Ever Feel Punished and Passed Over? What We Can Learn from Caleb

I don’t have a son, and the sons-in-law I’ve acquired came already named. But if I had a son, I’d name him Caleb. 

You may remember that Caleb was one of 12 spies who went into Canaan to scope out the land as the children of Israel prepared to conquer it. All 12 agreed the land was bountiful and “flowing with milk and honey,” but ten of the 12 were seriously concerned about the fortified cities and the Anakites—a race of giants who lived there.

Caleb and his buddy Joshua were unintimidated. “Let’s go in immediately. The cities are strong, the people are large, but with God as our helper, we can conquer this land!”

Reason #1 why I’d name my son Caleb: He wasn’t afraid of daunting tasks, because he knew God would help him. Caleb had faith.

You may also remember that because the Israelites were wimpy, frightened, and weak in their faith, God punished them by making them wander in the wilderness until every person who said no to God had perished. Even the mighty patriarch Moses sinned and didn’t get to go into the Promised Land.

This left two men standing—Joshua and Caleb. These men did everything right, but because of everyone else’s sin, they had to wander and wait for 38 years. 

But you know what? They kept their faith. They kept their integrity. They waited patiently, served their brothers, and continued to believe that God was going to do what he’d promised.

Reason #2 why I’d name my son Caleb: He suffered because of others’ sins, yet still maintained his integrity. 

Now it’s promotion time. God has told Moses he’s not going into the Promised Land, so it’s time to appoint a successor. There are only two candidates—Joshua and Caleb. Both are wise, godly, faithful, courageous men. God chooses Joshua, and Caleb gets passed over.

There’s no injustice here; God knows who’s most qualified to lead the Israelites. But don’t you think Caleb feels a bit hurt and disappointed? I know I’d be.

How does he handle it? Does he throw a tantrum, howl about how unfair God is, take his marbles and go back to Egypt? Nope. He keeps serving the Lord. He supports Joshua, throws his wholehearted allegiance behind him, and continues to faithfully carry out his duties as a leader.

Reason #3 why I’d name my son Caleb: He served faithfully in the shadow of another leader.

And finally, Caleb went the distance. When the land was largely conquered, and it was time to settle into their respective cities, Kenneth Gangel, in The Holman Old Testament Commentary on Joshua, describes Caleb’s unusual request:

“Even after 85 difficult years, Caleb had a great attitude about serving God and fighting for him. He wasn’t tired out; in fact, he was just getting excited. He didn’t walk up to his old buddy Joshua to ask for a maintenance-free, energy-saving home. . . . No, he asked for the hill country still inhabited by giants. He wanted the very area that had intimidated the other ten spies . . .”

I love this about Caleb. When he could have justifiably asked for an easy retirement, he asked instead for a daunting task he could only accomplish with God’s help and enabling. He never took the easy way out. Elisabeth Elliot is famous for saying, “When you have a choice between two things, choose the harder.”

Reason #4 why I’d name my son Caleb: He chose the harder thing.

Caleb is an amazing man of God. He clung to his faith, stood for God even when it cost him something, served faithfully in the shadow of another leader, and chose to do hard things. He’s a man I admire, respect, and want to emulate. He’s a man worthy of naming a son after, don’t you think?

I’ve barely skimmed the surface of Caleb’s life, but maybe I’ve whetted your appetite. If you’d like to read more about Caleb, check out his story beginning in Numbers 13. If you’re already familiar with this great man, what do you admire most about him? Or maybe you’d like to name your son after another godly hero of the faith. Leave a comment in the box below and share your thoughts.

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  1. Lori,
    I enjoyed this post and I think you gave great reasons for choosing Caleb as a name for a son. Thanks for the review of Caleb's story. I chose David for one of our sons. I went with a family name for the other. I hope your Mother's Day was a wonderful one. Keep writing!

  2. Loved this post about Caleb....great insight on this very special man's life. Who knows....maybe one day I will have a son named Caleb.

    1. I hope so, Iris. It seems a shame to waste such a great name :) Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Thank you for this post. I will be sharing it with my 19 year old, Caleb

    1. I'm jealous, Beth.You have a Caleb! I pray he, like the biblical Caleb, will be a mighty man for God.

  4. Loved this and shared this with a nephew and wife who chose this name for one of their sons!

    1. Excellent, Esther. And my, you have an awesome name to live up to as well. May God's blessings be upon you all.

  5. Great post, may we all strive to be our best at where God places us and not compare.

    1. Amen, Jennifer. Thanks for stopping by today.

  6. Wow! If my kids weren't grown and we hadn't used all "J" names, I'd seriously think about using Caleb for a son's name! You brought some things out of a familiar story that I hadn't considered before.

    1. At least you had boys :) I didn't even have the option :) Thanks for stopping by, Barbara.


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