God desires for all to experience the fruits of God’s divine and neighborly love inside our mutual relationships with family and friends. The story of Achsah in Judges 1 is one of honor, courage, and strength.
Caring and gracious God, you give us your abundance and your kindness every day. As we study the Scriptures, inspire us through your Holy Spirit so that we might find ourselves exemplifying the honor and courage of Achsah, who asked for what she needed and received it. Amen.
“When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. As she dismounted from her donkey, Caleb said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to him, ‘Give me a present; since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also Gulloth-mayim’” (Judges 1:14-15a).
Introduction to Achsah in the Bible
After Joshua died, the nation of Israel asked God who would continue in the fight to secure the land God promised them. God responded by choosing the tribe of Judah to subdue Israel’s main enemy occupying the land, the Canaanites. In Judges 1, Israel must continue its fight and conquer the region of Kiriath-Sepher. Caleb, who worked alongside Joshua under Moses’s leadership, inquired if someone would be willing to go up and capture Kiriath-Sepher. To the person who was successful, Caleb promised his daughter Achsah’s hand in marriage. Caleb’s nephew, Othniel, volunteered to go into Kiriath-Sepher, and he was successful in securing that region of southern Canaan.
After her marriage to Othniel, Achsah goes to visit her father with the intent of requesting that he grant her springs of water. Without hesitation, Caleb grants Achsah’s request and gives her the upper and lower springs in the Negev, named Gulloth-mayim. Now Achsah owned both a major source of water and the land her father previously gifted her in the Negev. My question is: What kind of love is this between daughter and father?
Digging Deeper: Achsah’s Confident Request
Achsah and Caleb
Achsah is a young woman who radiates with self-confidence. She comes up to her father, Caleb, riding on her donkey, then jumps off of it as Caleb asks her, “What do you wish?” She responds, “Give me a [present]; since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also Gulloth-mayim” (Judges 1:15). Achsah knows what she wants. She doesn’t dance around the issue but is straightforward and asks for ownership of the Gulloth-mayim—the upper and lower Negev Springs (south of Israel, stretching almost to Egypt). Without hesitation, her father grants her request. With these gifts in hand, Achsah has secured her well-being both in the present and for the future. Having the Negev Springs in her possession is significant. She gained a major resource in the arid region. What woman could have acquired such substantial land and water?
Caleb, in a special way, is responsive to the request of his one and only daughter. He is willing to give her the very best. He arranges a fruitful marriage prospect for Achsah, by promising her to the one who defeats the Canaanites in Kiriath-Sepher. That union placed Achsah in an honorable marriage. But Caleb, in gifting Achsah both land and springs in the Negev, also secures independence and financial security for his beloved child. There are many ways a father can honor his daughter. Within the highly patriarchal culture of the time, which favored sons over daughters and gave all the choices to males regarding relationships, this gesture may be viewed as an act of love on the part of Caleb to his daughter.
Achsah was courageous in asking for the springs of water, especially in a time when women would not have done such a thing. She took a risk in asking; however, she probably felt some assurance that she would receive what she asked for. In the relationship between Achsah and Caleb, we see a willingness from both of them to do unconventional and unexpected things for one another out of honor and love.
She Is Called and We Are Called
On August 7, I wrote a birthday tribute to my father on social media. Here is an excerpt from that post:
How did we start off your birthday? Talking faith and politics all the way to church. We are nerds! TOGETHER! Together we’ve grown father and daughter…You’re my hero!
You’re the first [person] I call when I need counsel. And you call me at work to say, ‘I’m just checking in!’ And you end it with, ‘Well, be careful out there getting home!’ (Saying it like I’m in trouble or something, lol!) …
You are first and foremost, POPS! But you are one of my best friends. I love you. I respect you. I appreciate you. I honor you! Happy Birthday, Dad! Love, KENita
The relationships we have with the members of our family can be some of the most complicated relationships we will ever have. And, these first relationships can create for us either healthy examples of love and care or dysfunctional ones that we spend a lifetime trying to sort through. I am grateful for the relationship I have with my dad, and I celebrate the relationship of care and honor between Achsah and Caleb. Their conversation with each other and the gift from Caleb remind us of the kind of self-giving and honor God wants from our relationships.
I ended my birthday tribute to my father with, “I love you. I respect you. I appreciate you. I honor you!” That sums up my entire daughter–daddy chronicle. Judges 1 captures a moment in the Achsah–Caleb chronicles—their acts of mutual love. Achsah and Caleb had something special. They were neighborly with their love—compassionate in their careful and deliberate dance of care, respect, appreciation, and honor.
This daughter–daddy chronicle reminds us of Jesus’s teaching: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). Whether we are talking about the very essence of God’s Law or the ability to live out the witness of the Law, it all begins and ends with love. God’s love is meant to be both expressed and experienced within the context of human and divine relationships.
The fidelity between Achsah and Caleb is inspiring. With every act or decision, Achsah and Caleb demonstrate consideration for the well-being of the other. It is God’s desire for all of God’s children to experience this kind of love in relationship with our Creator and with others. In the moments when we experience chronicles that are more painful than loving, we lament. And in the times when we experience chronicles of love and care, we give thanks to God for giving us a glimpse of the kingdom.
The Achsah–Caleb chronicle is a beautiful one. A daughter honors her father, and a father honors his daughter. Some of us are fortunate to have a record of these kinds of moments throughout our own daughter–daddy or father–son chronicles, but some of us have more of a challenging history in our relationship with our fathers. No matter how our paternal relationships unfold, they’ve shaped who we are today. When we flip through our chronicles, they may bring tears of joy or sadness, praise or lament. But by God’s grace, our Heavenly Parent lavishly pours out restorative, redeeming, compassionate, and unfailing love. And because of this, in hope and with spirit-filled strength and inspiration, we can share graciously with ourselves and others, the power of our daughter–daddy or father–son chronicles.
- Think of a relationship in your life that is a relationship of mutual care and love. What is that relationship like for you?
- How is God calling you to share care and love with someone in your life?
- What surprised you in this Bible study session?
- What do you hear the Spirit saying to you/your family/your church/your community?
Rev. Kenita Ruth Harris describes herself as a “social architect,” one who designs and builds inclusive and strategic community partnerships that lead to equitable community transformation. She balances work in the church and the community, currently serving as the minister of social engagement at Detroit Bible Tabernacle and the chief operating officer of Jefferson East, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to community revitalization and economic development. She is ordained in the Reformed Church in America.
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