(kay' leb) HEBREW: KALEB
"dog" or "slave"

When the Israelites were camped in the wilderness after fleeing from Egypt, Moses sent out 12 men, one from each of the tribes, to inspect the Promised Land and assess its fruitfulness and the strength of its inhabitants. Representing the tribe of Judah was Caleb.

Most of the spies were intimidated by Canaan's inhabitants, returning with "an evil report of the land" (Numbers 13:32), as well as with ample evidence of its fertility - figs, pomegranates, and an enormous cluster of grapes. But Caleb was bolder, urging the Israelites to invade and occupy Canaan. Despite his testimony, the frightened report of the other spies prevailed. "We are not able to go up against the people," they said; "for they are stronger than we" (Numbers 13:31). Losing faith that the Lord would protect them, the Israelites "murmured against Moses and Aaron," saying to one another, "Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt" (Numbers 14:2,4). When Caleb and Joshua, the spy representing Ephraim, urged the Israelites to maintain their faith in the Lord's protection and move ahead into Canaan, they were pelted with stones. God punished the Israelites by making them remain in the wilderness for decades longer until the disobedient generation - excepting only Caleb and Joshua - died out.

After the years of desert wandering were over and when Canaan was being parceled out among the Israelite tribes, Caleb was allotted land and villages in the vicinity of Hebron. By then 85 years of age, Caleb claimed to be as strong as he had been a generation earlier when he first traveled through Canaan as a spy - and proved his prowess by driving out the inhabitants. Either Caleb or his immediate descendants intermarried with Canaanites or with Edomites to the south since the clan is described later in the Bible as being of mixed origin. Nonetheless, these people were assimilated into the tribe of Judah and in 1 Chronicles are given a genealogy traced back through Judah to Jacob.

{E2 Dictionary of Biblical People}

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.