The second half of Joshua begins at chapter 13, which we studied in our last essay. The first phase of the conquest was complete; and so it was time to divide the land.
The first thing we noted was that the conquest had not been complete, even though the story had been told in the first 12 chapters in such a way as to give the impression that it was complete. In 13:1 the Lord told Joshua, “Very much of the land still remains to be possessed.” And in the following verses several districts in both the south and the north were listed as still unconquered (vv. 2-6).
We also were informed in 13:1, “Joshua was old and advanced in age.” So if he were to complete his work, which included the division of the land, before his death, he had to get on with it. So the Lord commanded Joshua to divide the land, even though it was not yet all in Israel’s possession (v. 7).
Next we saw a reminder that Moses had given two and a half tribes an inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan. That was followed by a description of their inheritance (vv. 8-13). And then the author reminded us further that the Levites received no inheritance of land. Their inheritance was the “offerings by fire,” which the book of Numbers tells us included tithes of all of Israel’s offerings (Num. 18:21-32). Then we noted a detailed description of the inheritance of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (vv. 15-33).
In this essay, we study chapter 14, which reveals the first part of the distribution of land made by Joshua. Verses 1-5 are a kind of introduction to the division of land on the western side of the Jordan, a division among the remaining nine and one half tribes. The actual division is then recorded from 14:6 through chapter 19. If you would like to look at the overall boundaries Joshua was working with, and the instructions from Moses that he was following, that information is found in Numbers, chapters 34, and chapter 35:52 and following.
Beginning at verse six we see the story about how the first apportionment of land went to Caleb. Even before the casting of the lots which would establish the inheritances of the various tribes, Caleb and the people of Judah came to Joshua to remind Joshua that forty-five years earlier Moses had promised a particular portion of the land; namely the hill country of Hebron, to Caleb. Hebron is located about 25 miles west of Jerusalem. That promise is not recorded in the Bible. Num. 14:24 records a general promise to Caleb that he and his family would have an inheritance in the land, but no specific promise of Hebron is recorded there. However, Joshua had heard Moses make that promise. So Joshua gave Hebron to Caleb (v. 13).
As we turn to application of the passage, we noted immediately that the real spiritual power of the chapter focuses not in the story but in the person of Caleb. Thus to apply the passage to our lives, we must study the life of Caleb.
As it turns out, Caleb is a terrific spiritual model! He is inspiring, because he was 85 years old at the time; and his life illustrates that solid faith can be maintained to any age. I would like to point out four aspects of his character that demonstrate his excellence as a model. It is possible that I got these points from some source, but if so, I do not know what it was.
First, Caleb had a faith that never wavered. If you turn back to Num. 13 and 14, you will see that Caleb’s story unfolded exactly as he told it in the passage before us. At that time Israel was poised to o enter the Promised Land. But the twelve spies sent out by Moses, one of which was Caleb, brought back a report of fortifications and giants. Ten of them reported that Israel was not strong enough to take the land.” But two of them, Joshua and Caleb, believed that with God’s help, they could do it. As Alan Redpath once said, “The majority had great giants but little God. Caleb [and Joshua] had a great God and little giants.”
Then through all forty years of wandering in the wilderness, Caleb kept the faith. He never doubted that God would fulfill his promise that Caleb and Joshua would enter the land. When the people rebelled against Moses, Caleb did not. Never was he among those who grumbled. Never did he want to return to the leeks and garlic of Egypt. Never did he participate in disobedience and idolatry. Caleb had a faith that never wavered.
Second, Caleb had a vision that never dimmed. Caleb was able to keep the faith all those years, because he had a vision of God’s promises fulfilled. He knew in his heart that God would one day bring him into the land. And he also had a vision of keeping the covenant. Those who do not believe that it is possible to keep the law cannot keep it. But Caleb believed it was possible, and he did it. Yes, he had a vision of keeping the covenant, and thus of maintaining the faith. Caleb had a vision that never dimmed in addition to having a faith that never wavered.
Third, Caleb had a strength that never weakened. This one is rather amazing. Caleb testified in verse 11 that he was as strong at age 85 as he had been when Moses sent him into Canaan as a spy forty-five years earlier. Now I am certain he meant physical strength, because he specifically mentioned that he was strong “for war.” So Caleb’s physical strength had not diminished in 45 years. But I believe we can say the same thong about his spiritual strength. Caleb had the power of God to strengthen him both spiritually and physically.
Finally fourth, Caleb had a victory that was complete. At this point you might want to jump ahead to chapter 15 to see the end of the story. We see there that Caleb succeeded in driving the Canaanites out of his territory. Moreover among them were three sons of Anak, that is, three giants. These were the same giants that the ten spies had said Israel could not defeat. This is significant. None of the tribes were able to clear the Canaanites from their territory. Indeed time and time again we read that they were unable to drive them out. It appears that Caleb was the only one who succeeded in expelling the enemy from his territory. The man who followed the Lord in everything for so many years was the only man who gained complete victory.
What a model! What an inspiration! How many of us, at whatever age we might be, has a faith that never wavers, a vision that never dims, a strength that never weakens (physically or spiritually), and a victory that is complete. My dear reader, I don’t know about you, but I know that I want to be like Caleb. I want to move through my old age with undimmed faith. I want my vision to get clearer and clearer year-by-year. I want to move into old age not content to survey the past, but eager for fresh battles with the enemies of God.
If Caleb could do it under the Old Covenant, then we can do it under the New Covenant. We may not all live to the age of 85, but we can end our earthly journey like Caleb—strong, courageous, assured, bold in faith, and able to say with the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). Praise the Lord!