Joshua 15:15, 16: Caleb Offers Achsah for the Taking of Debir

Verse 15:[1] And (Josh. 10:38; Judg. 1:11) he went up thence to the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjath-sepher.

[He came to the inhabitants of Debir] Some maintain that this is the same expedition as that of Joshua in Joshua 10:38 (Malvenda): which appears to be attributed to Caleb, either, because it is undertaken on Caleb’s behalf; therefore he sets forth a reward to the first one capturing it (Junius): or, because he was the general of the troop or battle line that first assailed Debir (certain interpreters in Malvenda). Others maintain that these were altogether diverse expeditions; which is also closer to the truth (Malvenda, thus Bonfrerius, Masius, Menochius, Vatablus). It is likely that the Canaanites first expelled by Joshua occupied it again (Malvenda), while the Israelites either lingering in Gilgal, or were detained by other battles (Menochius).

[Which was formerly called Kirjath-Sepher, קִרְיַת־סֵפֶר] Kirjath-Sepher (Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Masius, Grotius). Others: the city of Sepher (Syriac, Arabic). The city of letters (Masius, Grotius), or, of books (Masius). Thus it was called, either, 1. because it was the academy of the Canaanites, in which they were taught letters and books (Lapide, Bonfrerius on verse 49). The Gymnasium of the Phœnicians, to Xenophon (Grotius). Hence it was called Debir, an oracle of wisdom, as it were, from דָּבָר, to speak, because eloquence was taught in it. Hence it is also called קִרְיַת־סַנָּה/Kirjath-sannah, that is, city of acumen, that is, in which there was acute discussion; for שָׁנַן is to sharpen (Lapide, Bonfrerius on verse 49). Or, 2. because it was an archive of the ancient Fathers, as it were, in which they stored many monuments of antiquity after the flood, since those first men dwelt in nearby Hebron. To this the name דְּבִיר/Debir agrees, which signifies a place altogether secret, and sacrosanct, as it were, and the innermost part of the innermost shrine; which sort are certainly held as τὰ ἀρχεῖα, the archives, and library. Perhaps the Chaldean meant this, when it rendered it קִרְיַת אַרְכִּי, City of Arki. It appears that by the word אַרְכִּי/Arki he meant to represent the ἀρχεῖον/archeion/archive of the Greeks (Masius). Thus Bochart translates it, the city of archives (Bochart’s Sacred Geography “Phaleg” 2:17:855). [But Grotius thus: The Chaldean translates it, the city of libraries.] The Jews feign that it was so called because Othniel here restored the doctrine of the Law, already waxing old at that time, after the death of Moses: but who does not know that the city had this name before Othniel (Masius)?

Debir; the same mentioned above, verse 7. The name of Debir before was Kirjath-sepher: this clause seems to be added to distinguish this from the other Debir subdued by Joshua, Joshua 10:38, 39.


Verse 16:[2] (Judg. 1:12) And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.

[To him will I give Achsah] Question: Why does he promise this? Response: Not that because of faintheartedness and unbelief he would suspend his hope upon the might of another man; especially now with the greatest difficulty of the war having been overcome: but rather, with the giants defeated, since he himself from that victory had obtained sufficient glory, he willed to charge his companions with this expedition of lighter work, as it were, so that he might share with them the glory of the campaign; and thereby he would clear himself of envy, and would reward the services of each rendered to himself. In addition, there was in this a secret instinct of God, so that the courage of Othniel might be made known publicly, who after Joshua was going to be the protector of the republic: And for this reason, both in this place and in Judges 1, it is so precisely put on record (Masius). The paternal power in the marriages of daughters among those nations (was) very great. See Judges 1:13; 1 Samuel 17:25. You have similar things in the histories of the Greeks concerning Oenomaus,[3] Schœneus,[4] and others (Grotius). This is understood with the law and liberty of marriage preserved. For a daughter was not able to be compelled to be marriage to whomever her father may wish, but it is presupposed that the girl freely acquiesces in the will of her father, as well-born virgins are wont (Estius).

