted cities and pastureland per Moses’ instruction.
  • Joshua 21:2 (ESV) — 2 And they said to them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, “The Lord commanded through Moses that we be given cities to dwell in, along with their pasturelands for our livestock.”

Sprinkled within these chapters are a number of other narratives; we will unwrap one of them.
  • Joshua 14:6-15 deals with Caleb’s special request.


Who is Caleb?
He was the son of Jephunneh from the tribe of Judah.
  • He was one of the spies Moses selected to spy out the promise land in Numbers 13.
  • Numbers 13:2 (ESV) — 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.”

The spies report –
  • Numbers 13:27–28 (ESV) — 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak [the Nephilim giants] there.
  • Numbers 13:31 (ESV) — 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.”

Caleb and Joshua’s report –
  • Numbers 13:30 (ESV) — 30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
  • Numbers 14:6–9 (ESV) — 6 And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.”

All of Israel rebelled against Caleb and Joshua and sought to stone them.
  • God intervened to save them and condemned Israel to wandering for 40 years.
  • Numbers 14:22–24 (ESV) — 22 none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. 24 But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.

God promised to give Caleb the land “into which he went”; the land he spied on.
  • This brings us to Joshua 14:6-15.

His Request:
The tribe of Judah comes to Joshua and Caleb makes a request.
  • “…You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me.” (vs. 6)

He continues…
  • Joshua 14:10–13 (ESV) — 10 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. 11 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. 12 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.” 13 Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance.

Couple of interesting observations:
  • It appears that the length of the Conquest to this point was about 5 years.
  • The Anakim were still present – the “giants” that brought such fear to the Israelites.
  • Caleb’s response to this – “I shall drive them out just as the Lord said”.

Why did Caleb spy out/want Hebron, the land of the Anakim?
  • James Boice has some pretty good speculation.

Hebron had a significant connection to Abraham.
  • “It was the only piece of Canaan that Abraham actually owned in his lifetime” – James Boice.
  • Genesis 13:18 (ESV) — 18 So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.
  • As we will see later, it also had a covenant significance.

Moreover, many significant people were buried at Hebron.
  • Sarah was buried there.
  • Abraham was buried there.
  • Isaac was buried there.
  • Rebekah was buried there.
  • Jacob was buried there.
  • Joseph was ultimately buried there.

Whatever was behind Caleb’s affinity for Hebron, Joshua granted his request (vs. 13).
  • Joshua blessed him
  • he gave Hebron to Caleb
  • It was “for an inheritance

The concept of blessing is “rich one in in biblical thought” – David Howard.
  • The idea behind the blessing was the bestowing of:
    • Long life
    • Children
    • Land
  • And significantly, the blessing also involved “an inheritance” of Abraham’s very own land.
    • We will hit on this again in a moment.


What does the author of Joshua mean to convey with this narrative about Caleb?
An example of Christian living?
  • Before we investigate, we need to hear a warning.

I completely agree with Marten Woudstra when he warns:
  • “The example element is present, but it is embedded in a story which conveys the history of the progress of God’s redemption. The events that happen in that historical context are nonrepeatable and unique. They cannot be simply lifted out of that context for purposes of a message today.”

In other words –
  • The Bible is not about us; it is about God working out His plans of recreation, redemption and reconciliation in history.
  • This fact obviously impacts us, but it is not about us.
  • We aren’t at its center.

For example, “How to Be a Caleb” would be lifting this story out of context “for purposes of a message today”.
  • This takes all the attention off of God and the text and puts it on us.
  • The text simply becomes a means for some clever application and it loses its primacy.
  • The underlying message becomes – Scripture only has “real” meaning when we “subjectify” it.

What is the context/background that makes Caleb’s story significant?
  • Genesis 13:14–18 (ESV) — 14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. 17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” 18 So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.

God covenanted with Abram in Genesis 12 (and 15).
  • He repeated the covenant in Genesis 13:16.
  • The covenant immediately found fulfillment when Abram “settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron”.
  • In response, Abram “built an altar to the Lord”.

So Hebron had some powerful symbolic significance.
  • It was a place of revelation from Yahweh.
  • It was a place where Yahweh began the now and not yet fulfillment of His covenant to Abram.
    • Just as Isaac was.
  • It was a place where Abram built an altar and worshiped Yahweh.

What this means is that Caleb’s inheritance of Hebron is a kind of “hyper fulfillment” of God’s covenant promises to Abram.
  • It is a specific instance of God’s continuing covenant faithfulness.
  • It is a specific instance of God continuing to work out His redemptive history.
  • It is part of the “scarlet thread” of the Abrahamic covenant of grace.
  • And because of this, it points to the ultimate covenant fulfillment,  “the inheriting of salvation in Christ” – Marten Woudstra.

