What is a Calebite in the Bible?

A Calebite in the Bible is a descendant of Caleb, the son of Jephunneh. Being a Calebite would have made one a member of the tribe of Judah (Numbers 13:6).

Caleb was a brave and godly man whose great faith in God caused him, along with Joshua, to encourage the fainthearted Israelites to take possession of the land of Canaan once they were out of the 40 years wilderness. Caleb and Joshua stood alone against the multitude of Israelites opposing what God had promised them all (Numbers 13–14).

The term Calebite is used only once in the Bible, and it is applied to a person of less-than-savory character. Nabal was the husband of Abigail. His name means “fool,” and, according to 1 Samuel 25:3, he was a Calebite; that is, Nabal was of the house and lineage of Caleb. Because the Hebrew word translated “Caleb” also means “dog,” the Septuagint translated Nabal’s description as “a doggish man.”

That particular portrayal would agree with the rest of verse 3, which says Nabal was “surly and mean.” Nabal acted much like a bad-tempered dog, and his selfish words in 1 Samuel 25:10–11prove the point. One of Nabal’s servants gives this testimony of him: “He is such a wicked man that no one can speak to him” (verse 17).

The story of Nabal the Calebite and his dealings with David is a sad one. David and his men were on the run from King Saul. They had been kind to Nabal’s servants in the desert, and David (who was also from the tribe of Judah) requested that Nabal return the favor by giving them some food and other provisions (1 Samuel 25:7–8). Although Nabal was a rich man and had plenty to give, he refused David’s request and showed him much disrespect.

Angered by Nabal’s churlishness, David was about to seek vengeance upon Nabal by destroying him and all he owned (verses 13, 21–22). David was held back by Nabal’s wife, Abigail, who brought provisions and humbly presented them to David herself (verses 18–19, 23–31). Her timely action saved Nabal from disaster and David from an ungodly act. When Abigail told Nabal how close he had come to being killed by David for his wickedness, Nabal’s “heart failed him and he became like a stone” (verse 37). About ten days later, the Lord struck him, and he died (verse 38).

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