This study is organized differently in that it’s really a character study of Caleb and the type of believer he represents. He is one of the true role models of faith in that it’s mentioned six times in Scripture that he “wholly followed the Lord” (Num. 14:24; 32:12; Dt. 1:36; Joshua 14:8-9, 14) Caleb fully meets the apostle John’s definition of an “overcomer”:
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
— 1 John 5:4
Caleb is an example of someone wholly surrendered to the Lord and in full obedience to His Word whose spiritual history serves as a model for our own journey of sanctification.
Stage One: Caleb the Sufferer
Q: When and where was Caleb born?
A: Caleb would have been born in Egypt while Israel was still slaves in captivity.
Q: Why do some scholars believe Caleb might have been of mixed parentage?
A: The name “Caleb” literally means “dog”, which is a sometimes a term used derogatorily to refer to Gentiles. Furthermore, the fact that he’s referred to as a “Kenezite” might indicate he had a Gentile father and a Jewish mother.
Q: What will be ironic about his ultimate influence on the bloodlines of not just Israel in general, but the tribe of Judah specifically?
A: According to the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 2, Caleb will be a direct ancestor of Christ the Messiah Himself.
Point: Like Caleb we all began life in slavery and with a heritage undeserving of any earthly blessing. God’s working through Caleb represents the dual picture of God’s grace and salvation for whoever repents and responds to God’s Word.
Q: How was Caleb redeemed by God?
A: As an Israelite freed from Egypt, Caleb was redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb (a shadow of the work of the cross to come), delivered from Egypt (a picture of being saved from the old life), and provided an inheritance in Canaan (representing the promise to every believer).
Point: Caleb would not have received an inheritance under Joshua if he had not first experienced redemption under Moses.
Stage Two: Caleb the Defender
Q: In which of Israel’s post-Egypt rebellions is Caleb prominently mentioned?
A: The rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea documented in Numbers 13-14.
Q: How would you summarize the problem at Kadesh-Barnea?
A: Israel had been out of Egypt about 2 years when it arrived at the entrance to Canaan where, instead of taking God at His Word and proceeding to possess their inheritance, they instead asked for a report from twelve spies. (Dt. 1:2) Instead of receiving the good report from Caleb and Joshua, Israel choose instead to accept the bad report of the other ten spies and allowed fear to overcome their faith.
Q: How would you contrast Caleb and Joshua at Kadesh-Barnea with the others?
The ten spies despised the land (Num. 14:36); Caleb and Joshua delighted in the land.
The nation wanted to go back; the two wanted to go ahead.
The majority was walking by sight; the minority was walking by faith.
The rebellious saw only the obstacles and problems; the faithful saw the opportunities and prospects.
Q: What did these difference ultimately result in?
A: The unbelieving generation died in the wilderness, but Caleb and Joshua lived to enter and possess their inheritance in the Promised Land.
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit
— Romans 8:5
Application: While it’s true that at times in life Christians will have to make a stand against the world and the evil workings of Satan its master, there may be times when they have to stand in their faith against the majority WITHIN the church, to stand for God even among those claiming to believe in Him.
Stage Three: Caleb the Wanderer
Q: What was Caleb’s situation now that Israel failed the test of faith at Kadesh-Barnea?
A: Although Caleb did not die in the wilderness, he still had to go through the 40 years of suffering and wandering experienced by the whole nation during that time.
Q: What might it have been like during those 40 years for a man of faith? What would he had to have endured?
Every day he witnessed the death of those who, because of their unfaithfulness, would miss out on their inheritance.
He had to endure their continued grumbling and complaining, compounded by the fact that they had not learned the right lessons from their disobedience.
As a man of faith he had to endure people with a complete lack of faith.
As a supporter of Moses he had to endure all those who opposed Moses.
Q: So how do you suppose Caleb was able to maintain the quality of his spiritual walk when surrounded by so much worldly unbelief and faithlessness?
