Adam, Abraham, Noah, Cain, Abel, Moses, Aaron, David, Sampson…These are the men of the Bible whose stories I know well. I watched cartoons about them, read picture books about them, and sang songs about them when I was a kid. Growing older I learned more about these great men but also some new characters. There’s Peter, Paul, Isaac, Ishmael, Joshua, John, Job, Saul, Simon, etc. Though I’ve read on each, the amount I can still recall varies.
I thought about all these names when brainstorming what to name our baby. For some, the story ruled out the name…sorry, not naming my son after the world’s first murderer. For others, the story is great and inspiring but the name is, well, challenging…..Moses and Sampson for example. I love their stories but little baby Sampson just wasn’t working for me. Thankfully, my mom suggested Caleb. I knew Caleb was a Biblical name but that’s about where it ended.
As it turns out, Caleb is a pretty cool fella.
The story of Caleb can be found in Numbers chapters 13 and 14. In short, Caleb is one of 12 leaders of the tribes of Israel (specifically he is from the tribe of Judah) who are sent to explore Canaan, the Promise Land. He and Joshua are the only two scouts who trust the Lord to deliver the land to them as He has promised. The other ten scouts believe they will be slaughtered by the Canaanites and spread false reports about the land. In reward for their faith, the Lord promises that Caleb will inherit land in the Promised Land and that he and Joshua will be the only two Israelites who were counted in the original census that will enter the promised land.
Here’s what the bible says about Caleb:
Caleb is a Leader
“From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” Numbers 13: 1
Caleb a Servant
“But because my servant Caleb…” Numbers 14:24
Caleb has a Different Spirit
“…Caleb has a different spirit…” Numbers 14:24
Caleb Follows the Lord wholeheartedly
“…and follows me wholeheartedly…” Numbers 14:24
and here’s what I think we can reasonably infer:
Caleb is Strong
The scouts must all be physically strong to traverse the terrain and scout out the land.
Caleb has Man Skills
The scouts didn’t set out in fully stocked camper trailers with full electricity and air conditioning. No, these men walked, they hunted and gathered their own food, they made fires, they used weapons, and they knew how to be secretive.
Caleb is Brave
Not only would scouting out enemy territory take bravery, speaking out the truth when everyone else is saying something else takes strength and bravery. Peer pressure is one of the hardest things to resist. Caleb risked being ostracized from among his people by refuting their stories and speaking his own, non-conforming opinion.
Caleb is an Independent Thinker
When the scouts came back and began reporting to Moses, it would have been easy for Caleb to simply agree with their reports or even to assume that since so many of them had the same opinion, that they must be right. Instead, he asserts his own assessment despite guaranteed backlash.
Caleb is Respected
Numbers 13:30 says “Then Caleb silenced the people…” In my experience, it takes someone with some pull and respect to silence a group of people and command their attention. Not just anyone can do that.
Caleb’s story and his role may not be in every childhood cartoon or picture book, but his example is so great and it’s one I hope my baby Caleb will emulate as he grows up.