Covenant Participation:
But wait…there is more!
  • Caleb’s story also shows how he was able to participate in God’s redemptive history.
  • Caleb was both a man of faith in God (he was counted as righteous) and an obedient follower of Yahweh (he was a recipient of the blessings of obedience).
  • How do we know?
    • His words
    • His actions
    • How he was described.

Caleb’s Words and Actions:
We saw in our OT Gospel lesson that the faith of Abram by which he was counted as righteous had two dimensions to it.
  • (1) Believing/Acting on what God has done.
  • (2) Trusting in the surety of God’s future promises.

By Caleb’s word and actions we see these two dimensions of faith expressed.
  • Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it” – (Num. 13:30)
    • Acting on what God has done.
  • “If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land – (Num. 14:8-9).
    • Trusting in God’s promises

Caleb, having experienced the covenant faithfulness of God in the Exodus, trusted that God would continue to do what He had promised.
  • Caleb’s faith acted courageously “upon the promises of god” – Richard Hess.
  • Israel cowered at the presence of the Canaanites…
  • BUT – Caleb looked to God’s promises.
  • Caleb’s eyes were on God’s word and promises to Abram, not on men’s doubts.

And this trust in God’s promises is clearly expressed in our Joshua 14:10+ text:
  • “‘And now, look how Yahweh has kept me alive, as he promised, these forty-five years … and now look how I am today eighty-five years old, yet I remain as strong today as the day when Moses sent me off; my strength is the same now as then for war and for going out and coming in.’ This is the way of biblical faith—it remembers what Yahweh has done, and remembers in gratitude” – Dale Davis.

BTW – It must be pointed out that Caleb’s trust also rested squarely in God’s word.
  • what the Lord said to Moses” – (vs. 6)
  • the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said” – (vs. 10a)
  • the Lord spoke this word to Moses” – (vs. 10b)
  • give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day” – (vs. 12)

“True faith always functions that way; it pleads God’s promises; it anchors itself upon the word of God. There can be no other foundation for faith” – Dale Davis.
  • This was the faith of Caleb.

Caleb Described:
Joshua 14:14 (ESV) — 14 Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.
  • The NIV translates “wholly followed” as “wholeheartedly”.
  • …he has a different spirit and has followed me fully” – Numbers 14:24.
  • …he has wholly followed the Lord” – Deut. 1:36.

What does it mean to have “wholly followed the Lord”?
  • It is another expression of Caleb’s two-dimensional faith.
  • But it goes beyond that.

The phrase “wholly followed” carries with it some significant connotations.
  • (1) To be a disciple
  • (2) To be spiritually faithful instead of an adulterer or idolater

BTW – Most of the insights into this phrase come from LXX’s translation of “epakoloutheo”.

Caleb the Disciple:
  • The LXX has verse 14 as “following” or “followed after” the Lord – Lexham Interlinear LXX.
  • The BDAG translates the LXX Greek as, “to apply oneself to someth. with eager dedication, follow after, i.e. devote oneself”.
  • The DBL also has “to devote oneself to”.
  • The idea here is one of a consistent, faithful follower and all that that would entail.
  • Denying self, obedience, etc.

Caleb the Faithful:
  • The TDNT also suggests that there is an important contrast being made between one who goes after other gods with one who goes after Yahweh.
  • The idea is that there are those who commit spiritual adultery and idolatry and then there is a faithful covenant member – Caleb.

This concept of spiritual adultery is a common theme in the OT.
  • Numbers 25:1–3 (ESV) — 1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.
  • Hosea 1:2 (ESV) — 2 When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.”
  • Hosea 2:13 (ESV) — 13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord.

But Caleb didn’t seek “her lovers” or forget the Lord.
  • He remembered and acted upon God’s promises.
  • Deuteronomy describes such a person.
  • Deuteronomy 5:32–33 (ESV) — 32 You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 33 You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.

Caleb was able to participate in God’s redemptive history because –
  • He believed and trusted in God’s work and promises.
  • He stood upon the truth of God’s word.
  • He was a devoted, obedient disciple of God.
  • He was faithful, not a spiritual adulterer.

Caleb’s faith had the following qualities –
  • “He did not minimize the problems—the giants and the fortified cities—but he magnified God” – BKC.
  • Trust in God does not bury its head in the sand.
  • Caleb still had to fight to secure Hebron – “I shall drive them out” (vs. 12).
  • His faith withstood 40 years of wandering in the desert and watching his peers die because of their disobedience.
  • God’s promises sustained him.
  • Romans 8:6 (ESV) — 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.