Ancient inheritance tradition allowed for the firstborn to inherit a double-portion. All remaining sons would then equally divide the remains.
According to this tradition, there should have been twelve portions of land, with a double-portion going to Reuben. Reuben, however, lost his inheritance by sleeping with his father’s concubines. Joseph had died, but his two sons assumed both his inheritance and the portion allotted to Rueben, leaving twelve remaining tribes of Israel.
Of the twelve tribes of Israel, two are not mentioned in the account of conquests (Isaachar and Gad). Of the ten that are mentioned, only two are credited any success (Simeon and Judah). None are credited with complete obedience.
I mentioned yesterday that Caleb may not have been considered a true Israelite. He was a distant descendant of Judah and did receive a large portion of Judah’s land, but there are some interesting details to his story. His name is first listed as Chelubai (1 Chron. 2:9), an Arab derivative. A few verses later it’s changed to Caleb. The first name may indicate that his family left the Hebrew faith in favor of his great-grandmother’s (Tamar’s) Canaanite heritage. The name change to Caleb may have happened when he re-aligned his family with the Israelites during the Exodus from Egypt. Interestingly, “Caleb” means “dog” in Hebrew, and dogs lived on the outskirts of the community.
Regardless of what he was called, Caleb was one of the spies who trusted in God when Israel first approach the Promised Land (Joshua 14:6—15). Because of his faithfulness, he was guaranteed by Joshua and God to receive the land of Hebron. Caleb waited forty-five years for the fulfillment of that promise!
Read more about Caleb in Numbers 13-14, Joshua 14-18, and, of course, Judges. See his genealogy in 1 Chronicles 2.
Another major Bible character lived at the same time as the judges is Ruth. She has interesting ties to Jacob’s family as well.
Ruth was a Moabitess, that is a descendant of Moab who was the fruit of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughter.
You may remember that after God saved Lot and his family from destruction in Sodom, Lot’s daughters became distressed that they would never marry and therefore never have children. It’s another typical case of rapid human forgetfulness. Hadn’t God just rescued them? Couldn’t He provide a future for them as well? Anyway, the girls’ great plan was to get their father drunk and sleep with him. Well, it worked. Kind of. The two sisters had two children named Ben-Ammi (which means “son of my father”) and Moab. Those boys grew to become the fathers of the Ammonites and the Moabites, people so hated by the Hebrews that they were forbidden to enter the assembly of the Lord to the tenth generations! Ruth was one of those.
When there was a famine in Bethlehem (a name which ironically means “house of bread”), one particular Israelite family – Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Kilion – moved to Moab. There the boys married Ruth and Orpah and then all three of the men died. You know the story: Ruth pledges her life and devotion to her mother-in-law and eventually everyone lives happily ever after back in Bethlehem with Boaz as Ruth’s new husband.
Now let’s back up and look at Boaz.
Boaz was the son of Rahab, the prostitute who lived in the wall of Jericho and hid the Israelite spies. She made a deal with them and they rescued her family. She later married Salmon, a man believed to be one of those spies.
And who was the other spy? We don’t know. It could have been Caleb. Scripture doesn’t mention the names of either of the two men. We do know, however, that Caleb and Salmon were contemporaries. By the time of Judges, Caleb was already eighty-five years old.
Now if this isn’t worthy of your favorite reality show or daytime drama, I don’t know what is.
Want more? Check out these books:
- Premium Roast with Ruth by Sandra Glahn – This is part of the same Bible study series as our current workbook on Judges!
- The Gospel of Ruth by Carolyn Custis James – This book is really about Naomi, but, of course, Ruth is well covered, too.
- Lost Women of the Bible by Carolyn Custis James – Great concise character studies of women like Tamar and others
- Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers – Five short novellas of the five women listed in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary — While these are fictionalized accounts, the author also includes Bible studies at the end of each.
- Sons of Encouragement by Francine Rivers — I mentioned this the other day. It includes a short novella on the life of Caleb.