For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

14:1.  “And these are the countries which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance to them.”

This good land was for Israelites only, but inasmuch as they represent believers of this present age, one lesson we learn is that only believers are heirs of God’s eternal blessings.  All others, like the unbelieving Canaanites, will be cast out of His sight.

As has been noted already, however, Canaan is not a type of heaven, but rather, of the sphere into which the believer may enter in spirit and enjoy his spiritual blessings, even here on earth; that enjoyment being but a foretaste of the actual enjoyment that will be experienced fully in heaven.  In Israel’s being given dominion over the land of Canaan we have the symbolic announcement of the fact that this earth through which we now pass as pilgrims and strangers, will one day be placed under our jurisdiction.  We shall reign with Christ.   

It is significant that Eleazar the priest heads the list of those appointed to superintend the allotment of the tribal portions.  In this we learn that the Christ, represented by Joshua (i.e., the Christ Who is the Captain of our salvation) has procured our inheritance for us, but it is now also as our great High Priest that He allocates each believer his portion here on earth, as He will also allocate each his portion for eternity, based on the faithfulness of each man’s earthly stewardship. 

As noted in our study of 1:1, Nun means perpetuity, and reminds us that Christ is the eternally existing One.

And the involvement of the “fathers of the tribes” in assigning the tribal lots, reminds us that those appointed by the Holy Spirit as elders have an important part in the divine administration of the Church here on earth.  As we are obedient to the leading of godly elders instructing us out of the Word, we will be guided as to the portion God would have each of us enjoy.  This is not to imply of course that we are not to search the Word of God for ourselves; but particularly in the case of young or immature believers, the accumulated wisdom of godly elders is often invaluable in helping us understand that Word.

14:2.  “By Lot was their inheritance, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half tribe.”

In other dispensations (while the canon of Scripture was still incomplete), God revealed His will by means of the lot.  He does not use that method today, however, for the canon of Scripture is now complete, and either by direct statement, or by Biblical principle, furnishes the complete revelation of the will of God for the life of the believer.

14:3.  “For Moses had given the inheritance of two tribes and an half tribe on the other side Jordan: but unto the Levites he gave none inheritance among them.”

Since the two and a half tribes east of Jordan represent believers still here on earth, and since Moses represents Christ leading us out of bondage to sin and death, their smaller number, and their smaller territory are meant to teach us that our concern with earthly things should be proportionately small.  Since the nine and a half tribes were given their geographically larger inheritance by Joshua who represents Christ in resurrection leading us into the enjoyment of eternal spiritual riches, the lesson is that we should be proportionately more occupied with spiritual things than with earthly.  This is what is being emphasized in its being repeated that the Levites received no inheritance on either side of Jordan.  As the Levites’ wealth was directly related to what Israel offered God in worship, we are being taught symbolically that the measure of a believer’s wealth is not his temporal possessions, but his ability to worship.  It is instructive to note that the man who has devoted himself to spiritual things rather than temporal, is very often the one whose ability to worship God in spirit and in truth, is far greater than that of the believer who has pursued literal riches.

14:4.  “For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim: therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell in, with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance.”

Since Joseph, meaning let him add, and speaking of fruitfulness, is a type of Christ, the two tribes representing him in the land may be the symbolic reminder of the abundant harvest that has followed the “sowing” of that one “corn of wheat” (Jn 12:24).  In Christ both Jew and Gentile have been made heirs of blessing which cannot be measured, as it is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” 1 Co 2:9; nor is it possible for anyone but God to number those heirs.

The verse being considered, however, emphasizes that it was because of God’s giving Manasseh and Ephraim an allotment each, that Levi was given none, except for cities scattered among the other tribes.  At first glance the correlation isn’t obvious, but closer scrutiny reveals what appears to be the connection.  Manasseh means causing to forget; and Ephraim, double ash-heap; I shall be doubly fruitful.  As already noted, Manasseh represents that spirit exemplified by Paul and recorded in Php 3:14, “... this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  Ephraim teaches truth relative to fruitfulness.  As we are willing to throw on the “ash-heap” everything which would hinder us in the heavenly race, we will be correspondingly fruitful, and again Paul is our example, as he writes in Php 3:7-8, “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ.”