A: As stated in Joshua 14:9-12, Caleb had been given the promise of a wonderful inheritance by God.
Point: Although his body was in the wilderness, so to speak, his heart and mind and soul were in Canaan. Caleb is a perfect illustration of Paul’s teaching in Colossians 3:1-4…
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
We might even say that Caleb possessed what Paul refers to in Romans 8:6 as “the spiritual mind”…
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,
Q: So how might we summarize the source of Caleb’s faith?
Caleb knew that regardless of the circumstances in the wilderness, he did not have to fear death.
Caleb’s attention was forward-focused on the promised inheritance to come.
Caleb trusted that God would not fail him.
Application: The argument could easily be made that as New Testament Christians we have even more in Christ than Caleb as an Old Testament believer had, and therefore have even LESS of an excuse to live by faith.
Stage Four: Caleb the Conqueror
Q: So what is Joshua actually doing in chapters 14-15?
A: He’s giving each tribe their special inheritance.
Q: And how does Caleb claim his share of the inheritance?
A: Caleb reminds Joshua of God’s promise. (14:6-9)
Point: It is only on the basis of God’s Word that we can claim our blessings.
Q: What testimony does Caleb give in support of his reminder to Joshua?
A: In 14:10-11 Caleb testifies of the physical strength and conditioning God has provided. It’s an allusion to the equally powerful spiritual strength which faith has produced.
Point: The person of true “strength” is actually the person with biblical faith.
Q: Why should Caleb serve as an example that we are all fit and able to serve the Lord regardless of our age?
A: At this time Caleb would have been 85 years old. It’s a teaching that spiritual age is always much more important than chronological age and no excuse for shrinking from engaging in the work of the kingdom.
Q: So why was Caleb ultimately successful?
A: His physical capabilities mirrored his spiritual condition.
Caleb had faith that what God promised, God was able to deliver.
yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.
— Romans 4:20-21
Q: What is particularly ironic about Caleb’s victory in the Promised Land?
A: Caleb overcame the very giants which frightened away the majority of Israelites in the first place.
Point: Unbelief looks at the giants; faith looks to God. Faith is often the suspension of man’s “common sense” in favor of wholly resting on God’s Word alone.
Q: What is historically significant about Caleb’s nephew Othniel?
A: Exhibiting the same spirit of faith as Caleb, Othniel will eventually become Israel’s first judge (Judges 3:9) and carry on the family tradition of faith and leadership.
Q: What do you suppose is the underlying spiritual representation of Caleb’s daughter’s request of an additional blessing?
A: A dry, arid land without water would not be a very useful or productive inheritance. The underlying principle is that we need to continually come in faith to God who will provide everything necessary to complete the work of faith in our life. As water in Scripture typifies the work of the Holy Spirit by the washing of the Word, this is an illustration of faith continuing to work according to God’s Word and ways.
What a difference it makes when a believer “wholly follows the Lord” and exercise their fain in God’s Word. In Caleb’s life…
He was redeemed by the blood of the lamb and overcame the old life in Egypt.
He took God at His Word and overcame the unbelief of the majority in the wilderness.
He acted on faith and overcame the enemy to not only obtain an inheritance for himself but for his heirs to come.
Caleb conquered with physical weapons to claim a physical inheritance; we conquer with spiritual weapons to claim a spiritual inheritance in Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
— Ephesians 1:3
As New Testament believers…
We are to overcome the world. (1 John 5:5)
We are to overcome false doctrines. (1 John 4:1-4)
We are to overcome the wicked one. (1 John 2:13-14)
Christ has already overcome Satan (Lk. 11:21-22) and the world (Jn. 16:33), so we need only to claim His victory by faith. The final message of Christ to believers in the church age is a series of promises to those who overcome in His letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. In fact, near the end of Revelation we are reminded…
“He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
— Revelation 21:7
In order to overcome as Caleb did…
We must be wholly yielded to the Lord.
We must know and believe God’s promises.
We must keep our heart and mind fixed on our inheritance.