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(1) Caleb, Son of Jephone, The Cenezite. -- The representative of the tribe of Juda among the spies sent from Cades to explore Chanaan. On their return he and Josue combated the exaggerated reports of the other spies and endeavored to reassure the people, but without success, and in the mutiny which broke out they nearly fell victims to the popular fury. In reward for their conduct they were exempted from the decree condemning the adult population to die in the desert (Numbers 13:14; Deuteronomy 1:19-36). Caleb was appointed one of the commissioners to divide the Promised Land among the tribes (Numbers 34:19). On the strength of the Divine promise made to him at Cades at the time of the mutiny (Numbers 14:24), he asked and obtained as his portion the district of Hebron (Joshua 14:6 sq.); the city itself was, however, assigned to the priests (Joshua 21:11-13). Though he was then in his eighty-fifth year, he still possessed the full vigour of manhood, and took the field to conquer the territory alloted to him (Joshua 14:7 sq.; 15:13 sq.). We last hear of him in connection with the marriage of his daughter Axa to his brother Othoniel (Joshua 15:16-19; Judges 1:12-15). It may be remarked that probably neither "brother" nor "daughter" is to be taken in the strict sense. Caleb is praised by the son of Sirach with the great men of Israel (Sirach 46:9 sq.), and Mathathias numbers him among the Israelites distinguished for their zeal and faith (1 Maccabees 2:56). Although a prominent figure in Hebrew history, Caleb seems not to have been an Israelite by birth, but to have become a member of the Chosen People by adoption into the Tribe of Juda. This is intimated by Joshua 15:13, where Caleb is distinguished from the sons of Juda, by the designation Cenezite (háqqenizzi), which is a gentilitial form, and by the absence of Cenez and Jephone from the genealogical lists of Juda in 1 Chronicles 2. A Cenez appears among the grandchildren of Esau (Genesis 36:11, 15, 42), and a tribe of Cenezites, no doubt descendants of this Cenez, is mentioned in Genesis 15:19. Caleb probably was connected with this tribe. Admission to full tribal membership of strangers who embraced the Hebrew religion and customs was not foreign to Hebrew practice, and the Edomites, children of Abraham and Isaac, would be readily received because of their racial affinity. (Cf. Deuteronomy 23:7-8, where, however, admission is restricted to the third generation.)

(2) Caleb, Son of Hesron.-- A descendant of Juda (1 Chronicles 2:18, 42 sq.), also called Calubi [Heb., Kelûbái (ib., ii, 9)]. He is only mentioned in the genealogical tables of 1 Chronicles 2, where his descendants by different wives are enumerated. Many identify this Caleb with the son of Jephone, who, in the view stated above, would be merely the legal son of Hesron through adoption into his family. The reason for this identification is that both had a daughter named Achsa (written Axa in the Vulgate, Joshua 15:16-17; Judges 1:12-13). But, to touch only one difficulty, the son of Jephone could not have been the great-grandfather of Beseleel, who was a skilled artificer when Caleb was barely forty years old (cf. Joshua 14:7). To get rid of the difficulty, as Hummelauer does (Com. in Num., 202), by making Uri and Beseleel adopted sons of Hur, or by rejecting 1 Chronicles 2:20, is too arbitrary a solution to commend itself.

(3) A man of Juda, the brother of Sua and father of Mahir, whose name according to the Hebrew text is Kelûb (1 Chronicles 4:11).

(4) The name of a clan of the tribe of Juda, derived from Caleb, the son of Jephone, and his Cenezite followers--the Calebites. As said above [under (1)], they were not of Israelitic origin. They settled in the territory around Hebron (Joshua 14:12-14), chiefly to the south, it would seem. They must have reached as far south as the Negeb (the "south" or "south country" in D. V.), since Caleb gave land in the Negeb to his daughter Axa for dowry (Joshua 15:19; Judith 1:15; cf. Heb. text), and a district of the Negeb was called the Negeb of Caleb ("south of Caleb", D. V., 1 Samuel 30:14). In David's time we find the Calebite Nabal, the husband of Abigail, dwelling in Maon and having possessions in Carmel, now el-Kurmul, ten miles south of Hebron. The statement that Caleb is a totem name, derived from the tribe's totem, the dog, and therefore equivalent to "dog-tribe", rests on no better foundation than the questionable etymological connection of Caleb with Kéléb, "dog".

(5) The Negeb of Caleb (1 Samuel 30:14).-- One of the districts of the Negeb, or "south country", a region extending from the "mountain" or "hill country" of Juda to the Desert of Sin. The Negeb of Caleb is said to be the district in which lay Ziph, Maon, Carmel (el-Kurmul), and Jota; in Joshua 15:55, however, these cities are included in "the mountain". [See Palmer, Desert of the Exodus (New York, 1872), 238, 358 sq.]

(6) Caleb-Ephrata.-- The name of a place, according to the Masoretic text (1 Chronicles 2:24); but there is little or no doubt that, with the Vulgate and Septuagint, we should read "Caleb went in to Ephrata" (his wife), instead of "in Caleb-Ephrata".

About this page

APA citation. Bechtel, F. (1908). Caleb. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Bechtel, Florentine. "Caleb." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Matthew Reak.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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