Achsah (עכסה) was the daughter of Caleb, and we’re introduced to her in Joshua 15:13-19. Along with a parallel passage in Judges, there are only two verses that speak of a short story in her life. This story of Achsah has always intrigued me (probably because I have a son named Caleb), but it’s so brief and seems to contain nothing of spiritual value. However, when we dig beneath the surface, I found that there is plenty to consider!
Achsah was most likely born in Caleb’s older age, during the time of the wilderness wanderings. Her name means “anklet”, which is quite fitting for the family she was born into. Her father was clearly a man who walked out his faith (one of the two “good spies”, remember), and a daughter born in his older age was like a reward adorning his faithful walk.
The basic thing we learn in this short passage is the giving of Achsah in marriage. We see, in effect, that Caleb gives his daughter as a reward to the man who takes the Canaanite royal city of Kiriath-sepher. We then discover that it’s Achsah’s cousin, Othniel, who takes it and marries her. On the surface, this may give the appearance that Caleb doesn’t care about his daughter – as though he says to himself, “I don’t care who she marries, but perhaps I can use her to get this city without any effort”. I believe this is far from the truth! In fact, as we consider this, I think we actually see that Caleb cared deeply for his daughter.
It’s certainly possible that Caleb (& Achsah) knew of Othniel’s interest in marrying Achsah. However, whether this is true or not, we need to consider what Caleb’s purpose was here. Remember that Caleb had deliberately chosen to take the land of the giant men – the Anakim. Caleb was 85 years old (one of only two Israelite men of that age alive) and even at that age he wanted to clearly show the people of Israel that faith in YHWH was the only way to live. Caleb knew that the man who was able to take the city of Kiriath-sepher was probably going to be a man of physical bravery but, more importantly, he knew it was necessary for that man to have a strong, certain faith in YHWH. This is the type of man Caleb wanted for his daughter. In fact – Caleb was actually looking for a man just like himself!
So, are we sure that Caleb found a man suitable for his daughter? Yes! We see in Judges 3:8-11 that Othniel was a Godly man who YHWH used mightily. He became the first of the Israelite “judges” who delivered Israel from bondage and brought peace to the land. We often don’t link all of this together, but we now know that he most likely had a strong, faithful wife at his side. But Othniel did not just come out of nowhere to be used by YHWH in Israel. He certainly had a strong, Godly heritage with an uncle (and it likely follows, a father) who lived a life of great faith. Othniel clearly built upon this in his own life, and it’s worth considering this a little.
There are many of us that haven’t grown up in all the overtly wicked things of the world and willingly taken part in them. Sure – many have, and we see YHWH’s amazing mercy and grace to bring people out of the darkness and into the light. However, I believe it can be a trap for those growing up under a Godly heritage to go out into the world and get a taste of the “other side”. After all (we can think), wouldn’t we love YHWH more and have a greater testimony if we experienced both sides? Let me say that this attitude is both totally sinful and like throwing dirt in the face of YHWH, our loving Father!
In Othniel, we see that a righteous and Godly heritage can be greatly used by YHWH. In fact, I think it is blatantly obvious in Scripture that YHWH’s desire is exactly for that Godly heritage to continue generation after generation for all of Israel. Isn’t that exactly what any believer would want for their own children and grandchildren?!! Obviously, Othniel could have rebelled against the faith he had been taught to walk in, but he would not have married Achsah and he would not have become the first Judge of Israel! My advice and warning here is to build upon the heritage you have. Don’t leave it, don’t just rest in it – but build upon it!
Back to the story … Achsah is given to Othniel in marriage (Joshua 15:17). The two verses that follow are the only verses that actually present the solitary story about Achsah in Scripture. This is what we’re told: “When she came to him [Othniel], she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she got off her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have given me the land of the south (Negev), give me also springs of water.” And he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.”
This is generally considered to be taking place during the wedding period – probably after the first day of a longer celebration. The first thing we see here is that Achsah urges, or persuades, her new husband to ask Caleb for some land (most likely as a wedding gift). The fact that Achsah persuades Othniel should not automatically be viewed as a bad thing – remember Moshe once persuaded YHWH not to annihilate Israel. Anyway, reading between the lines, it appears that Othniel actually did ask Caleb for some land and Caleb agreed to give some. It was some land of the Negev, south of Hebron. There was an issue with this, however, as it was a dry piece of land and perhaps even worthless without water. This may have simply been a fact that Caleb overlooked, but it certainly appears that his gift of land was not particularly a blessing (without any water). If Caleb overlooked this fact, then Achsah and Othniel certainly didn’t!
It is my opinion that Othniel probably told Caleb that Achsah had something more to ask and so we see, when Achsah arrived, Caleb actually asked her about it, rather than the other way around. So, Achsah requests water for the land and Caleb gives water in abundance. There are no indications here that any of this interaction was argumentative, or that Caleb gives the water begrudgingly. Yes, Caleb gives a gift that was asked of him – but he still gave it freely!
I think it’s worth us noting the order we see in this interaction. You see, we live in a particularly feminist society in the Western world, and this story is used at times to push that feminist agenda – with Achsah as the role model. But, let’s stop and look at what we can see in this story.
