Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Upper Springs and Nether Springs
Text: Joshua 15:15-19
Dr Alex Tang
You are a child of God. Ask Him for His Blessings
NU 13:28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan. 30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." NU 13:31 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."
Joshua 14: 6-15
JOS 14:6 Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, "You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, `The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.'
JOS 14:10 "Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said." JOS 14:13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. 15 (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.)
JOS 15:13 In accordance with the LORD's command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah--Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) 14 From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites--Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai--descendants of Anak. 15 From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). 16 And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher." 17 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.
JOS 15:18 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, "What can I do for you?"
JOS 15:19 She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.
JDG12 And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher." 13 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage. JDG 1:14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, "What can I do for you?" JDG 1:15 She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." Then Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.
Caleb was one of the 12 spies spent by Moses to spy out the promised land when the whole nation was camped at Kadesh Barnea. One representative from each tribe was sent. Caleb was from the tribe of Judah. The spies spent 40 days in the promised land. They discovered a land ‘flowing with milk and honey.’ The soil was fertile and well watered. Fruits and vegetables grew to enormous size. A bunch of grape needed two men to carry. The Canaanites were also big. They saw giants in that area. These were the Anakites. So when they came back to report, 10 of the spies were terrified and gave a bad report. They were so afraid of the giants that they regard themselves as grasshoppers underneath their feet. Only Joshua and Caleb were unafraid. They believed that with God’s help. Nothing is impossible. (They are a firm believer in ‘boleh’). But because the people chose to believe in the majority report and refused to invade and claimed the promised land, God was angry. God declared that none of men except Joshua and Caleb will enter the promised land. So the Israelites were commanded to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. 40 years is a whole Jewish generation. They wandered until all the men who refused to invade has died. Even Moses was denied entry into the promised land.
After 40 years, the Israelites again gathered outside the promised land. There is now a new generation of warriors. This time they gathered in the plains of Moab. For 40 years they must have been preparing for war. General Joshua in two brilliant campaigns conquered the promised land, land of Canaan. Invading through Jericho, he conducted a central and southern campaign which seized control of most of the major cities. Then he conducted a northern campaign to seize control of the cities of the north. Caleb was his right hand man in these campaigns. Thus they conquered Canaan. What they actually did was to take control of major cities and deposed of a few kings. Then they divided the land and it is up to the individual tribes to conquer the people and the land they were allocated.
Joshua gave Caleb the first choice. God has promised Caleb land that he has traveled through as a spy. So he claimed the hilly country of Hebron. He also claimed the land to the south of it. This is where the Anakites lived. This is where the giants that frightened the spies 45 years ago. Caleb wanted to prove that His God is more powerful than these giants. When he was a spy, he was 40 years old. Now, he is 85 years old. He said he is as strong at 85 as he was at 40 [ realage.com]. So he led his tribe of Judah in the conquest of the land south of Hebron. He did well initially because he attacked and drove out 3 Anakites- Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. Then he must have run out of steam because he could not capture the fortified city of Debir (Kiriath Sepher). So he proclaimed that he will marry his daughter Acsah, to anyone who can capture this city. Acsah must be one of his favorite daughters because her name means ‘woman’s anklet’. [bells bracelet on ankles of children].
Othniel, his nephew captured Kiriath Sepher so Caleb, being a man of his word, gave Acsah to him in marriage. Othniel like most men may be a mighty warrior but is ‘blur’ in lots of other things [as most woman can tell you. Behind every successful man is a surprised woman]. He has captured a city call Kiriath Sepher which means ‘book city’. Unless he wants to be a bookseller, he needs another livehood. Acsah is more practical. When she arrived for the wedding, whispered to her fiancée, “Ask my Dad for a field for my dowry. With a field, at least we can plant corn, barley or maize. We cannot make a living selling books in 3rd century BC Canaan!” [paraphrased version].
Caleb, being a loving father and practical man has already decided to give a large tract of land to Othniel as his daughter’s dowry. This land is south of Hebron is Negev. Of course Othneil was very proud. When Acsah found out, she hurried to her father.
When Caleb saw Acsah arrived on her donkey, he asked her, “Well, my little girl, what can I do for you. Do you like the land I gave you for your wedding?”
“Well, Daddy. Thank you for the wedding present. It is such a large tract of land. Flat, windy, sandy desert. The Negev desert! What are we going to do with a desert? Build an integrated resort? Have a kangaroo farm? Do me a favour (other version, translated as ‘give me a blessing’). “What blessing?” Caleb asked. “Give me springs of water”. Caleb must have smiled because now he knows his daughter is not only beautiful but also wise. So he gave her his blessing. Not only the upper springs but also the lower (nether) springs of water.
In the desert, water springs are very important and strategic. Whoever who controls the water control the area. Without water, nothing grows. Without water, all living things die. A spring is a place where water comes to the surface of the desert. Normally water is absorbed into a porous soil and then sinks until it encounter a non-porous rock such as igneous rock. There it remains until it finds an outlet where it flows to the surface. However, depending on the source of these springs, it may dry out in summer or very hot seasons. These are the upper springs. Some water collects in large underground chambers. So of it is under pressure and is what we called the artesian wells. They never dry up. These are the lower or nether springs. London and Paris is situated over such a reservoir. South and Western Australia has a large reservoir. These wells or springs never run dry. So Caleb was very generous when he gave to his daughter, Acsah, both the upper and lower springs. In modern day Israel, the desert is a major agricultural area because of water from these springs.
