In Joshua 14:6 - 15, we read that, after 7 years of conquest, Joshua gave Hebron to Caleb as an inheritance. Up until verse 12, chapter 15 describes the rest of Judah's allotment. Verses 13 - 19 turns back to the topic of Caleb's inheritance by informing us of Caleb's capture of Hebron and his nephew Othniel's capture of Debir.

Judges 1 is where things go wrong. Here's a basic summary on what transpires in these verses:

Joshua dies and Judah takes the lead in the war against Canaan. They start off by capturing the city of Bezek and her king, who they will mutilate and take to their next target, Jerusalem, where he will die. Once Jerusalem's burnt, we read that Judah turns her attention to "the hill country, the Negev and the Judean foothills." They then proceed to attack Hebron and defeat Anak's three sons. Then we get to Debir, where Caleb again offers his daughter in exchange for its capture and where his nephew Othniel again accepts it.

There's the issue. Joshua 14-15 places Caleb & his nephew's conquests during Joshua's lifetime while Judges 1 places it after his death. There are three solutions I've come across for this issue:

  1. These are two different conquests of Hebron & Debir. I read this a while ago so I may be misremembering but if I'm not, then this is a ridiculous attempt. The two accounts are identical.

  2. Judges is pointing back to something that happened during Joshua's lifetime. I'm not exactly sure how this would be possible. The narrative makes no indication that it's telling anything other than a straightforward account of the events immediately following Joshua's death.

  3. Joshua is pointing forward to something that will take place after Joshua's death. I think this explanation is most likely correct as, in my opinion, there's a good deal of wiggle room in this portion of Joshua. There is, however, a problem with this approach: Caleb's request clearly comes during Joshua's lifetime and apparently while the land is being divided. This third option requires us to believe that Caleb, who was 85 at the time of his request, waited years or decades to claim his land.


2 Answers 2


I'll add a fourth solution: both Judges AND Joshua are looking back at events, because both were written centuries after the fact. In Joshua the Conquest is quick and decisive, while in Judges it is a long hard slog. The accounts diverge, because they are products of a period of oral tradition combined with the particular viewpoints of the men who eventually wrote the accounts.

Contemporary scholars, such as the editors of the US Council of Bishops online version of the New American Bible Revised Edition, often hold that the Book of Joshua was written shortly before the Babylonian Exile in the 8th century BCE:

The book preserves older traditions of Israel’s settlement in the land, especially in the division of the land among the tribes. As with Deuteronomy and the whole Deuteronomistic History, the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722/721 B.C. shows its influence throughout. As addressed to the needs of a late preexilic audience, then, the book should be read not so much as imparting information about how Israel took over the land of Canaan, many centuries before the composition of the book, as teaching a lesson about how Israel [or Judah] is to avoid losing the land.

Regarding the Book of Judges, the same source believes the current form of the book comes from the same period as Joshua but is more reliant on older material:

These stories illustrate the religious and political disorder that prevailed at the time when, as yet, “there was no king in Israel.” The historian drew the stories of the judges themselves from older sources, which could have existed in written form but derive ultimately from oral tradition.

Generally, the Book of Joshua presents the Israelites moving from victory to victory to drive out God's enemies, while the Book of Judges presents a more realistic scenario in which the enemies were not driven out and victories are hard to come by. This fits with scenario the OP describes: Since the writer of Joshua presents his hero as almost completely victorious, Caleb could naturally be given Hebron soon after the Conquest. But in Judges, the author relies on older material, closer to the reality, in which Hebron was not taken until later.


I would argue that both accounts are correct - the situation appears to be as follows:

  • In Joshua 14, Caleb is "given" the land in the sense that it was his to take, one day. That is, it was given to him as an inheritance, but he was yet to capture it.
  • In Judges 1, after the death of Joshua, Caleb and his nephew capture the actual land and Caleb's family settle there.

Indeed, the allocation of the land for the tribes generally is described in Joshua chapters 13-20, long before most of the land had been captured. (Some had been captured and settled but far from all.) The on-going capture of the land, after Joshua's death continues in Judges. That process was not complete until the time of David and Solomon, almost 400 years later.

  • You're espousing option #3? How do you deal with the issue that it presents viz. Caleb, then 85, waiting years or decades for Joshua to die(depending on how old he was at the time).
    – A.O.
    Nov 16, 2022 at 21:56
  • @A.O. - I would argue against decades but Caleb certainly took possession of his inheritance some years after the land was divided. Indeed, he gave his daughter to the one who drove out the inhabitants of part of that possession. As stated above, some of the areas of the land were not possessed until the time of David who freed up Jerusalem as part of the inheritance of the tribe of Judah.
    – Dottard
    Nov 16, 2022 at 22:32
  • How old could Joshua, a youth at the time of the Exodus(33:11), have really been at Caleb's request? He appears to have been actively involved in the fighting up until the land's division. Caleb having the vigor of his youth would hardly be special if Joshua was campaigning as a super centenarian.
    – A.O.
    Nov 21, 2022 at 20:38
  • @A.O. - we are not told; however, we know that Joshua was 110 when he died (Josh 24:29, 30).
    – Dottard
    Nov 21, 2022 at 20:48
  • That's the issue. Caleb had little reason to wait, given his age, yet we are told that the Israelites had rest for a long time after the division of the land before Joshua gave his farewell speech and died shortly afterwards(Joshua 23:1).
    – A.O.
    Nov 21, 2022 at 21:07

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