Lectionary Calendar
Friday, June 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Joshua 14

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-5


CRITICAL NOTES.—The section of the history which is introduced in the first five verses of this chapter terminates with chap. 19., and deals with the division of the land lying between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, among the nine and a half tribes.

Joshua 14:1. Eleazar the priest] He was solemnly set apart to this office in Mount Hor, just before the death of his father. As the distribution of the land was to be by lot, Eleazar the priest is named before Joshua. This, too, is the order in which the names occur in Numbers 34:17. As Keil points out: “In every other respect, even in the distribution of the land, Joshua was at the head of the commission appointed for that purpose, as we may clearly see from Joshua 14:6, chap. Joshua 17:14, Joshua 18:3.” The high priest only had precedence in things purely sacred. To consult God was the first step in dividing the land, and this was to be done by God’s high priest. Heads of the fathers of the tribes] Called “princes” in Numbers 34:18, following which the ten names of the representatives are given.

Joshua 14:4. The children of Joseph were two tribes] Levi not being counted. This is stated to show how the number of twelve tribes was nevertheless preserved in the territorial division. Cities … with their suburbs] The extent of these suburbs was to be one thousand cubits beyond the city wall, in each direction (Numbers 35:4-5). The difficulty of the verses in Numbers is well explained by Keil. Therefore they gave] Heb. = “And they gave.” It is not said that this was the reason why the Levites had no portion of territory.



The principal topic of these verses is the division by lot of the inheritance of the nine and a half tribes. The lot was of the Lord; the details of the method in which it was obtained are not stated. Probably the process was carried on at the door of the tabernacle, and presided over by Eleazar, the high priest. Further than this we know little. The Rabbins think that two urns were used, one containing the names of the districts to be chosen, and the other the names of the tribes, a simultaneous selection being made from each urn. The employment of two urns, however, is a mere speculation. The operation would have been equally definite had the representative of each tribe drawn for his people the name of the district from one urn. However the process may have been conducted, the issue was directed by Jehovah. “The lot was cast into the lap” (lit., “bosom,” perhaps meaning that of the vessel or garment employed); “but the whole disposing thereof was of the Lord.”

Looking in a general way at the subject of the verses, the following thoughts are suggested:—

I. An insignificant lot, feeble creatures to occupy it, and the lot, nevertheless, chosen by God. The Jews fully believed in the Divine guidance in this form. In the solemn judgment of Achan, the question, to them, must have been placed altogether beyond doubt. Scripture continually teaches that God directly affords His guidance to men, and that in other matters than on occasions like this. “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”

1. God’s choice of our lots in this life is no fiction, but an evident reality. It is not manifest and visible; it is nevertheless placed beyond doubt. No eye could see the hand of God within the urn from which the princes made their selection; that hand was there notwithstanding. It is thus always. We can never pronounce upon this as we look at the process; we can often speak confidently as we mark the results. Taking this case, for instance, of the dividing of the land, compare the prophetic blessings of Jacob and Moses with the issues of the lot. “The portion, says Masius,” as reported by Dr. Clarke, “fell to each tribe just as Jacob had declared two hundred and fifty years before, in the last moments of his life, and Moses immediately before his death; for to the tribe of Judah fell a country abounding in vineyards and pastures; to Zebulon and Issachar, sea coasts; in that of Asher was plenty of oil, wheat, and metals; that of Benjamin, near to the temple, was, in a manner, between the shoulders of the Deity; Ephraim and Manasseh were distinguished with a territory blessed in a peculiar manner by heaven; the land of Naphtali extended from the west to the south of the tribe of Judah” (cf. chap. Joshua 19:34). While there is some difficulty as to the case of Naphtali, the general correctness of this description of agreement is unquestionable. In the same way who can fail to see God’s guidance and choice in the lot of Abraham, of Joseph, of Moses, or of Cyrus. Similarly Christ marked out the future of some of His apostles. He said of John words which seemed to intimate a long life; to Peter, “Thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee;” and, not least noteworthy, of Paul, “I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” No less does God choose the lot of His servants now. The unseen process. The reality of the fact.

2. This concern of God in the lot which men shall occupy in life is very wonderful in its condescension. How glorious is the universe over which Jehovah rules! How insignificant must any one of these little divisions of Canaan have appeared to Him! How frail, physically and religiously, were the creatures who were to occupy these little lots! For what a mere point of time, to Him who is the Eternal, could they hold them! How very wonderful does Divine condescension appear as we see the Divine attention seemingly concentrated for century after century on these few lots of land in Palestine, which pass successively towards, into, and through the hands of so many occupants! What a mere morsel of a lot each individual life is concerned with, and for what a mere moment of time is the lot held by any particular life! Yet all this is but a picture, taken from the gallery of Providence by the hand of Revelation, and held out to the gaze of men. It is only a section, and that given but in outlines, of a long panoramic view of God’s care of human lives, which began with Adam, which has never ceased with any one of his descendants, which is being extended to-day, and in which, it may be, the redeemed shall presently, through the ages of eternity, examine with wonder, awe, and admiration, the wisdom, patience, and love displayed in God’s marvellous care for His creatures.

II. Many lots, and many would be choosers, but the choice of the Lord the only choice worth following. Men see about them in life an endless variety of conditions, and not a few think the lot of their neighbour better than their own. Men and women cry out not only for a “changed cross,” but for a changed lot. Contrary to what they feel to be the leadings of Providence, not a few try to force their way through life in some other direction. They have no care to study the will of God, and not unfreqnently try to avoid it. Either here or hereafter, the sorrowful issues of a course like this cannot but disclose its folly. The following things should be borne in mind touching the choice of God:—

1. It is the choice of one who knows us perfectly. We know little of ourselves. Every day’s experience proves this. The very proverbs which have obtained an abiding place in our literature prove it: “Man, know thyself;” “The greatest study of mankind is man,” etc. God knows how much we can bear; how much prosperity, how much adversity, how much change, how much monotony. He knows us altogether.