Lessons from the Text
The book of Joshua is a bloody book. It is book of warfare, of conquest and destruction. It is about invading Canaan and the dividing it amongst the tribes of Israel. Yet in this book on warfare, there is a human interest story about Caleb and his daughter, Acsah. There are a few observations that stand out in this story:
(1) Caleb has faith in God.
a. In the spying mission, Caleb is not afraid of the big guys because he knows his God is bigger.
b. In following Moses around for 40 years, he believes that God will still give the promised land to Israel.
c. In following Joshua in the conquest of Canaan, Caleb believes that in spite of warfare setbacks, they will still prevail. God has promised.
d. In the allocation of land and when he is 85 years old, he wanted to capture the land of the Anakites. He knows his God is bigger.
(2) Caleb loves his daughter and gives a good dowry.
a. His little ‘anklets’ expect a field but he gave her much land south of Hebron.
(3) Acsah asks for Caleb’s blessing.
a. Acsah is secured enough in her father’s love to ask for his blessing in terms of water. This is not a normal behaviour in the women of Old Testament times.
b. Acsah knew that she is asking much. Water rights were very important in the desert country. It may means life and death to a community, a city or a tribe.
(4) Caleb bless the newly wed with upper and lower springs.
a. Caleb was very generous in his blessing. He did not hold anything back but gave all the good things. The upper springs and the lower springs.
b. Thus he ensured the continued survival and prosperity of the new couple.
Lessons for us
What are some of the lessons we can learn from this passage?
(1) Have faith in God.
a. God is Who He says He is.
b. He is an unchanging God: yesterday, today and tomorrow.
i. You can trust Him. Remember what he has done for you in the past. Nothing has changed. He is with you in the present and He will be with you in the future. So why are you afraid?
c. With God nothing is impossible.
i. 85 years old Caleb went up against the Anakites and defeated them. Like grasshopper? Duh!
(2) God loves us.
a. The Bible is a record of God’s dealing with His people, Israel. In Deuteronomy, God has laid out the conditions in which He will prosper those who obey Him and punish those who stray away from Him. Again and again, the Israelites stray away, was punished, repent and was restored. You can find this pattern repeated again and again and again. Why does God bothers? Why does God not wipe out the rebellious people as He did at the time of Noah? As Screwtape said, in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, “He loves these miserable creatures. He really does!”
b. God loves us in a much much deeper way than Caleb loves his daughter. In a way, Caleb in choosing to follow God so faithfully for 85 years began to reflect some of God’s characteristics. He loved her enough to give her the best. Our God loves us enough to give us His best.
c. It may be difficult for some of us to believe that God loves us.
i. Maybe we have had bad religious experiences where the gods we believe evoke fear rather than love. Where rituals and sacrifices have t be done properly or we evoke the anger of these gods and bad things will befall us. I had a friend who was a temple medium before he came to know the Lord. He said his life as a medium was a life of fear and torment. The spirits would not leave him alone. He lived in a state of fear because he did not know when he would offend them and be punished. Punishment is often intense pain.
ii. Maybe we are in such a bad financial situation where we had doubts that God loves us or even He cares. Recently a friend describes how he was in such a bad financial situation that he had to borrow from a loan shark. The interest rate was 50% per day. He was harassed by them daily. He feared for his life. He cannot sleep and night and dread to face the day. He feared for his family. He said he even thought about suicide. Thank God that he did not kill himself. What saved him was the help extended to him by a Christian brother. He had a dream and saw the face of this person. The next day, he went to see this person who was able to help him out of his financial difficulties. He told me that he now knows God cares and love him.
(3) Ask God for His blessings.
a. We do not have because we do not ask. We do not pray. Prayer is talking to God. There are many types of prayers: adoration, intercession, meditative, contemplative and petition.
b. Petition prayers should be an important part of our lives. Sometimes I feel that God is waiting for us patiently to ask Him. He has what we needs and He knows what we need. Sometimes I think He is just waiting for us to ask him. Like Caleb and his daughter. He gives her the land without the water. I thinking he is waiting for her to ask. He is willing and waiting to give. He waited for her to ask.
c. Often we are too busy to pray. Too busy to ask.
(4) Receive His blessings
a. Caleb gave his daughter the upper and lower springs.
b. To me, God’s blessings are like the upper and lower springs. Recently I did a study with the Youth Fellowship on this passage, Matthew 6:19-21. MT 6:19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. I asked them to fill up two columns on a piece of paper. On one column, they are to list treasures on earth and the other treasures in heaven.
I believe that what treasures God gives us on earth which is His blessings are the upper springs. They are transient but for us to enjoy while we are on earth. The treasures in heaven which are also His blessings are the lower or nether springs. Like the lower springs that never dries up, the treasures in heaven are for eternity. These are the things that last forever. These are the blessings that God gives us when we ask Him.
c. There is nothing wrong with asking for material things as long as our heart is in the right place.
d. There are times when I think we miss out on God’s blessing because we did not ask. Our life may have been less mundane. Our ministry may be more powerful. We may manifest more gifts of the Spirit. Our witness may be more powerful. Because we did not for the blessings of the upper and lower springs of living water.
We do not have because we did not ask. Imagine what Acsah and Othniel would have missed out if she has not asked. He would be a bookseller and owner of thousands of acres of useless desert land.
Soli Deo Gloria
"treat, heal, and comfort always"
"spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"
Except where otherwise
noted, content on this site is
© 2006-2017 Alex Tang