Achsah persuades her husband to make the request to Caleb, and as I have already mentioned, this “persuading” can hold a negative connotation, causing some to think that Achsah was domineering or taking control. I honestly don’t think this fits with what we have learned so far. From the limited record we have of Othniel, it’s clear that he was a man of YHWH who was able to judge righteously. It doesn’t logically follow that he would allow his wife to lead him into a wrong situation. But, a good husband should always consider the words of his wife. Headship does not mean that decisions are made without any advice, and the advice of the one closest makes total sense! “Persuading” is not ordering or forcing – it is presenting a case with valid reasoning. This is exactly what a godly man should value as he leads his family.
Contrary to the thoughts of some, I believe that Achsah actually did respect her husband’s headship, and that she understood that he was the one to make the land request of Caleb. It was quite possibly her idea to start with, but Othniel clearly agreed to commit to the idea and act accordingly.
We see another hint of Achsah’s less-than-feminist attitude when she rides up to her father and dismounts from the donkey. It’s an easy fact to read over, but I believe that the act of dismounting before making the request shows Achsah’s submission, humility and respect for her father. Imagine sitting there and looking down on the person – it could certainly be viewed as a sign of conquering and domineering. Achsah chose not to do it that way. Two other women in Scripture did a similar thing: Rebekah dismounted from her camel before Isaac (Gen 24:64-65), and Abigail dismounted from her donkey before David (1 Sam 25:23) to show their submission. These things are not stated in Scripture for simple trivia.
Some could also say that Achsah was demanding the water from Caleb when she spoke. But once again, I believe these other steps we’ve looked at, of her submission and humility, show otherwise. That’s not to deny that Achsah certainly does ask her father in a very clear and confident manner. There are no tricks or deception in her words, nor is there any ambiguity. Achsah is definitely her father’s daughter! She has grown up seeing and hearing of her father’s boldness and faith in a God that gives good gifts – she knows that Caleb will be true to this type.
There will certainly be some who say that my thoughts to this point are rather contrived. However, as we dig down deeper I think we’ll see that there is a typology of eternal importance. After all, this short story of Achsah was not recorded without spiritual lessons behind it.
In our story we have seen that Caleb selected a suitable husband for his daughter. We know that there is a much greater Father that brings together a groom and a bride. And our heavenly Father doesn’t want just any man or any woman. So, who does He want?
The Father wants a man who is willing and able to conquer the “City of Books” (Kiriath-sepher) – by being the Man written about in the Book. He wants a man who walks only in obedience to Him, and a man who is able to righteously judge. In fact, He really wants a man “just like Himself”!
The Father wants a woman who is pure and spotless (through her husband), a woman that is humble and submissive, yet bold and confident.
Obviously, Yeshua is the husband and we are to be the bride. This is where the idea of feminism totally ruins what our Father is looking for! In fact, it really is just another method of the enemy trying to disrupt the true order of things. The bride is NOT over the husband, but don’t ever think that means she’s not totally, utterly, perfectly loved and cared for!
Let us also consider the heavenly Father’s giving of a gift to all. What is the gift? I think it’s “life” – a gift that’s truly given directly by YHWH. And I think that there is certainly a way we can look at this gift in parallel to the Negev. Both are clearly gifts, but they are lacking something that is truly fundamental in both the physical and spiritual aspect. We learnt in Achsah’s story that it was water that was the lacking feature, and isn’t it the same for us spiritually? We need the living water that only Yeshua provides. Life without that living water is futile from beginning to end. So, it’s very important for us to discover how we receive this living water – and Achsah shows us this next step. We, just like Caleb’s daughter, need to humbly and submissively ask the Father for the added blessing. Remember, the water is a blessing, but it’s also a fundamental need!
Thankfully, the Father is not only willing and able to provide the amazing gift of living water, but actually begins the interaction and draws that request from us (just as Caleb did with Achsah)! We are simply to ask in the right way with the correct motives, and He then gives the good gift of water in ABUNDANCE! We will never thirst again.
There is one more link of importance in Achsah’s story, and that’s found in what appears to be Othniel setting up the meeting and subsequent interaction between Caleb and his daughter. This is by no means a certainty in the story, but it’s definitely true that Yeshua is the one who makes the meeting and the transaction possible between the Father and us. In fact, none of us can come to the Father except through Yeshua (John 14:6).
I pray that the discoveries we have made here, as we’ve examined the short story of Achsah, will be one of encouragement. I particularly want to encourage the young women who are growing up in a world that increasingly opposes the order YHWH has established from the beginning. YHWH cares for women, and has set out in the Torah and other Scriptures how a woman is to be protected, loved and looked after from birth till death. Our world offers a different way, but the fruit of modern culture is anything but healthy and good.
Achsah was the beloved daughter of Caleb – a godly man who wanted to pass on his role of headship to the best man he could find. He found Othniel – a righteous, wise and courageous man in his own right. What a blessed woman Achsah was! She witnessed the entrance of redeemed Israel into the land promised by YHWH and then experienced the salvation of Israel when YHWH used her husband as the first judge of the nation. I can’t help but assume that her role as daughter and wife played a prominent role in these events!
May YHWH use righteous women to bring about His will in these days also, as they live in obedience to Him. And may these godly women shine a light onto the ways of YHWH – particularly as we draw closer to the day of Yeshua marrying His spotless bride.