2. It is the choice of one who sees our lot as perfectly as He knows ourselves. We can see no distance before us. We cannot take into the account what our great poet calls the “millioned accidents” which intervene between our plans and their results, and “blunt the sharpest intents.” All these, even as we ourselves, are “naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

3. It is the choice of one who prepares our lot beforehand. The lot of our lives is no haphazard thing. God had been four hundred and thirty years preparing these lots for the Israelites. From the call of Abraham onward, a hundred events shew the careful preparation of the Lord.

4. It is the choice of one who ever holds our lot well within His own control. Nothing surprises Him. Nothing defeats His purpose. Nothing escapes without the boundless circle of His management. Nothing changes His benevolent designs. “He is in one mind, who can turn Him?” Only we ourselves, by persistent sin, can break away from His gracious intentions.

5. It is the choice of one who equally controls all surrounding lots. All the lots which lie around our own, all events of others which touch upon the events of our own lives, are also at His bidding. And “All things work together for good to them,” etc.

These are but items in the list which, could we read it fully, would tell us of His infinite fitness to undertake for us. Let the song of the after ages, from the lips of the descendants of Israel, bear its witness to the blessedness of the choice of the Lord (cf. Psalms 47:1-4). The children of these very people, centuries later, learned to cry out in a great and irrepressible joy: “O clap your hands all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.… He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom He loved.”

III. The Divine choice of human lots acquiesced in by men, or resisted by men, and God’s will alike prevalent in either case.

1. Think of God’s choice in its interworking with the willing efforts of His own people. The land was to be divided by lot, but the lot could only point out the district; the extent of its boundaries had to be decided by the leaders of the people. A large tribe was to have much territory; a small tribe was to have little. That was the general rule for the distribution (Numbers 26:51-56; Numbers 33:54). “The lot,” says Clericus, “appears to have determined only the situation, but not the size of the fields.” So Calvin, Masius, and Keil also expound. God determined the situation, and, saving regulations to guide them, He left men to determine the extent. It is much the same in our lives now. God interworks with the man who follows His will, and while He shapes the life in its main features, He leaves very much to ourselves. He leaves much to our faithfulness in conflicts which yet remain. He leaves much to our energy and industry in daily toil. He leaves much to our judgment, asking us in all difficulties to refer back to Him for further guidance. Thus, Providence is no mere machine which forces us into life, through life, and then presently forces us out of life. We are purposely left to determine much ourselves, thus forming and cultivating and proving our own character. “We are workers together with God.”

2. Consider God’s choice in its triumph over those who oppose His will and oppose His people. Ultimately, as many instances bear testimony, His way prevails. It was thus with Joseph’s brethren, with Pharaoh, with Haman, and with others of those who set themselves against the Lord, and against the people whom He called His own. (a) It is useless to resist God in His plans for our personal life.

“There’s a Divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.”—Hamlet.

He who wants his own way in life without hindrance, must begin by choosing submission to the way of the Lord.

“Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours to make them Thine.”—In Memoriam.

(b) It is equally useless to resist God in His plans for others. One of the greatest instances of this has recently entered upon the pages of history. In order to prevent the escape of their slaves, the American Senate enacted the Fugitive Slave Law, which required, under severe penalties, that no one should harbour the fugitive who was fleeing from bondage, or in any way assist his escape. But God’s time for the end of American slavery had come, and the effort to retain it in greater strength did but hasten its overthrow. The operation of the Act is thus described by the late Wm. Arnott: “The stroke which was intended to rivet the fetters of the slave more firmly, guided in its descent by an unseen hand, fell upon a brittle link, and broke it through. The newspapers announced that the cruel device had been enacted into a law. The intelligence fell like a spark on the deep compassion that lay pent up in a woman’s heart, and kindled it into a flame. The outburst took the form of a book, the instrument of power usually employed in these later ages of the world. It is certainly true, and is widely known, that the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Law produced the book, and that the book caused a panorama of slavery to pass before the eyes of millions in America and Europe, inexpressibly augmenting the public opinion of the civilised world against the whole system, root and branch. Let no one imagine that we are elevating little things into an undue importance; we speak of Jehovah’s counsel, and how it stands erect and triumphant over all the devices of men. He is wont to employ weak things to confound the mighty. Long ago He employed the tears of a helpless child and the strong compassion of a woman (Exodus 2:6) as essential instruments in the exodus of an injured race, and it would be like Himself if, in our day, while statesmen and armies contend in the senate and the battle field, He should permit women who remain at home to deal the blow which decides the victory, and distribute the resulting spoil. ‘He sits King upon the floods.’ ‘All are His servants.’ ‘Stand still and see the salvation of God.’ ”

Such has ever been the way in which God has made it apparent that “the counsel of the wicked shall not stand.” He may work by feeble means, as though He would shew the abundance of His power, but His way must stand. He who opposes the will of God does but hasten his own overthrow (Jeremiah 13:24-25). In this, as in many things besides, the volume of Divine revelation and that of human history are one.



I. The promised possession in its reality. “Which the children of Israel inherited.” The promise given to Abram, and repeated through several generations, was not merely a promise. The time for actual inheritance had come at last. God’s promises all end in an estate.

II. The promised possession in its need of faith and patience. The inheritance had been a long time coming. More than four hundred and fifty years had passed since the Lord called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees to go into the land, and look upon it as the future home of his people. Canaan was for so long “The Promised Land,” that it got to bear that name, a fact not a little significant, intimating, perhaps, something of the long struggle between human hope and human impatience. He who “waits on the Lord” may well wait in confidence. “The vision is yet for an appointed time.”