In linking Levi therefore with Manasseh and Ephraim, God would teach us that as we fulfill the types of Joseph’s two sons, we too, like Levi, will make ourselves heirs of a richer inheritance, for we are to remember what is written concerning the Levites, “... the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance” 13:33, and He transcends all else.  Abraham was an heir of the same blessing, as recorded in Ge 1:15, “After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”

14:5.  “As the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did, and they divided the land.”

Regrettably Israel’s obedience was short-lived, hence her sorry history which is but the symbolic history of the church, for her bright beginning was of equally short duration, and for the same reason.  As Israel’s obedience ceased with the passing of Joshua and his generation, so has it been with the church.  Even before the Apostle’s had left this scene apostasy was beginning to manifest itself.  How often the same sad tale is repeated in the lives of individuals!  Many a promising beginning has ended in melancholy failure.

14:6.  “Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh-barnea.”

This takes us back to the day forty-five years earlier when the spies had brought back an evil report of the land, a report that dis­couraged the people, and led them to rebel against the command of God to go in and possess it.  Only Joshua and Caleb had furnished a favorable report, and encouraged the people to go in and take the good land that God had promised them.  God’s response to their faithfulness was His promise, “... Caleb ... hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went....” Nu 14:24.

The first five verses of this chapter describe briefly the corporate apportionment of the land; but in the details of the assignment of Caleb’s portion we are being taught truth relative to what is ours as individuals.

A word of explanation is necessary here as to why Joshua is not included with Caleb since the two are almost invariably linked together; and in this connection Rossier is worth quoting, “Joshua pre-figures Christ, the Saviour Jesus, bringing His people into the rest of the promised land; and Caleb walks in company with him.  The great name of Joshua overshadows ... that of Caleb.... These two men have but one thought ... the same faith ... confidence, and courage, the same starting-point, the same path ... purpose of heart, the same goal.”  And his question is one that should exercise the heart of every believer, “Are we so associated with Christ that our name cannot be uttered without His....?” - Meditations on Joshua.  The Holy Spirit, focusing now only on Caleb, would teach us that just as he would have had no portion apart from Joshua, neither would we have any portion apart from Christ.  As Caleb followed Joshua, so must we follow Christ if we would enjoy spiritual blessings.  There is no need to mention Joshua’s portion, for it is axiomatic that if he doesn’t have a portion, neither does Caleb.  If Christ doesn’t have a portion neither do we.

While certainly we may make an application of Caleb’s experience to the day when, with the “wilderness” of this world behind us, we will enter into the enjoyment of our heavenly blessings, we must remember that Canaan is not a type of heaven, but rather, of the sphere into which it is the privilege of faith to enter here and now, even while we are still in the world.  Caleb’s entering now after the testings of the wilderness are ended, is to teach us that that rich realm may not be entered apart from the testing of our faith; and the sad truth is that the faith­lessness of many Christians, like that of the unbelieving majority of Israel, keeps them in the place of testing, when they could instead be enjoying right now the riches of “Canaan” - the blessings that are ours in Christ.

Another lesson we may learn from Caleb’s having to share the same wilderness experiences as the faithless majority, is that the spiritual believer is no more exempt from testing than is the carnal, but there is also a difference.  For all those years Caleb never forgot the glimpse of Canaan’s riches given him on that brief excursion when he went in as a spy, nor had he ever relinquished his hold on God’s promise, “... him will I bring into the land ... and his seed shall possess it,” Nu 14:24.  Like Caleb, the spiritual believer must also endure testing, but also like Caleb, he never loses sight of the glimpse of his inheritance given him the hour he first trusted Christ, nor does he ever relax his hold on God’s promise that one day, when the desert is crossed, he will enter into the enjoyment of those blessings eternally.

