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Caleb, Calebites


CALEB, CALEBITES (Heb. [כָּלֵב, בְּנֵי כָלֵב [כָּלִבִּי), a leader of the tribe of Judah and eponym of many families living in the central and southern regions of Judah. Even though he is mentioned in the history of the conquest of Canaan as Caleb son of Jephunneh and in the genealogical lists as the son of Hezron son of Perez son of Judah, there is no doubt that all the references are to the same person. These genealogical changes reflect the independent origin of the families of Caleb, which were related to the Edomites and others in the south of the country. They were later integrated into the tribe of Judah (see *genealogy). Caleb, representing the tribe of Judah, was one of the spies sent by Moses to reconnoiter the land of Canaan. Only he and *Joshua son of Nun were of the opinion that the Israelites should attempt to invade Canaan immediately. The people, however, listened to the majority report of the spies and were doomed, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, to die in the wilderness. Caleb, in particular, was praised for his loyalty (Num. 14:24; Deut. 1:36). The report of the sending of the spies (Num. 13) originally referred apparently to Caleb alone and dealt with the vicinity of *Hebron. It appears from many verses that the inclusion of Joshua and the description of the journey to Rehob, at Lebo-hamath, are a later addition (Num. 13:21–30; 14:24; 32:9; Deut. 1:24, 26; Josh. 14:6ff.). This report apparently reflects the tradition that the Calebites migrated to the mountains in the region of Judah and Hebron from the Negev, and only later were incorporated into the general history of the conquest. According to this viewpoint, Caleb received Hebron as a reward for his brave conduct during the expedition of the spies. After he had slain the offspring of *Anak and conquered Hebron, he set out for *Debir (Kiriath-Sepher), one of the towns in the south of Judah (Josh. 15:48); "And Caleb announced: 'I will give my daughter *Achsah as wife to him who attacks and captures Kiriath-Sepher.' His younger kinsman, *Othniel son of Kenaz, captured it" (Josh. 15:16–17; Judg. 1:12–15). Caleb himself is also referred to as a Kenizzite (Num. 32:12; Josh. 14:14); it therefore appears that Caleb was related to the Kenizzites (from Kenaz, see above) who in turn were principally related to the Edomites (Gen. 36:11, 15, 42, et al.), and were also listed with the Canaanite peoples who preceded the Israelite settlement (Gen. 15:19). The genealogical lists of the Calebites are given together with those of the families of Judah (i Chron. 2, 4) and many of their places of residence are also mentioned. Some of these lists are fragmentary and the relationships among the various families and between them and Judah are not always clear. The verses of I Chronicles 2:24, 42–51; 4:5–15, in which the localities of Tekoa and Beth-Zur in the north, Ziph and Maon in the east, and Madmannah in the south (Josh. 15:31), in addition to Hebron, are mentioned, can most certainly be understood as referring to the families of Caleb. A number of verses also seem to connect Hur to Caleb, the former being the progenitor of the families of northern Judah from Beth-Lehem to Kiriath-Jearim and Zorah, but they apparently have been corrupted. In i Chronicles 2:50, the words "these were the children of Caleb" terminate the previous paragraph, and "the son of Hur" is the beginning of a new subject. It also seems that in verse 19, Hur should be corrected to Ashhur, according to verse 24. Thus, the opinion of E. Meyer and others that the expansion of the Calebites into northern Judah and the Shephelah ("lowland") was due to the penetration of the Edomites into Judah after the destruction of the First Temple and that the genealogical lists belong to this period is to be rejected. The opinions of S. Klein and M. Noth that these lists relate, at the very latest, to the period of the early monarchy are more acceptable. During this period there is additional evidence for the presence of the Calebites in the localities mentioned: Nabal, who was connected with Maon and Carmel, was a Calebite (cf. the masoretic text and the ancient versions of i Sam. 25:2–3). In the days of David, one of the regions of the Negev is still referred to as the Negev of Caleb together with the Negev of the Cherethites, the Negev of the Jerahmeelites, the Negev of the Kenites, and of others (i Sam. 30:14; cf. 27:10). Until the establishment of the monarchy, Caleb was one of the southern tribes, who, according to M. Noth, possibly formed an alliance of six tribes and whose center was in Calebite Hebron. It would seem that it was only with the advent of the monarchy that the Calebites were completely integrated into Judah and became one of its major family groups.

[Yohanan Aharoni]

In the Aggadah

Caleb was twice sent to Canaan as a spy, once by Moses and once by Joshua together with Phinehas (Num. R. 16:1). His name Caleb b. Jephunneh is interpreted to mean that "he spoke what he felt in his heart (כְּלֵב) (Mid. Ag. to Num. 13:6) and turned aside (פָּנָה) from the advice of the rest of the spies" (Tem. 16a; Sot. 11b). When the spies reached Hebron, he paid a special visit to the grave of the Patriarchs to pray for their help against the evil intentions of the other spies (Sot. 34b). It was on his insistence that they took with them the fruit of the land in order to demonstrate its excellence to the people (Num. R. 16:14). Caleb pretended to agree with the spies, so that they should permit him to address the people. When, however, he began to defend Moses, they shouted him down, as they had Joshua (Sot. 35a). As a reward for their conduct, Joshua's and Caleb's portions of the Land were determined not by lots, but by the command of God; they received the portions that had been intended for the other spies (tj, bb 8:3, 16a). Caleb married Miriam (Sot. 12a) and thus became the progenitor of the house of David (Sot. 11b). He also married *Bithiah, Pharaoh's daughter – a fitting match, because she had rebelled against her father's idolatry, as he had rebelled against the spies (Lev. R. 1:3).


Bright, Hist, 107n., 121, 175; Klein, in: Me'assef Zion 3 (1929), 1–16; Yeivin, in: Zion, 9 (1944), 54–60; Aharoni, Land, 224ff.; Maisler (Mazar), in: Sefer Dinaburg (1949), 321–5; Y. Kaufmann, Sefer Yehoshu'a (1959), 41–49; E. Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstaemme (1906), passim; M. Noth, Das System der Zwoelf Staemme Israels (1930), 107ff.; idem, in: zdpv, 55 (1932), 97–124; W. Rudolph, Chronikbuecher (1955), 10–35. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index.

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