III. The promised possession in relation to the grace and power of God. Now that the people had to last come to the inheritance, what a picture was presented in the path behind them of the longsuffering and help of Jehovah. Egypt, the Exodus, the Wilderness, the crossing of the Jordan, the fall of Jericho, and the various victories which followed, were all eloquent of the power of the Divine arm and the love of the Divine heart. What had the people done apart from God? We come into nothing worth holding, saving as we reach it by the same might and the same love. “Not by might, nor by power,” etc. As when we look back from each valuable estate in life, we have to feel that God hath wrought all, so when we look forward to blessings for which we wait, let us be willing to accept the Lord’s words, “Without Me ye can do nothing.”

IV. The promised possession on earth a possession in which rest is only partial. The land which Israel was about to divide, could only be entered upon with much care and much conflict. Faith, patience, wisdom, and work were still largely needed. It is ever thus with all estates on earth, not excepting our more spiritual possessions. Rest is broken, not only by toil, but by conflict. We never get an inheritance here in which there are not left some foes to dispute the possession with us.

V. The promised possession in heaven a possession in which rest is perfect. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” It is only at the point of death that we come to the last of our foes, but after that the inheritance is undisputed for ever. We must not think, however, that the rest is free from work. It has no toil, yet it is full of activity. As has been remarked, while Scripture teaches that heaven is perfect rest, it also says of some there, “They rest not day nor night.” Inaction must be worse than toil. How blessed must be the activity which is all prompted by love, which knowns no conflict, and which feels no care!


I. The lot of God in its silent and invisible working. The unseen chariot of Providence is drawn by invisible steeds, and the wheels thereof run noiselessly.

II. The lot of God in its extensive range. It dealt with the whole country. Providence has no waste land. Every acre of the universe is under its inspection and cultivation.

III. The lot of God in its mysterious complexity. Every single lot had its relation to every other lot, to every year in each succeeding century of Israelitish history, to every inhabitant of the land through all that period, and thus to nations, far and near, outside of Canaan.

IV. The lot of God in its irreversible issues. The lot once taken was not to be altered. The ways of Providence shew no hesitation, and suffer no readjustment by men.

V. The lot of God in its witness to Divine wisdom and love. The wisdom is corroborated by the song of the generations following (Psalms 47:0); the love is apparent in the condescension which shews such care at the time, and in the patience which helps and blesses for so long a period afterwards. God not only chooses the portions of His people, but gives them many an after-occasion to sing, “Thou maintainest my lot. The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.”


“It is somewhat remarkable that the casting of the lots was stopped as soon as Judah and Joseph had received their shares. The command of God, that the whole land, even that which had not yet been conquered, should be portioned out amongst the nine tribes and a half (chap. Joshua 13:1-7), would lead us to expect that when once the casting of the lots had commenced, it would proceed uninterruptedly, until every tribe had received its share; and that it would only have to enter it in reliance upon the Divine promise, and exterminate, or at least subjugate, the Canaanites who still remained. But, instead of this, as soon as the shares had been allotted to two tribes and a half, the camp was removed from Gilgal to Shiloh (chap. Joshua 14:6, Joshua 18:1; Joshua 18:9), and the tabernacle set up there; and the other tribes manifested so little anxiety to receive their inheritance, that Joshua had to say to them, ‘How long are ye slack to go to possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you?’ He then appointed a commission, consisting of twenty-one men, three from each tribe, and sent them out to survey the country, and bring home a description of it, and to divide it into seven parts. And it was not till after the description of the country, thus arranged according to its cities, had been received, that he was able to proceed with the lot, and distribute to each tribe its appointed share. The reason for this interruption is not stated. Masius (on chap. Joshua 15:1-4) thinks it necessary to assume, that after the defeat of the Canaanites in the south and the north, the division of the conquered land was commenced by the territory which fell to the tribes of Judah and Joseph being awarded by lot, without any accurate measurement, and that only the two tribes mentioned, as being the most powerful, were allowed to draw lots for it. By the appropriation of the southern district of Palestine to these tribes, the camp at Gilgal was well guarded from any sudden attack on the part of the enemy; an important precaution, as the other tribes had shewn so little desire to take possession of the inheritance which was hereafter to be assigned to them. The exact distribution of the land was therefore postponed until messengers had been despatched in every direction to make a survey of the country, and to bring back an accurate description. This view is generally approached by Rosenmüller, De Wette, and Lengerke.” [Keil, pp. 346–7.] To this assumption of Masius, however, Keil very properly objects that “it is at variance with the Divine command to divide the whole country by lot amongst the nine tribes and a half, the unconquered as well as the conquered portions, and almost destroys the value and defeats the purpose of the lot.” Probably, as with the seven tribes later on, the lot merely decided the general position to be occupied by Judah, Ephraim, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, leaving the more exact adjustment of territory to be made after the general survey had taken place. This accords best with the subsequent settlement of Simeon within the lot roughly given at first to Judah, and with the subsequent cession of towns and territory made by Judah and Ephraim to the smaller tribe of Dan.


“It is here repeated for the third time, with regard to the Levites, that they were not included in the number, so as to have the portion of a tribe assigned to them; but it is mentioned for a different purpose, for it is immediately after added that the sons of Joseph were divided into two tribes, and were thus privileged to obtain a double portion. Thus had Jacob prophesied (Genesis 49:0), or rather, like an arbiter appointed by God, he had in this matter preferred the sons of Joseph to the others. God therefore assumed the Levites to Himself as a peculiar inheritance, and in their stead substituted one of the two families of Joseph.”—[Calvin.]