For Caleb, the long anticipated day had come; and had we but the faith to believe it, his experience can be ours also today.  Right now it is possible to enter by faith into the enjoyment of the riches that are ours in Christ.  Something of the limitless extent of those blessings may be discerned by considering that Caleb received Hebron which means communion; but in resurrection he will look down from heaven to see his seed enjoy Hebron (and the communion with God which it represents) in a millennial Canaan far richer than anything he had ever envisaged; and beyond the millennium lie the indescribable riches and glory of the “new heaven and the new earth,” Re 21:1, in regard to which we are told that “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them ... God Himself shall be with them....” Re 21:3.  For the spiritual believer, that first glimpse of “Hebron,” given him the day he first trusted Christ, keeps on enlarging, glory giving place to glory, stretching out beyond the horizon of human comprehension, and in regard to which Paul writes, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” 1 Co 2:9. 

What folly, what waste, to be attracted by the worthless things of the “desert” when the riches of “Canaan” are there for the taking.

It is significant that this section begins with the mention of Judah, meaning he shall be praised, and from Nu 13:2,6 we learn that Caleb was a ruler in Judah.  Caleb means a dog: whole-hearted.  Worship (praise) comes first.  It must precede all other service.  The believer is to come in on the first day of each week to worship, and only then may he go out to render acceptable service.  And it is no accident that a man’s ability to worship is the measure of his spiritual state.  It is at the Lord’s table that spirituality, or lack of it, is discovered.  Others may covet the position, but in God’s reckoning, only the man who knows how to worship, is a “prince” amongst God’s people.

Caleb’s name has also much to teach us.  Dog was a term of disparagement which the Jew applied to the Gentile, and which is used in Scripture to designate a male prostitute or homosexual; and it is worth noting that it was as a dog that David described himself when speaking with Saul, 1 Sa 24:14.  (Evil usurper though he was, Saul was still Israel’s anointed king.  David’s language betokens his acknowledgement that he was therefore Saul’s subject, and would be so until the crown would be placed on his own head in God’s good time).   Since in Scripture the name is often indicative of the state, Caleb’s bearing such a name tells us that he who would inherit spiritual blessings must have a proper estimate of himself.  He must never forget that apart from Christ he was once as described by Paul, “... without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” Eph 2:12.  The same truth is emphasized in De 26:5, where the Israelite, bringing the offering of firstfruits, had to confess, “A Syrian ready to perish was my father....”  In the spiritual realm abasement precedes promotion.

And the second meaning of Caleb’s name has an equally important lesson to teach.  Only the “whole-hearted” enjoy their spiritual blessings.  That experience is not for the believer whose heart is divided between the world and Christ.  By the extent that I seek to hold on to the things of earth, I diminish my capacity for the enjoyment of the things of heaven.  Before Abraham could have Canaan he had to give up Chaldea.  Before Israel could have Canaan they had to give up Egypt.  Before I can enjoy “Canaan” I must give up the world.

Gilgal means rolling: a wheel.  It was the place where the rite of circumcision was renewed (it had been neglected during the years in the wilderness).  It speaks of the cutting off of the deeds of the flesh, or as God said on that occasion, “This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you.  Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day” Jos 5:7-9

Since Joshua is a type of Christ in resurrection, as the Captain of our salvation, leading us into the enjoyment of the riches that are ours in Him; and since Gilgal is a type of Calvary, but with the emphasis on resurrection rather than death (Gilgal was on the Canaan side of Jordan i.e., the resurrection side), Caleb’s coming to Joshua at Gilgal is a figure of our coming to a resur­rected Savior, to claim all that God has promised us. 

The brief reference to his ancestry, “Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite,” does nothing to illuminate the obscurity of his origin.  Nor do the meanings of these names afford much help, for Jehphunneh means he will be turned or prepared; and Kenaz is uncertain, but thought to mean the nest sprinkled: receptacle of strength.  One thought that suggests itself in connection with these meanings is that the believer, of whom Caleb is a type, is one who has also been “turned” from death to life, and is being prepared to enter into the enjoyment of eternal riches.  Since a nest is the birthplace of a bird (creature of heaven), “the nest sprinkled” may be a symbolic reference to Caleb’s spiritual beginning - like that of every believer, it was sprinkled with the precious blood of Christ applied through faith.  And certainly every believer is the “receptacle of strength,” for all the power of heaven is avail­able to the obedient Christian.

