Joshua gives Hebron to Caleb
Israel assigns land to the tribes1Priest Eleazar, Joshua, and other leaders of Israel assigned land to tribes that didn’t have any yet. 2There were nine tribes and the half-tribe of Manasseh that still needed land. They threw dice to determine what land they got. The LORD had told Moses they should do it that way. 3Moses had already given land to the other two tribes and the other half-tribe of Manasseh. They got land east of the Jordan River. But Moses didn’t give any land to his own tribe of Levi. 4Joseph’s tribe split in two. Each tribe descended from one of his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. People in Levi’s tribe didn’t get any territory. But they got towns, along with nearby fields for their livestock. 5Israelites divided the land among the tribes, just as the LORD told Moses they should do it.
Moses made a promise to Caleb6Caleb and some from Judah’s tribe met with Joshua in Gilgal. Caleb was the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite. He told Joshua, “You remember what the LORD said about you and me, don’t you? It was when he talked to God’s man, Moses, at the Kadesh-barnea oasis. 7I was 40 years old when Moses, God’s devoted worker, sent me on that scouting mission from Kadesh-barnea into Canaan. When I got back, I told him the truth about what I saw.
8The other scouts came back with a terrifying report that demoralized the people. But I stuck with the LORD my God. 9Moses made me a promise that day. He said, ‘Trust me. One day you’re going to own the land you walked on. It will belong to you and your descendants from then on—your reward for trusting the LORD your God.’ 10Well, you can see the LORD kept me alive these 45 years. That’s how long it has been since Moses made that promise. After all this time of traveling in the desert wasteland, here I am—85 years young and standing in front of you.
11I’m as strong today as I was when Moses sent me on that scouting mission. Strong enough to travel. Strong enough to fight. 12So, I’m asking you to give me land in those hills I scouted, as the LORD promised. When I scouted those hills, descendants of the giant Anak lived there, in huge cities protected by massive walls. I’m telling you this, with the LORD’s help I’ll clear those people out of the hill country.” 13Joshua blessed Caleb with encouraging words. Then he gave Caleb, son of Jephunneh, the city of Hebron.
Peace at last14So, Hebron became the home of Caleb, son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite. It was Caleb’s reward for trusting the LORD, Israel’s God. It’s still his home today. 15Hebron wasn’t always called “Hebron.” It used to be called “Arba Town.” Arba was the greatest hero in Anakim history.
After the wars ended, the people lived in peace.
Moses had previously given land to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh. Leaders of those tribes said they liked the land east of the Jordan because it was good for grazing their livestock. So, Moses gave it to them (Numbers 32:33).
More literally, they were to throw or draw “lots.” The “lots” may have been stones or animal bones marked in a way that produced random outcomes for “yes” or “no” answers, or for determining who goes first in a group. The idea is like throwing dice, with the high number going first. It’s also a little like “heads” or “tails” from a coin toss. It might have looked like a random-chance technique. But Jews taught that God controlled the outcome.
People from Levi’s tribe of priests and associates would make a living from offerings and animal sacrifices that the other tribes brought to the worship center. See 13:33; Deuteronomy 18:1-2. It’s a bit like ministers getting paid from the donations of worshipers.
Jacob was the father of the 12 men whose families grew into what became the 12 tribes of Israel. When Jacob, living in Egypt, realized he was dying, he called in his sons to bless them. He also blessed Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Even better, he adopted them as his own sons. He promised them land in what is now Israel and Palestinian Territories—shares equal to what Jacob’s other sons would inherit (Genesis 48:5-20).
“In all, you should give the Levites 48 cities and the pastures around them” (Deuteronomy 35:7).
Caleb was one of 12 spies Moses sent to scout out Canaan before Israel invaded, one scout from each tribe (Numbers 13—14). Only Caleb and Joshua recommended going forward with the invasion. The other 10 scouts advised against it. Israelites, frightened by this report, refused to go any further. God sentenced them to 40 years in the desert wasteland, for failing to trust him.
Kenizzites weren’t originally Israelites. They may have come from Edom, in what is now Jordan. But by this time, Caleb, and perhaps other Kenizzites outside his family, had become part of the Israelite community.
Scholars most often identify Kadesh-barnea, also called Kadesh, as the spring-fed oasis at Tel el-Qudeirat, on Egypt’s side of the border with Israel. Another contender is Ain Qadeis, also on Egypt’s side of the border. Bible writers put the location in different deserts: Zin Desert (Numbers 20:1) and Paran Desert (Numbers 13:26). Some theorize there were two Kadesh oases. West Kadesh and East Kadesh. But not many scholars seem to buy into
Descendants of Anak—the Anakites—are described as giants (Deuteronomy 2:10-11).
A blessing is the opposite of a curse. Instead of wishing harm on people, it’s a wish and a prayer for good things to happen to them. It praises people. It encourages them. It asks God to show kindness to them. Many people seemed to believe that the words, with God’s help, had the power to make the wish come true.
Hebron “was built seven years before the Egyptians built Zoan. Several tribes descended from the giant Anak lived there: Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai” (13:22). Abraham, father of the Jewish people, moved to Hebron and settled there, near a grove of trees owned by a man called Mamre (Genesis 13:18). He buried his wife, Sarah, there in “the cave in Machpelah, east of Mamre, also known as Hebron” (Genesis 23:17). The “Cave of the Patriarchs” in modern Hebron is reportedly the burial place of Abraham and Sarah, along with his son Isaac and wife Rebekah, and grandson Jacob and wife Leah. That’s three generations of the original fathers of the Jewish people.
In Hebrew, the town was called Kiriath-arba. Kiriath can mean a town, city, community. Arba means “fourth” or “four.” So, it could mean “Town of Four.” Scholars have to guess four of what. Four settlements that later united? Four roads out of town? Four extended families, known as clans or tribes? At least three big family groups lived there (Numbers 13:22). But given what follows “Kiriath-arba” in the sentence, “Arba” could be the hero’s name. So the city may have been: Arba Town, or Arbatown, if we like.
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