When Israel took possession of the Promised Land they didn’t just walk in unchallenged, many battles needed to be fought, and many cities needed to be overcome in order to secure its possession.
One such battle, the Battle for Kiriath-sepher, was so important that it is recorded twice in the Bible. Even though it contains all of the elements of a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat it is not a commonly known narrative amongst modern day Christians.
In this episode of Caleb’s Journal we will explore why overcoming this city was critical to Israel’s ability to possess the Promised Land, and how the principles of this battle apply to us today as we seek to manifest the Kingdom of God.
Why Israel refused to enter in
After the nation of Israel had crossed the Red Sea they had an opportunity to directly enter into the Promised Land. Twelve spies were sent in, to check the place out. But only two spies, Joshua and Caleb, came back with a favourable report, the other ten reported that there were giants in the land and this news was so terrifying to the Israelites that they refused to enter in. The result was a forty year period of judgement during which the Israelites would wander through the wilderness, eventually entering the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua and Caleb.
Because of Caleb’s faithfulness, he was given an area of the Promised Land for a special inheritance. It is interesting to note that he did not choose an area that was calm and peaceful so that he and his large family could retreat and live a life of security, abundance, and relative obscurity.
No, he chose a region right in the thick of it, right in an area where the ‘giants’ of the land were particularly numerous and strong, where the cities were great and highly fortified. Kiriath-sepher was one of these cities.
In order to take possession of the land, Kiriath-sepher and its giants needed to be overcome. This must have presented a significant challenge as Caleb was willing to give his own daughter to the man who conquered it.
We read about this in Judges 1:11-12:
“From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. The name of Debir was formerly Kiriath-sepher. And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter for a wife.”
The giants of the land may very well have been people of tall stature. However, one may also consider that the ideologies these people upheld, which were so different to those of the nation of Israel, could have been perceived by the Israelites as “giants” or insurmountable obstacles.
The ideologies of Kiriath-sepher
Kiriath-sepher קִרְיַת סֵפֶר means ‘a city (קִרְיַת) of scribes, books, or learning (סֵפֶר)’.
This was a large administrative city. It was a city of scribes, a city where records were written down and kept. This was a place where the clay tablets were stored. It was the repository for the philosophical books of the Canaanites, including genealogical records, trading records, treaties, land ownership documents and much more. This was the nerve centre of the land and therefore well guarded. To destroy this place was to destroy the fundamentals of an entire civilisation.
Modern day Kiriath-sepher
In our modern day, on a national level, we can equate Kiriath-sepher with our own governmental strongholds – think of places such as Canberra, Washington DC and The Hague to name a few. In our technological age the data kept in these cities are not protected by strong or high walls and mighty warriors, but by firewalls and other cybersecurity mechanisms which are equally impenetrable.
Through our collective rejection of God on a national level, our government, our very own “City of Books” has become a depository of false ideologies which are based on the wisdom of man. This is the giant of our modern day that is distorting our civilisation, our Christian culture.
In January 2021, the then President Elect Joe Biden illustrated this concept very clearly when he introduced his slate of ‘scientific advisers’ with the promise that ‘science and truth’ were to be utilised to combat the coronavirus pandemic, climate crisis and other challenges that the USA faced. In the same press conference Biden stated that he would elevate the position of scientific adviser to Cabinet level, which is a White House first. This was, according to Biden, the most exciting announcement he had to make.
The question is, where is the Word of God to lead us into truth and life? Instead of leading us by the Word of God and His Wisdom our leaders are relying on the wisdom of man to get us through the crisis that we face. They are leading us along byways of false ideologies which will ultimately lead to death. The result is a distortion of our civilisation and the destruction of our Christian culture.
What does renaming the city indicate?
These giants, these false ideologies, need to be overcome and replaced with the true Word of God, as embodied in the Torah and in His 10 Commandments. As only then can God’s Kingdom be manifested on earth as it is in heaven.
After the Israelites had overcame Kiriath-sepher, they changed the name of the city to Debir דְּבִיר, which in Hebrew means the Word. This name change illustrates that the false ideologies of Kiriath-sepher had been destroyed and replaced with the truth of Word of God.
The Hebrew word Debir, is also used to describe the Holy of Holies, the area in the Tabernacle where God dwelt and communicated with His people. It was in the Holy of Holies that the Ark of the Covenant was kept and within it were the 2 tablets of stone containing the 10 Commandments given to Israel at Mount Sinai. It is for this reason that the Holy of Holies is named Debir, the place of the Word.
We can now understand what the battle for Kiriath-sepher was all about and why it was so important that this city be overcome.
In order to take possession of and secure the Promised Land, the governmental structure based on man’s wisdom or learning, needed to be replaced with the Wisdom of God, His Law and His Word. It could not be reformed, it had to be replaced.
It was imperative that this should occur in the days of the ancient Israelites, but it is as important for our own day as we seek to enter into and posses the Kingdom of God.
In the next episode of Caleb’s Journal we will look at how the Israelites were able to overcome this mighty stronghold and how this gives us hope and direction as we endeavour to face these same giants today.