Verses 6-15


Joshua 14:6. Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite] “A very interesting question arises as to the birth and parentage of Caleb. He is, as we have seen, styled ‘the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite,’ and his younger brother Othniel, afterwards the first Judge, is also called ‘the son of Kenaz’ (Joshua 15:17; Judges 1:13; Judges 3:9; Judges 3:11). On the other hand, the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 2:0 makes no mention whatever of either Jephunneh or Kenaz, but represents Caleb, though obscurely, as being a descendant of Hezron and a son of Hur (see, too, chap. 4). Again, in Joshua 15:13, we have this singular expression, ‘Unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a part among the children of Judah;’ and in Joshua 14:14, the no less significant one, ‘Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite, because that he wholly followed Jehovah God of Israel.’ It becomes therefore quite possible that Caleb was a foreigner by birth, a proselyte incorporated into the tribe of Judah.” [Smith’s Bib. Dict.] See also Crosby’s remarks, in loc., on the similar conjecture of Lord Hervey. The thing that the Lord said unto Moses] Comparing Numbers 13:22; Numbers 14:24; Deuteronomy 1:36, with this plea offered by Caleb, it seems sufficiently clear that God had promised Hebron to Caleb for a possession.

Joshua 14:7. As it was in mine heart] “The expression evidently denotes sincerity, the heart being thus opposed to deceitful words. He acted honestly according to the command given him, without gloss or dissimulation.” [Calvin.]

Joshua 14:9. Surely the land, etc.] Although Hebron is not named in any of the verses in the Pentateuch which refer to the mission of the spies it seems to have been mentioned to Caleb in the promise of Moses, the written history being only an epitome of that which actually took place.

Joshua 14:10. These forty and five years] Thirty-eight of these were spent in the wilderness, and the remaining seven had been occupied in the conquest of the land. This is the most important of the chronological data afforded by the book.

Joshua 14:12. This mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day] Shewing, as suggested under verses 6-9, that Hebron and its neighbourhood had been mentioned by name in the Divine Promise.

Joshua 14:14. Unto this day] “The book of Joshua was therefore written while Caleb still lived.” [Crosby] This, however, is by no means certain; for there is, at least, the possibility of correctness in Keil’s remark: “In Joshua 14:14-15, the author appends to some observations of his own, the narrative, which he has copied verbatim from the original documents.”

Joshua 14:15. The name of Hebron before was Kirjath Arba] “City of Arba.” Hengstenberg contends that the original name was Hebron, that Arba, with the Anakim, did not found the city, but conquered it, and that not till after the time of Abraham’s residence there (cf. Genesis 23:2; Numbers 13:22). The land had rest from war] This is repeated from chap. Joshua 11:23, shewing that the further division of the land was unaccompanied with any general conflict with the Canaanites who remained unsubdued.



Whether Caleb was a native of Israel or a foreign proselyte (cf. Crit. Notes, V.6), he was reckoned among the tribe of Judah. He was one of the foremost men in the tribe, and while his exaltation may have been greatly owing to his faithfulness as one of the spies sent out by Moses, there must have been a preeminence of some kind even to account for his selection on that important occasion. Perhaps he had already shewn some of those traits of the noble character which go conspicuously adorned his after-life. As Caleb belonged to the tribe of Judah, the men of Judah came to support him in his request to Joshua. His privileges and honour would be their honour also. As the representative of Judah in the distribution of the land (cf. Numbers 34:19), it was the more desirable that Caleb’s grant of Hebron should not seem to be in any measure the outcome of his official position. In Caleb’s petition and its reception we may notice the following things:—

I. Earnest piety linked with a remembrance of God’s gracious words. “Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said.” These two features are each contributive to the other: the man who is truly pious will love to dwell on the words of the Lord, and the man whose memory cherishes Divine words will find them helpful to his piety.

1. God both suffers and encourages us to find a stimulus in the thought of personal reward. For forty-five years Caleb had dwelt with pleasure on “this thing that the Lord said.” The name and the thought of Hebron had become part of his very life. He could never forget these gracious words of the Lord. The wilderness could not hide them. The terrible plagues and judgments could not obliterate them. Every one of his companions above the age of twenty, excepting Joshua, had died since this “thing that the Lord had said” was spoken; let what would die, that lived on fresh as ever. And it is not wrong to dwell with joy on the rewards which God promises to us personally. This may not be the highest motive in service, but men are very human, and God’s kindness meets them where they are. The noble hymn of Francis Xavier is inspiring in its loftiness, but the key in which it is set is not within the reach of every voice, and probably of no voice at all times. It does us good to hear the holy strain:

“My God, I love Thee; not because

I hope for heaven thereby,

Nor yet because who love Thee not

Must burn eternally.

Then why, O blessed Jesu Christ,

Should I not love Thee well!

Not for the hope of winning heaven,

Nor of escaping hell;

Not with the hope of gaining aught,

Not seeking a reward;

But as Thyself hast loved me,

O ever-loving Lord.”

Some have urged that this is the spirit in which we should always serve the Lord. Perhaps we should; but God is kinder than to reject our work when it proceeds from less exalted motives. “He knoweth our frame.” He makes us great by gentleness. The Saviour even urges us to serve in view of the crown which He promises: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” That was a very noble life from which proceeded the utterance, “The love of Christ constraineth me;” but it was the same life which at another time urged men on with the cry—“So run that ye may obtain.” Caleb did no wrong to treasure up “the thing that the Lord said” touching Hebron; even so the Saviour has no reproach for us when we find ourselves stimulated to service by the thought of the rewards which await us. So far from reproaching us, when Christ is about to depart from among men, He graciously puts among His last words these: “In my Father’s house are many mansions; I go to prepare a place for you.” That is the picture upon which the absent Saviour would have His apostles steadfastly look. This humanness of the Lord is very beautiful.