Little is known of Caleb’s ancestry except that he was of Kenezzite descent, and the Kenezzites were Edomites descended from Esau through his son Eliphaz.  His evil lineage, however, simply reminds us that all believers can trace their genealogy back to a similar corrupt root: Adam.

“... in Kadesh-barnea.”  Kadesh-barnea, meaning the son of wandering was set apart, should direct our attention to the fact that Calvary is the “Kadesh-barnea” where every “son of wandering” finds himself “set apart” to be an heir of eternal life, and of blessings beyond human comprehension, for it was there that we who were “sons of wandering” were reconciled to God and set apart for Him, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son Who did not wander, but Who was “set apart” to bear men’s sins, so that believers might be forgiven and enter heaven, as “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ,” Ro 8:17.

Caleb’s rehearsal of the Lord’s promise, given through Moses, reminds us that an obedient faith may boldly claim the “exceeding great and precious promises” given every believer of this present age, 2 Pe 1:4.  And the words “concerning me and thee” which link Caleb and Joshua together in connection with that promise, remind us that Christ and the believer are in­separably linked in connec­tion with God’s promises today.

14:7.  “Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart.”

Here is another confirmation that four raised to any power of ten is the Biblical number of testing, for it is clear that that day when Moses sent out the forty-year-old Caleb and the other spies, was a time of testing for them, Joshua and Caleb alone emerging successfully from the test.

“... as it was in mine heart” is literally “an honest report according to my convictions.”  It would be well if every believer had the courage to speak and act according to honest conviction, but it scarcely needs to be said that cowardice often results in the stifling of such conviction, with the result that we speak and act against our conscience.  It wasn’t easy for Joshua and Caleb to present Moses with a report which contradicted that brought by their ten companions, nor is it ever easy to go against the majority, but the majority aren’t always right.  In the present instance they were very wrong, and the error impelled by cowardice resulted not only in the loss of Canaan to themselves but to their whole equally faithless generation, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb.

That testing had been forty-five years earlier, but the fact is that it had continued throughout the whole forty-five years.  Would they have the faith to believe that eventually they would inherit in Canaan?  They had, and now their faith was to be vindicated.  Each was to receive his long anticipated portion.  Their testing, however, is but a miniature of that which every believer must undergo.  The day we trusted Christ corresponds to the day when Joshua and Caleb surveyed the land merely as spies, and the forty-five intervening years correspond to the remainder of our lives here on earth during which we are to cling steadfastly to the knowledge that we will ultimately inherit our promised portion in heaven, even though Satan may use the daily circumstances of life to say “Your faith is a delusion.”

14:8.  “Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God.”

How often has the faithless activity of the majority caused the hearts of God’s people to “melt”!  Our daily prayer should be for the same courage and faith as sustained Joshua and Caleb throughout those forty-five years.

14:9.  “And Moses sware on that day saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God.”

The same promise is ours.  This earth through which we pass as despised pilgrims and strangers is that over which we will reign with Christ.  The fact that Joshua had also waited with Caleb throughout those forty-five years is the symbolic announcement of the truth that the true Joshua also waits with His redeemed people for that day, now imminent, when the world that rejected and crucified Him will be made subject to His rule. 

The other spies had trodden that same ground, but they, because they were faithless and fearful, had long since died in the wilderness.  Spiritual riches are the inheritance of those in whom faith and courage are united.

The fact that the inheritance was to be Caleb’s and his children’s for ever, reminds us that we too have “children” who will inherit with us.  Only those we have led to Christ are our true children.  It is saddening and sobering to realize that those of our literal offspring who fail to repent and trust in Christ will have their portion in the eternal torment of the lake of fire.

“... for ever.”  This is the solemn reminder that the results of our choices made here on earth are eternal.  Every believer will inherit eternal blessing; every unbeliever, eternal torment.

14:10.  “And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old.”

