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Othniel was the first Judge of Israel, Hebrew warrior during the conquest of Canaan and the brother of Caleb. While serving under the command of Joshua and Caleb, Othniel conquered the city of Debir and won Caleb's daughter, Achsah in marriage.


Early life[]

Othniel was born to his father Kenaz sometime after the Israelites had left Egypt, possibly during the war with Canaanite cities. Othniel had a brother named Seraiah.[1] Othniel probably did not know his grandfather, Jephunneh and his father would have died when he was younger. At one point Othniel was required to be in the militia of Israel, as a Judahite over twenty. During this time the only family he may have had other than his brother was his uncle, Caleb. Caleb was the only living survivor from Egypt, aside from Joshua.

Capturing Debir[]

After his uncle had received the city of Hebron, he prepared his forces to attack Debir, known at the time as Kiriath Sepher. In order to spare himself the bloodshed Caleb wished for someone else to capture Debir. In return the conqueror of Kiriath Sepher would receive his daughter's hand in marriage.

Perhaps, Othniel found his cousin Achsah to be very desirable and/or he believed he had the warrior prowess to lead the attack. Othniel lead Judahite and Calebite forces to capture the city of Kiriath Sepher and he was successful. As promised he received Achsah as his wife.[2]

Wife and Children[]

Once Othniel was wed to his new wife, she urged him to ask Caleb for an inheritance of her own. Othniel went with his wife and approached Caleb who was riding on a donkey. With Othniel's help, Achsah received several springs as an inheritance.[3]

Othniel had two sons with Achsah, named Hathath and Meonathai.[1] Eventually Othniel would have a grandson named Ophrah.[4]

Judge of Israel[]

After the death of Joshua, Israel continued to capture local Canaanite cities. However, they did not destroy the populations but kept them as slaves. Soon intermarriage began to occur and the Israelites began to practice Baalism. As warned, God punished the Israelites in their disobedience and Cushan-rishathaim, the king of Aram-naharaim conquered Israel. Othniel lived under the rule of King Cushan for eight years.

Finally, God's Spirit stirred Othniel when Israel began to beg for God to free them. Othniel went out to war and defeated the Mesopotamian king and freed israel. Afterwards, Othniel lived forty years and then he died.[5]


Othniel was recounted by the author of the Book of Joshua, most likely Joshua himself for his accomplishment in capturing Debir. The author of Judges (perhaps Samuel) copied the section from the Book of Joshua concerning Othniel, perhaps to re-emphasize his importance. Later on the Book of Judges records Othniel rescuing Israel from Mesopotamia as the first judge of Israel; perhaps why part of Joshua is copied in the book.

Othniel is also recorded in First Chronicles in the genealogy sections, where his sons and heritage are described briefly.

When David set up a twelve-month rotation program (each unit swaps out at the end of the month) a man named Heldai the Netophathite is put in charge of the division for the twelve month. Heldai is attributed as being "of [possessive] Othniel", perhaps as a descendant or the division was named after Othniel.[6]


Othniel comes from a Hebrew phrase that means Lion of God. By virtue of his warrior skills Othniel received this name unless this was his birth name. He may not have received that until after leading a successful capture of a city.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1 Chronicles 4:13
  2. Joshua 15:16-17, Judges 1:12-13 (Link)
  3. Joshua 15:18-19, Judges 1:14-15 (Link)
  4. 1 Chronicles 4:14 (Link)
  5. Judges 3:7-11 (Link)
  6. 1 Chronicles 27:15 (Link)