Story of Caleb in the Bible
Whatever else the name, Caleb, means, it first and foremost represents great and indestructible faith; and secondly, it is a name which without fail captures the inestimable virtue of courage.
Caleb first appears in the Bible in the Book of Numbers, as Moses, Joshua, and the children of Israel are on the precipice of the Promise Land, the land of Canaan which was first promised to their faithful father, Abraham. This was a good land and a large land, a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8).
Caleb’s story begins in the thirteenth chapter of Numbers, when God commands Moses to send one worthy man of each tribe of Israel to ‘search the land’ of Canaan: “Go up this way into the South, and go up to the mountains, and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds; whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land” (Numbers 13:18-20).
Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, of the tribe of Judah was among the twelve. These great men of repute were the leaders of their tribes, the “heads of the children of Israel” (Numbers 13:2-3).
When the twelve leaders of the tribes arrived in the land of Canaan, to their astonishment, the fruit of the land was so large, that they had to carry a single cluster of grapes between two of them, with the branch thereof propped up between their staffs. Not only was the fruit of the land immense, but there were giants in the land. The twelve leaders described their predicament when they returned back to Moses and the children of Israel: “We were in our own sight as grasshoppers and so were we in their sight” (Numbers 13:23-33).
The Word says that at that point, “all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!” (Numbers 14:2)–and they proceeded to complain against Moses and Aaron and God and all the Godly among them, and determined that they should return back to Egypt, instead of to the land promised from ages ago to their fathers. How quickly had they forgotten that the reason for their deliverance from Egypt was so that God could establish them in the land of Canaan, and through them eventually bring about the birth of His promised Savior.
Caleb, however, “stilled the people before Moses and said, ‘Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30). How sweet a moment in the life of faith; how soothing Caleb’s words amidst those of doubt among his peers.
Caleb possess no fear; he entertained no thoughts of doubt in his heart. For he had observed with his own eyes and discerned in his spirit, the mighty acts of the LORD his God, who had repeatedly delivered him time and again. This was a personal deliverance for Caleb, for He knew God. And God had delivered him: not some person he read about in the Scriptures or all the children of Israel, but him.
Caleb had experienced, firsthand, God’s deliverance from Pharaoh’s pursuing horses and chariots of war; Caleb had eaten the miraculous bread which the LORD had given him in the wilderness of Sinai (Exodus 16:5); Caleb had been saved miraculously in the dessert when Moses struck the rock at Mount Horeb (Exodus 17:6); Caleb had seen the cloud of the Presence of God resting in the tabernacle by day and the appearance of fire by night (Numbers 9:16); Caleb had witnessed God’s power to deliver whom He would deliver again and again; he was not about to forget!
Caleb was a true believer; but aside from Joshua, who joined him in a rally of faith, the leaders of the tribes of Israel were faithless, wicked men whose act of rebellion spurred God to declare that that generation of Israelites would never see the sweet land of milk and honey which He had sworn to give unto their fathers (Numbers 13:20).
“But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it” (Numbers 14:24).
Whether we are named Caleb or not, may we also possess the faith and courage of the man, so that we, too, may inherit all the Promises which our God has made individually to each and everyone one of us. By the grace of God the Father and faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!
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