First, we should note that here the forty (number of testing) is linked with five (number of responsibility).  During those years Caleb had fulfilled his responsibility to walk by faith in obedience to God, and now his faith and obedience are to be rewarded.  Next, we find the five linked with eighty, which is simply a multiple of eight (the number that is always associated scripturally with a new beginning).  The wilderness years were over.  Caleb was now to begin a new stage of his life.  He was to enter into the enjoyment of his inheritance in Canaan.  And it was because of his having fulfilled his responsibility to trust and obey God.  It will be on the same basis that every believer will inherit eternally.  His eternal reward will be in proportion to the measure in which he has fulfilled his responsibility to trust and obey God.

14:11.    “As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in.”

In the undiminished physical strength of the eighty-five year old Caleb, God bids us see a picture of what is available spiritually to every obedient saint.  Unlike the physical realm where everything bears the imprint of death and decay, the spiritual realm burgeons with life, as we read in 1 Co 15:42-44 concerning the resurrection body of the believer, corruption is replaced by incorruption; dishonor, by glory; weakness, by power; the natural, by the spiritual.  “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” Isa 40:31. 

There are few things more beautiful than the aged saint whose spiritual condition is the reflection of Caleb’s physical state.  Few sights are sadder than that of the aged saint whose physical weakness is but the reflection of his spiritual state.

The reference to war reminds us that the Christian warfare doesn’t end till the earthly course is finished, and we’re home in heaven.  At eighty-five Caleb still had battles to fight in order to take possession of his inheritance.  The most mature believer has the same need of spiritual strength as does the youngest lamb in God’s flock.

14:12.   “Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said.”

14:13.  “And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance.”

14:14.  “Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel.”

Inasmuch as a mountain is the Biblical symbol of a king and/or a kingdom, Caleb’s being given this mountain becomes the symbolic announcement of the spiritual truth that the kingdom of God, which this mountain represents, becomes the possession of those who have Caleb’s faith.  But the fact that Hebron was located on that mountain which Caleb so desired, tells us that wholehearted faith will have an equally strong desire for the unbroken communion with God which Hebron represents, for Hebron means communion.

Before Caleb could possess Hebron, however, he must drive out the Anakims whose cities were “great and fenced.”  (It is necessary at this point to offer an explanation of a seeming contradiction between Joshua 11 and this present account of the taking of Hebron.  It is generally recognized that the account of the conquest of Canaan follows the pattern of presenting a general statement, and then going back later to enlarge on the details.  Chapters 11 and 14 combine to tell us that while the subjugation of the land is credited to Joshua as the leader of the nation, the conquest of individual places was accomplished by men such as Caleb who were under Joshua’s command.  It is unnecessary to suppose that Joshua was personally present at the conquest of every town and village).

For a discussion of the Anakim, who represent pride, please see the notes on 11:21-23.  Where there is pride there can be no true communion with God; and lest we should underestimate the power of pride, we read that the cities of the Anakims were “great and fenced.”  The ramparts of pride, however, are no defence against such wholehearted faith as Caleb possessed.  He who desires communion with God must exterminate pride.

The communion represented by Hebron is still the inheritance of wholehearted faith.

14:15.  “And the name of Hebron before was Kirjath-arba; which Arba was a great man among the Anakims.  And the land had rest from war.”

In Scripture a change of name is indicative of a change of state, e.g., when brought into a right relationship with God  Abram became Abraham; Jacob became Israel; Saul (the persecutor) became Paul the Apostle; and so also with Hebron.  As Kirjath-arba it meant city of four, the significance of this change being the more apparent when we remember that four is the number of earth in connection with testing.  In our unsaved state our communion was with those who were like ourselves, earthy and spiritually dead.  That communion is a pale hollow thing compared to that which now exists between us and other believers, and the God Who is also our Father.  Arba is a type of Satan the god of this world, and the father of pride, the tyrant we once served, and with whom no one can hold communion, not even his most obedient minions, for he knows nothing of the intimate communication which is the very essence of communion.

“And the land had rest from war.”  He who walks in communion with God lives in a realm far above all the strife of earth.

[Joshua 15]




     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough