A substantial portion of today’s reading is about the allotment of the land that Israel had conquered to this point. And by the way, when I say conquered, I don’t mean that they had completely wiped out the entire population of Canaan. They had essentially subdued Canaan by taking out its cities and kings; there would be no more serious military resistance. What was left to do is sometimes called “mop-up” in military circles. Now it may not be of interest to you at this point to read through and understand the details of this portion of Scripture with a map, but do it sometime. It can help us understand some of the stuff that happens later on — like, for example, why Dan moves north to claim land. It can also raise a few questions, like “Why does Judah seem to claim Jerusalem later, when it appears to fall directly in Benjamin’s territory?”
But what I really wanted to dwell on for a while is faithful, old Caleb — “Mad-dog”. That’s actually what his name means. Joshua and Caleb are the only two original men, 20 years old or older, who were part of the Exodus and also crossed over to Canaan. They were the only two of the twelve spies who counseled Israel to attack Canaan on God’s command, in spite of its fortified cities and giants (Numbers 13). He was 40 years old when he spied out the land, and he is now 85 years old as Israel is dividing up the land. He’s old, he’s retirement age, but look at his request!
“Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.” Joshua 14:12, NAS95.
Paraphrased: “Give me the toughest challenge in the region. Give me the very city that was so frightening to the other 12 spies. With God’s help, there’s nothing we can’t do.” So Joshua blessed him and gave Hebron, the city of the Anakim (the giants, Goliath was one of them who’d fled to Gath), to Caleb for an inheritance. He wasn’t looking for easy; he wasn’t looking for retirement; he was still “Mad-dog” to the bone. He was 85; but Caleb was still looking for a challenge, looking to make a difference, going for the gold! And not just in a secular way — I’d like to climb Kilimanjaro and do a few other edgy “bucket list” things before I die — Caleb was about serving the Lord with his last drop of energy — going out with his boots on. And his feisty faith conquered Hebron and all its giants!
May God grant us all the same spirit, the same focus, the same faith, the same fight as “Mad-dog” Caleb! As the saying goes, “May his tribe increase!”
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.