The story of the Israelites’ partial obedience to God is interrupted here in the first chapter with a short five verse vignette about the generosity, bravery, and boldness of one specific family.
Caleb said, “Whoever attacks and captures Kiriath-sepher, I will give my daughter Achsah to him as a wife.” So Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s youngest brother, captured it, and Caleb gave his daughter Achsah to him as his wife. When she arrived, she persuaded Othniel to ask her father for a field. As she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What do you want?” She answered him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me springs also.” So Caleb gave her both the upper and lower springs. The descendants of the Kenite, Moses’s father-in-law, had gone up with the men of Judah from the City of Palms to the Wilderness of Judah, which was in the Negev of Arad. They went to live among the people. – Judges 1:12-16
This is a seemingly random story about Caleb’s family. Yet when we focus in on each of the three main characters in this story, we see qualities worth emulating.
This is not the first mention of Caleb in the Bible. In Numbers 13, he was among the men who went up to spy upon the land that God had promised His people. The spies encountered giant men of renown and then returned to the people. Every spy except for Caleb and Joshua were afraid and told the people that the task was impossible. Only Joshua and Caleb stood up with courageous and radical faith, proclaiming the promises of God and insisting that with His strength they would be victorious.
What is all the more intriguing is the fact that Caleb was not a descendant of any tribe in Judah. He and his family came from the Kenizzites. Yet because they were such devout followers of the Lord, they were grafted into and assimilated into the tribe of Judah.
All this being said, we know that he was a man of courageous and radical faith in the Lord. He was a man who wanted his daughter to marry a man of courageous and radical faith as well. This culture had customs we may seem strange. Arranged marriages made perfect sense to this culture, and so Caleb was not devaluing his daughter when he offered her up to a willing and courageous husband.
What is worth focusing on is the fact that Caleb was kind and generous. When his daughter came to him asking for springs of water because of how barren the land was, he graciously and generously gave her more than she needed. This is evidenced by the sweeping gift of the upper and lower springs.
Othniel was clearly a man of bravery and courage. He went up to capture Kiraith-sepher, and with the Lord’s help he did just that. It is important to note that this city and the surrounding land was land God had promised to Caleb through the lips of Joshua (Joshua 14:6-15) and not just the land-grabbing of a greedy man.
We will see in just a couple chapters that Othniel was the first judge raised up for Israel. He would lead his people into forty years of peace (spoiler alert: it doesn’t last). His bravery and courage will be on display in that passage as well.
Achsah is seen in this story as a bold woman, a woman who was analytical and astute. She surveyed the land and realized that without springs, her family would not be able to survive for long in the desert landscape. Her character reminds me of Proverbs 31:15-16.
She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and portions for her female servants. She evaluates a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard with her earnings. – Proverbs 31:15-16
She had a desire right off the bat to provide for her family and her estate. She asked Othniel to ask his father in law for the springs and for some reason not explicitly stated in Scripture, he didn’t. With respect balanced with boldness, Achsah takes matters into her own hands and asks Caleb for the springs herself.
Courage. Kindness. Generosity. Boldness. Faith.
In this family we see what the entire people of God should have been characterized by.
Caleb’s family is, in miniature, what all Israel should be like. – Timothy Keller
I would close by reminding you that whenever we look at characters in the Old Testament, we shouldn’t be using them as moral figures to follow. Yes, the heroes of faith in the Old Testament have some great qualities, but more often than not they have some incredible flaws as well. That will be on vibrant display in the book of Judges.
So when we see Caleb, Othniel, and Achsah in this vignette as worthy models of character, let us look beyond them, ahead of them, to the life of Christ.
The kindness, boldness, and generosity of Jesus can be seen, remembered, and meditated on via the lens of the kindness, boldness, and generosity of this family.
In His Name,
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