To him will I give Achsah…to wife: Which is to be understood with some conditions, as, if he were one who could marry her by God’s law; for every promise contrary to that is void; and if she were willing; for though parents had a great power over their children, they could not force them to marry any person against their own wills. He might otherwise be an unfit and unworthy person: but this was no ordinary motion propounded to the imitation of others, but a Divine impulse, that Othniel’s valour might be more manifest, and so the way prepared for his future government of the people, Judges 3:9.

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּ֣עַל מִשָּׁ֔ם אֶל־יֹשְׁבֵ֖י דְּבִ֑ר וְשֵׁם־דְּבִ֥ר לְפָנִ֖ים קִרְיַת־סֵֽפֶר׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר כָּלֵ֔ב אֲשֶׁר־יַכֶּ֥ה אֶת־קִרְיַת־סֵ֖פֶר וּלְכָדָ֑הּ וְנָתַ֥תִּי ל֛וֹ אֶת־עַכְסָ֥ה בִתִּ֖י לְאִשָּֽׁה׃

[3] In Greek mythology, Oenomaus, son of Ares, was King of Pisa.  Fearing a prophecy that he would be killed by his son-in-law, Oenomaus killed eighteen suitors of his daughter Hippodamia in a chariot race, but is himself eventually killed in a chariot race by Pelops.

[4] In Greek mythology, Schœneus abandoned his daughter, Atalanta in the wild.  However, she survived, being nursed by a she-bear and raised by hunters; Atalanta grew to be a great warrior in her own right.  When she is reunited with her father, Schœneus insisted that she be wed.  She conceded, but required that a suitor must defeat her in a foot-race, or be put to death.  Hippomenes succeeded by casting golden apples before Atalanta, slowing her in the race.

1 thought on “Joshua 15:15, 16: Caleb Offers Achsah for the Taking of Debir

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘How he encouraged the valour of those about him in the conquest of Debir, Joshua 15:15, etc. It seems, though Joshua had once made himself master of Debir (Joshua 10:39), yet the Canaanites had regained the possession in the absence of the army, so that the work had to be done a second time; and when Caleb had completed the reduction of Hebron, which was for himself and his own family, to show his zeal for the public good, as much as for his own private interest, he pushes on his conquest to Debir, and will not lay down his arms till he sees that city also effectually reduced, which lay but ten miles southward from Hebron, though he had not any particular concern in it, but the reducing of it would be to the general advantage of his tribe. Let us learn hence not to seek and mind our own things only, but to concern and engage ourselves for the welfare of the community we are members of; we are not born for ourselves, nor must we live to ourselves.

    (1.) Notice is taken of the name of this city. It had been called Kirjath-sepher, the city of a book, and Kirjath-sannah (Joshua 15:49), which some translate the city of learning (so the LXX Polis grammaton), whence some conjecture that it had been a university among the Canaanites, like Athens in Greece, in which their youth were educated; or perhaps the books of their chronicles or records, or the antiquities of the nation, were laid up there; and, it may be, this was it that made Caleb so desirous to see Israel master of this city, that they might get acquainted with the ancient learning of the Canaanites.

    (2.) The proffer that Caleb made of his daughter, and a good portion with her, to any one that would undertake to reduce that city, and to command the forces that should be employed in that service, Joshua 15:16. Thus Saul promised a daughter to him that would kill Goliath (1 Samuel 17:25), neither of them intending to force his daughter to marry such as she could not love, but both of them presuming upon their daughters’ obedience, and submission to their fathers’ will, though it might be contrary to their own humour or inclination. Caleb’s family was not long honourable and wealthy, but religious; he that himself followed the Lord fully no doubt taught his children to do so, and therefore it could not but be a desirable match to any young gentleman. Caleb, in making the proposal, aims, [1.] To do service to his country by the reducing of that important place; and, [2.] To marry a daughter well, to a man of learning, that would have a particular affection for the city of books, and a man of war, that would be likely to serve his country, and do worthily in his generation. Could he but marry his child to a man of such a character, he would think her well bestowed, whether the share in the lot of his tribe were more or less.’

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