2. The man who is truly pious will equally remember the things which God says touching duties which are to be performed. Caleb had shewed himself ready to remember commands as well as promises. When he rendered such faithful obedience as one of the spies, his obedience was not merely to Moses, but to God who spake through Moses. He “followed the Lord fully.” To the memory of a man really pious, a command is as sacred as a promise. There is a sense in which God’s commands to serve Him are far more precious than even promises. They tell of complete forgiveness in a way in which it can be told by no assurance of pardon and by no promise of reward. When God condescends to give us something to do for Himself, we may well feel that He has quite blotted out our iniquity. Suppose Jonah had only been assured of forgiveness for his sin of fleeing to Tarshish, or that a promise of final salvation had been added to such an assurance. No gracious words in this direction could ever have told of complete pardon as it was told by the mercy which condescended to employ him again. What if another prophet had been sent in Jonah’s place? In that case, it seems to us, that Jonah’s sense of forgiveness could never have been quite satisfactory. The beauty of pardon is seen, not in any promise, but in the commandment which is written in the history: “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee.” So Peter may have felt a sweet sense of joy as he received that special message to himself to meet the Saviour in Galilee; but Peter’s sense of perfect pardon probably came, ultimately, far more through the commandment in which he was again bidden to do the work of his Master. It was in once more feeding Christ’s sheep and lambs that the sense of complete forgiveness would have entered into the apostle’s life. No mere assurance of pardon could have ever supplied the comfort that must have come through this re-employment. We have only to think of Peter with nothing more to do for Christ, to realize, as far as any one but himself could realize, his utter and lifelong misery. He who neglects precepts for promises is not wise. Caleb shews us how to remember both. “In keeping of Thy commandments there is great reward.”

3. The pious man will treasure up, no less, the commendations of the Lord. These words about “following the Lord fully,” or “wholly,” had also clung to Caleb (Joshua 14:9). For forty-five years his memory had cherished them as too precious to be forgotten. Those who think that, in uttering on this occasion such words to Joshua, Caleb “talked of his own virtue in rather loftier terms than becomes a pious and modest man,” utterly overlook the true aspect of the words. God had said them (Numbers 14:24); that was what made them so dear to Caleb. His artless reiteration of them, taken in this light, so far from being immodest, is simple and beautiful. It is the language of the commended child, recounting gratefully from his heart his Father’s words of praise. How long will the children above remember the heavenly greeting—“Well done, good and faithful servant”!

II. The consciousness of personal faithfulness associated with trust in precious promises. Caleb walked before God with a deep concern to honour God. He had “stilled the people” in their rebellion, as far as possible; and when he could prevail no longer with them, he and Joshua had rent their clothes. He was faithful to the trust which had been reposed in him.

1. The faithful life has the greatest desire for the things which God promises. The life of an upright man will have its tastes in harmony with the things which God has to give.

2. The faithful life best knows the value of God’s promises. The man to whom truth and integrity are dear will know that these are much more sacred to Jehovah.

3. Thus the faithful life will most fully trust the promises. They will be deemed worth remembering not only for forty-five years, but throughout all the years in which such a life is spared. “The thing which the Lord hath said” will seem to be “ordered in all things, and sure.” It will be regarded as sure in days of adversity, no less than in days of prosperity and victory.

III. Godly manliness going with unselfishness and dependence. Caleb’s words have in them a frankness and outspokenness which make them attractive. He did not affect to hide the sin of his brethren; on the other hand, he called it by no harsh name. Here is none of the simpering of a false modesty, neither is there anything of the spirit of fault-finding. And as his words touching his brethren, so are his words concerning himself. He frankly said that he “wholly followed the Lord God” (Joshua 14:8). The words are too brief and too matter-of-fact for egotism. A vain man would have made a sermon of what Caleb put into a sentence. Caleb felt that he had honestly sought God’s glory and Israel’s good on the occasion in question, and with a manly freedom from affectation he did not attempt to conceal that. We love him both for that which he said and for that which he did not say. We feel, as we read, that we are reading the speech of a man. The language of Caleb is further relieved from any appearance of a vain and weak egotism, if we remember that he was merely reiterating “the thing that the Lord said.” These words about following the Lord wholly are not Caleb’s words at all, but the words of Jehovah, which had been so thankfully cherished for so long a time. It might have seemed vain to utter thus merely his own judgment; it was but a grateful love to God, and a manly consciousness that this thing was true, which led Caleb thus to repeat the words of God. Over against all this strong and transparent manliness, it is very beautiful to observe Caleb’s unselfishness and childlike dependence. These giant Anakim he was perfectly willing to confront. He did not want a lot where there were no foes. Let others seek such an inheritance if they chose; this was a brave man, and he could fight; this was an unselfish man, and while his brethren fought with men, he, although eighty-five years of age, would fight with giants. So manly was this aged Caleb, and so unselfish. And yet this brave and strong man felt as dependent on his God as a little child on its father. He said: “If so be the Lord will be with me, then shall I be able to drive them out, as the Lord said.” Manly piety is great in its freedom from paltry affectation, great in its unselfishness, but greatest of all in its dependence upon God. Paul said: “When I am weak, then am I strong;” the converse is no less true—when we are strong, then we are weak. It is manhood in its noblest form that leans hardest upon God; and he who leans very much upon God is usually strong in a manhood altogether in advance of the manliness of him who is self-reliant.

IV. Gratitude connected with fidelity and trust (Joshua 14:10-11). This man, who had been so strong to follow God, and who was so hale at the age of fourscore and five years, thankfully acknowledged that his vigour had been all of Jehovah. The Lord had kept him alive. His brethren had died in the wilderness; it was of the Lord that he had not died. His brethren had died for sin; Caleb seemed to recognise that it was of the Lord also that he had not sinned as they had done. True greatness and warm gratitude generally go together. It was the “great apostle of the Gentiles” who said so ardently, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

V. A sense of personal fitness united with hope. Caleb’s trust was wholly in the Lord, and yet he well knew that the Lord’s way was to work naturally. It needed a strong man to encounter such foes as these Anakim, and Caleb felt that he was strong, and hoped accordingly. However much faith may rely upon God as the only efficient worker, godly wisdom ever recognises this need of being in harmony with God’s methods. Had Caleb been infirm and feeble, probably not even his faith would have dared to hope for victory over these descendants of giants. While God must be “all in all,” there must also be a consciousness that we are what God can bless. It is thus that a man living in sin cannot dare to hope for salvation. The conscience knows better than to allow that God’s method is to save a man who is deliberately opposing such salvation. There is an unfitness of things which smothers hope at the birth.

VI. Personal worth crowned with permanent rewards.

1. Men reward personal worth. “Joshua blessed him.” Sooner or later, true merit is acknowledged everywhere.

2. God rewards personal worth. As among men, God recognises and honours fidelity and obedience. The Bible is full of such instances.

3. The great reward of the soul’s salvation is ever and only because of the merits of Christ. “My goodness extendeth not to Thee,” said the Psalmist. Our best deeds have much of impurity. In this matter we can rely only on Him “who did no sin.”



I. To remember the past is the lot of every man, irrespective of the man’s personal character. From the narrow margin of the time which is present, every man has two broad views which are continually inviting his contemplation. The one lies stretched out before him, the other behind him; one deals with the future, the other with the past. The view before us is made up to a very small extent by penetration based on experience. For the irreligious man it is composed very much more by desire, fancy, and imagination; while for the man who believes in the word of God it is wrought principally by faith. The view behind us is, for the most part, dim and obscure; but here and there, in every life that has reached maturity, there stand up in the distance behind it, clear and well defined as the rugged outline of the mountain, which, though past long since, shews no sign of vanishing, memories which are never forgotten.
And these memories of past life are independent of character. They are involuntary: they come whether men will or will not. Not only does faithful Caleb dwell upon the past, but the unfaithful man must think upon it also.
II. The remembrances of the righteous, while often supplying reasons for shame, afford, nevertheless, occasions for thankfulness and joy. A poet has written to us of “The Pleasures of Hope;” to the man who has been faithful to his God, there come no less powerfully the pleasures of memory. Not only all things, but all time “works together for good” to the man who loves God. Time to come is made bright with hope of grace yet to be given, and time past is illuminated with the light of victories won through mercy already bestowed. How thankfully would Joseph and Daniel and the three Hebrew youths each look back to the place of temptation where God had helped them to come off “more than conquerors.”

1. The remembrances of the righteous are some sorrowful and some gladdening. Caleb had this great triumph in which he had “wholly followed the Lord;” doubtless he had also to think upon many defeats which had to be contemplated with shame. It is thus with the best of men: they have here and there a victory of which to sing, and many failures and overthrows which they are compelled to mourn.

2. The remembrances of the righteous which are encouraging ever stand connected with the name and grace of God. “The Lord sent me” (Joshua 14:7). Thus, too, in the next verse, Caleb intimates that the Lord had gone before him, and that he had but “followed” where Jehovah Himself had led.

3. The helpful remembrances of the righteous are made still happier by fraternal fellowship with others who have also been faithful. It did not detract from Caleb’s joy to remember that Joshua had been faithful too, and that he had also been commended by God. It added to the pleasure of this good man to be able to say, “Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee.” The joy of the pious man is not solitary and selfish. The angels sing together. The godly “rejoice with them that do rejoice.”

4. These happier remembrances of the righteous always stand well in accord with a good conscience. “I brought him word again, as it was in mine heart.” When Caleb came back to Moses, he spoke in integrity, and as he felt that he ought to speak. The shout of victory ever goes with the voice of God, and the voice of God goes no less with the teaching of conscience. True, men sometimes sin in ignorance and in unbelief, but, even then, darkness may be only the consequence of a previous abuse of light. He who always follows God with a good conscience, as the word of God is in his heart, will not often stray.

5. The remembrances of the righteous man sometimes contradict intervening seasons of depression. There may have been times when Caleb doubted if he should ever enter upon the promised inheritance. Job was accused of saying, “It profiteth a man nothing that he should delight himself with God.” To not a few of the godly Jews of Old Testament times, as the Psalms repeatedly bear witness, it seemed a standing problem of difficulty that the ungodly should flourish, while the righteous should be driven to say, “Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain.” Elijah thought that he had served God almost fruitlessly, and that he only was left of those who had not bowed the knee to Baal. It may be that since his fidelity at Kadesh-barnea, some such moments of depression as these had come upon Caleb. If so, how completely would they have stood contradicted now, as he was about to enter upon his long-promised possession. There are hours and days with most of us when our faithful service seems a thing of nought. We are like children upon the sands at the sea-side, building here “a castle” and there “a fort,” which the next tide washes out altogether; so the tides of time wash over our feeble work for men and for God, and seem to obliterate the very marks of our building. We are driven to think our labour as having been “in vain,” and as having no more endurance than the house built upon the sand. But he who works for God, builds on a rock which cannot be shaken. To every faithful heart the day will come when happy memories will contradict entirely the depression sometimes suffered in seasons of adversity.

III. The remembrances of the ungodly will presently serve to make the retrospect of time as saddening as the prospect of eternity. In the pious man, both time and eternity will serve to provoke gladness, while to the wicked, neither the one nor the other can bring any heritage but pain. To such, the past must ever be full of shame and anguish, and the future dark with fear and despair.


It is a rough name that—“Caleb.” Most translators say it signifies “a dog.” But what mattereth a man’s name? Possibly the man himself was somewhat rough: many of the heartiest of men are so. As the unpolished oyster yet beareth within itself the priceless pearl, so ofttimes ruggedness of exterior covereth worth. A dog, moreover, is not all badness, though “without are dogs and sorcerers.” It hath this virtue, that it followeth its master; and therein this Caleb was well named; for never dog so followed his master as Caleb followed his God.… The name, however, has another signification, and we like it rather better; it means “all heart.” Here was a fitting surname for the man whose whole heart followed his God. He says of himself that he brought a report of the land according to all that was in his heart.

I. Caleb’s faithful following of his God. He never went before his God. That is presumption. The highest point to which the true believer ever comes is to walk with God, but never to walk before Him. Caleb followed the Lord; many others do the same, but then they could not win that adverb which is Caleb’s golden medal. He followed the Lord “fully,” says one text; “wholly,” says another. Some of us follow the Lord, but it is a great way off, like Peter, or now and then, as did Saul the king. In explaining this word “wholly,” I shall follow the explanation of good Matthew Henry.

1. Caleb followed the Lord universally, without dividing. Whatever his Master told him to do, he did.

2. Caleb followed the Lord fully, that is, sincerely, without dissembling. He was no hypocrite: he followed the Lord with his whole heart.

3. Caleb followed the Lord wholly, that is, cheerfully, without disputing. Those who serve God with a sad countenance, because they do that which is unpleasant to them, are not His servants at all.

4. Caleb followed the Lord constantly, without declining. He persevered during the forty days of his spyship, and brought back a true report. Forty-five years he lived in the camp of Israel, but all that time he followed the Lord, and never once consorted with murmuring rebels; and when his time came to claim his heritage, at the age of eighty-five, the good old man was following the Lord fully.

II. Caleb’s favoured portion. His life was preserved in the hour of judgment. The ten fell, smitten with the plaguo, but Caleb lived. There be many who seek their life that lose it; and there be some who lose it for Christ’s sake, that find it to life eternal. Caleb was also comforted with a long life of vigour. At eighty-five he was as strong as at forty, and still able to face the giants. Caleb received as his reward great honour among his brethren. He was at least twenty years older than any other man in the camp, except Joshua. Caleb had the distinguished reward of being put upon the hardest service. That is always the lot of the most faithful servant of God. Caleb had the honour of enjoying what he had once seen. He had only seen the land when he said, “We are able to take it.” He lived not only to take it, but to enjoy it for himself. Caleb left a blessing to his children. He had many sons, but he fought for them, and carved out a portion for them all. If there is any man who shall be able to leave his children the blessing of the upper and nether springs, it is the man who follows the Lord fully. If I might envy any man, it would be the believer who from his youth up has walked, through Divine grace, according to his Lord’s commandments, and who is able, when his day comes, to scatter benedictions upon his rising sons and daughters, and leave them with godliness, which hath the blessing of this life and that which is to come.

III. Caleb’s secret character. The Lord said of him, “Because he hath another spirit with him.” He had another spirit—not only a bold, generous, courageous, noble, and heroic spirit, but the spirit and influence of God, which thus raised him above human inquietudes and earthly fears. Therefore he followed the Lord fully.… The real way to make a new life is to receive a new spirit. There must be given us, if we would follow the Lord fully, a new heart, and that new heart must be found at the foot of the cross, where the Holy Spirit works through the bleeding wounds of Jesus. We need the spirit of faith; that spirit which takes God at His word, reads His promise, and knows it to be true. Then a faithful spirit always begets a meek spirit, and a meek spirit always begets a brave spirit. It is said of the wood of the elder tree, that none is softer, but yet it is recorded of old that Venice was built upon piles of the elder tree, because it will never rot; and so the meek-spirited man, who is gentle and patient, lasts on bravely, holding his own against all the attacks of the destroying adversary. The true believer has also a loving spirit, as the result of Jesus’ grace. He has next a zealous spirit, and so he spends and is spent for God; and this begets in him a heavenly spirit, and so he tries to live in heaven, and make earth a heaven to his fellow-men, believing that he shall soon have a heaven for himself and for them too on the other side of the stream. Oh that the Holy Spirit would lead us to go to Jesus just as we are, and look up to Him and beseech Him to fulfil that great covenant promise: “A new heart also will I give them, a right spirit will I put within them.” [Met. Tab. Pulpit.]


I. The inheritance those who follow God is the inheritance of promise.
II. The inheritance is promised to the man who is faithful, and yet is always by the grace of God.
III. The inheritance is not merely to the faithful follower, but to his children also.
IV. The inheritance, although it may be announced by His servants, is promised by Jehovah Himself, and is thus certain, however long it may be deferred.


I. They who live, live by the keeping of God. “None can keep alive his own soul.” “He holdeth our soul in life.” Caleb had been preserved under circumstances common to men in general, and under such as were unusual.

1. He was kept alive, notwithstanding natural liability to decay and death. His physical strength may have been above the average; that strength was the gift of God. He was probably a man whose life owed much to discipline and regular habits; this disposition to a healthy mode of life had been cultivated by his godliness.

2. Caleb had been kept alive through the dangers of the desert and of the war. The danger of famine God had met by the manna and the quails. When thirst threatened to destroy, the Lord had given streams from the rocks. In the various conflicts in the wilderness, Jehovah had shielded this brave soldier, so that “not a single shaft could hit;” and in the battles in the land of Canaan itself, mighty miracles had constantly testified to the care and keeping of God.

3. Caleb had been kept alive when all saving Joshua and himself had died. Every other member of the host who was over the age of twenty at the time when Moses sent out the spies, had passed away in the wilderness. Each of these had died, according to the word of Jehovah. Well might Caleb say, “The Lord hath kept me alive.”

II. They who are kept by God are kept of God’s purpose, and well kept.

1. God does not keep men alive thoughtlessly and in unconcern. “The Lord hath kept me alive, as He said.” He purposes to preserve. Every living sparrow represents something which He has not yet suffered to “fall on the ground,” and which He has not “forgotten.” Every hair of every living head is something which He has “numbered,” and which still has its place in the count of God. But of those whom He protects as fearing and loving Him, it stands specially recorded, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye.” Thus, too, it had been already said of Caleb as one of the host of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:10).

2. Those whom God keeps are kept perfectly. The wilderness not only fails to consume; it does not even weaken. Many years are equally impotent to work harm. “As I was in the day that Moses sent me,” etc. The dangers of the battle-field had also failed to reach him who was borne in the arms which had made him (cf. Isaiah 46:4). God had carried His servant even to old age, and nothing had impaired his strength.

III. They who are thus kept by God should reiterate it to the praise of God. “Behold, the Lord hath kept,” etc. Caleb was a monument reared and sustained by the hand of God, and in all that he was at that day, he wished men to read the Divine name and Divine mercy.

1. Caleb illustrates the beauty of gratitude. It is pleasant and comely to see this good man tracing the streams of life, health, and strength to their source.

2. Caleb reminds us of the frequency of ingratitude. It is to be feared that this spirit of thanksgiving is rather exceptional than common. True, there are many hearts which ascribe praise unto God for all which they have received, but what are these among the multitudes who render no thanksgiving whatever? After all, there is only here and there a star in the heavens reflecting back the light given of God; the firmament is mostly made up of clouds and darkness and night.

IV. They who have been long kept by God may well undertake great works in the name of God (Joshua 14:12). Gratitude is little without trust. He who thanks sincerely for the past will trust reverently and unquestioningly for the future.

1. Faith has no hesitation because of the magnitude of work which is to be done in the name of God. Giants and walled cities need make no difference to the man who hopes that the Lord will be with him.

2. Faith is as confident in the immediate prospect of such work as in the distant prospect. Compare Caleb’s language in Numbers 13:30; Numbers 14:6-9, with the spirit manifested now that the task seemed directly before him. The language of true faith is not merely words; the whole history of the Church of God is thick with the names of men who have also been bold to act.

Joshua 14:10-14.—LAUS DEO.

I. Many years of keeping by God, and ardent words of praise to God.

II. Ardent words of praise for the past, and great confidence in view of the difficult future.

III. Great confidence in God for the future, and the future works of faith fully equal to the present words of faith. (Compare Joshua 14:12 with chap. Joshua 15:14; Judges 1:9-20.)

IV. Confident faith in God, and gracious rewards from God (Joshua 14:13-14 )

1. The recognition of Caleb’s piety by Joshua 2:0. The possession of Hebron.


I. He who seeks should feel able to possess, and strong to occupy. Many covet lots in life which they can never take, which if they took they would be unable to hold, and which if they succeeded in holding they would never occupy usefully.

II. Ability to possess and occupy is not in itself a sufficient testimony that such occupation would be right. There are many who find their title only in their own power. With them, “right” and “might” are synonymous. They take, as Wordsworth says,

“For why? Because the good old rule

Sufficeth them; the simple plan,

That they should take who have the power,

And they should keep who can.”

Caleb pleads his ability to occupy, but finds, nevertheless, a far higher title than this ere he seeks to do so.

III. He cannot be wrong in his seeking, who is guided by God, nor fail in possessing when he depends upon God. Caleb found his true title to Hebron in the fact that “the Lord spake of it in that day” as his. He found his power to conquer the Anakim in the assurance that the Lord would be with him. He who is thus guided, and thus helped, may well look to come into and occupy wisely a right and good inheritance.


Probably the fears of the ten spies were occasioned more by what they saw at Hebron, than by anything which they witnessed elsewhere in Canaan. In Numbers 13:22, we are told that they came unto Hebron, and a few verses farther on in the same chapter we have the record of their murmuring, in which, as the burden of their complaint, they are seen crying out about the walled cities and the Anakim. As Hebron is specially mentioned as the abode of the Anakim, the conjecture of Matthew Henry is not unnatural. He says: “We may suppose that Caleb, observing what stress they laid upon the difficulty of conquering Hebron, a city garrisoned by the giants, and how from thence they inferred that the conquest. of the whole land was utterly impracticable; in opposition to their suggestions, and to convince the people that he spake as he thought, he bravely desired to have that city, which they called invincible, assigned to himself for his own portion: ‘I will undertake to deal with that; and if I cannot get it for my inheritance, I will be without it.’ ‘Well,’ saith Moses, ‘it shall be thine own then; win and wear it.’ ”

If the promise of Moses was elicited under some such circumstances as these, we may reasonably suppose that the oath of Moses was confirmed by Jehovah in the conversation which followed, and which is partly recorded in Numbers 14:0. The allusion to Caleb in Joshua 14:14 of that chapter might well be the occasion when the thing which “Moses sware” became also “the thing that the Lord said.”


“With Ziph the more desolate region ended. The valleys now began, at least in our eyes, almost literally to laugh and sing. Greener and greener did they grow—the shrubs, too, shot up above that stunted growth. At last, on the summits of further hills, lines of spreading trees appeared against the sky. Then came ploughed fields and oxen. Lastly, a deep and wide recess opened in the hills—towers and minarets appeared through the gap, which gradually unfolded into the city of ‘the Friend of God’—this is its Arabic name (El Khalil): far up on the right ran a wide and beautiful upland valley, all partitioned into gardens and fields, green fig-trees, and cherry-trees, and the vineyards—famous through all ages; and far off, grey and beautiful as those of Tivoli, swept down the western slope the olive groves of Hebron. Most startling of all was the hum through the air—hitherto ‘that silent air’ which I described during our first encampment, but which had grown familiar as the sounds of London to those who live constantly within their range—the hum, at first, of isolated human voices and the lowing of the cattle, rising up from these various orchards and cornfields, and then a sound, which, to our ears, seemed like that of a mighty multitude, but which was only the united murmur of the population of the little town, which we now entered at its southern end. They had come out to look at some troops which were going off to capture a refractory chief.… High above us on the eastern height of the town—which lies nestled, Italian-like, on the slope of a ravine—rose the long black walls and two stately minarets of that illustrious mosque, one of the four sanctuaries of the Mahometan world, sacred in the eyes of all the world besides, which covers the Cave of Machpelah, the last resting-place of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We passed on by one of those two ancient reservoirs, where King David hanged the murderers of his rival (2 Samuel 4:12), up a slope of green grass, broken only by tombs and floeks of sheep, to the high gates of the Quaranting, which closed upon us, and where we are now imprisoned for the next three days, but with that glorious view of Hebron before us day and night.” [Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine.]

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Joshua 14". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/joshua-14.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Ads FreeProfile