Caleb (Heb. kēleb, "dog"), in the Bible, one of the spies sent by Moses from Kadesh in South Palestine to spy out the land of Canaan. For his courage and confidence he alone was rewarded by the promise that he and his seed should obtain a possession in it (Num. xiii. seq.). The later tradition includes Joshua, the hero of the conquest of the land. Subsequently Caleb settled in Kirjath-Arba (Hebron), but the account of the occupation is variously recorded. Thus (a) Caleb by himself drove out the Anakites, giants of Hebron, and promised to give his daughter Achsah to the hero who could take Kirjath-Sepher (Debir). This was accomplished by Othniel, the brother of Caleb (Josh. xv. 14-19). Both are "sons" of Kenaz, and Kenaz is an Edomite clan (Gen. xxxvi. 11, 15, 42). Elsewhere (b) Caleb the Kenizzite reminds Joshua of the promise at Kadesh; he asks that he may have the "mountain whereof Yahweh spake," and hopes to drive out the giants from its midst. Joshua blesses him and thus Hebron becomes the inheritance of Caleb (Josh. xiv. 6-15). Further (c) the capture of Hebron and Debir is ascribed to Judah who gives them to Caleb (Judg. i. 10 seq. 20); and finally (d) these cities are taken by Joshua himself in the course of a great and successful campaign against South Canaan (Josh. x. 36-39). Primarily the clan Caleb was settled in the south of Judah but formed an independent unit (i Sam. xxv., xxx. 14). Its seat was at Carmel, and Abigail, the wife of the Calebite Nabal, was taken by David after her husband's death.
Not until later are the small divisions of the south united under the name Judah, and this result is reflected in the genealogies where the brothers Caleb and Jerahmeel are called "sons of Hezron" (the name typifies nomadic life) and become descendants of Judah.
Similarly in Num. xiii. 6, xxxiv. 19 (post-exilic), Caleb becomes the representative of the tribe of Judah, and also in c (above) Caleb's enterprise was later regarded as the work of the tribe with which it became incorporated, b and d are explained in accordance with the aim of the book to ascribe to the initiation or the achievements of one man the conquest of the whole of Canaan (see Joshua). The mount or hill-country in b appears to be that which the Israelites unsuccessfully attempted to take (Num. xiv. 41-45), but according to another old fragment Hormah was the scene of a victory (Num. xxi. 1-3), and it seems probable that Caleb, at least, was supposed to have pushed his way northward to Hebron. (See Jerahmeel, Kenites, Simeon.)
The genealogical lists place the earliest seats of Caleb in the south of Judah (1 Chron. ii. 42 sqq.; Hebron, Maon, etc.). Another list numbers the more northerly towns of Kirjath-jearim, Bethlehem, etc., and adds the "families of the scribes," and the Kenites (ii. 50 seq.). This second move is characteristically expressed by the statements that Caleb's first wife was Azūbah ("abandoned," desert region) - Jerīōth ("tent curtains") appears to have been another - and that after the death of Hezron he united with Ephrath (p. 24 Bethlehem). On the details in 1 Chron. ii., iv., see further, J. Wellhausen, De Gent. et Famil. Judaeorum (1869); S. Cook, Critical Notes on O.T. History, Index, s.v.; E. Meyer, Israeliten, pp. 400 sqq.; and the commentaries on Chronicles (q.v.).
(S. A. C.)