In this series of articles we will explore the life of Othniel in the Bible. He was the first judge of Israel and there are many things we can learn from his life. So, grab your Bible and let’s dig in…
When we go through the book of Judges we learn of these amazing men and women of God that helped ancient Israel through its hardships and trials. Some of the stories are incredible while others are very short. Like they are almost covered in mystery. As I have studies these judges of the Bible I want to take you also on journey with me.
The very first story of a Judge we learn about is Othniel (pronounced aath-nee-uhl). His story in some ways reflects King David’s as he is a warrior, a leader, and won the hand of a leading lady. But the fun thing about Othniel is that he isn’t just found in the book of Judges, but also in the book of Joshua.
Othniel in The Bible: Judge, Warrior, and Peace Bringer
But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. – Judges 3:9-10
Othniel in the Book of Joshua
Othniel’s story begins in the book Joshua. In this story we see first hand how Othniel was able to take captive to whole city Debir to win the hand of Aksah (some translations spell it Achsah), the daughter of Caleb. Since Othniel was related to Caleb. The likelihood of Aksah knowing Othniel for years was probably very high. This may have encouraged his desire to marry her.
I find it interesting that Aksah wanted Othniel to speak to Caleb about increasing her dowery. But in the end she did and because of that she increased the land allotment that Othniel would receive in marriage. Way to go Aksah! Othniel took the land and so did she!
You can read their story below and also in Judges 1:13-14:
From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). 16 And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah 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 Aksah to him in marriage.
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?”
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. – Joshua’s 15:12-19 NIV
SIDE NOTE – Some people are very turned off by the idea of Aksah being used and given in marriage this way. But we must realize their culture was NOT our culture. Arranged marriages were extremely common in ancient times and are still practiced in many places around the world. Aksah was aware that she was going to be arranged with man some day.
In the modern western world this is frowned upon because the idea that love should be the reason for the marriage, not an arrangement. Yet, the divorce rate of arranged marriage is only 4% while marriages where you fall in love is 40% (source). Sure makes you think.
A Cry Comes Out of Israel
Now, that Othniel is hitched his story of becoming a Judge is found in Judges 3. This is when Israel decided to throw the ways of God to the side and embrace the gods of the surrounding people, Baals and Asherahs.
These leads Israel to being sold into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim. He was the king of Aram Naharaim (Mesopotamia). They are his slave for 8 years! Apparently that was the breaking point for Israel and they cried out to the Lord for help. *Funny how bad situations bring us back to realization that we need God.
FACT TIME – “The word “mesopotamia” is formed from the ancient words “meso,” meaning between or in the middle of, and “potamos,” meaning river. Situated in the fertile valleys between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the region is now home to modern-day Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey and Syria.” (source)
This is when God comes into action and raises up a deliverer, a.k.a Othniel. My favorite verse in this story is Judges 3:10. It says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he became judge. It then goes into how he overpowered Cushan-Rishathaim and brought 40 years of peace to Israel.
Furthermore, this reminds me of the Zechariah 4:6 where we learn that it’s “not by might, or power, but by my Spirit…” Othniel didn’t kick butt out of his own strength. He was victorious, and was able to bring peace to Israel for 40 years….all because of one thing.
The Holy Spirit!
FAQ on Judge Othniel
Now, that we have covered the life of Othniel I thought it would be fun to go over some frequently asked questions you might have about him. So, below I have come up with several questions. If you have one you would like to answer. Feel free to drop it in the comments. I will do my best to answer them.
What did Othniel do in the Bible?
Othniel was the first Judge in Israel. He conquered the city Debir and overpowered King Cushan-Rishathaim and brought peace to Israel for 40 years.
Where is Othniel found in the Bible?
You can read the story of Othniel in two places. First is in Joshua 15:15-19 and in Judges 1:11-15, 3:7-11.
What does the name Othniel mean in the Bible?
Who is the wife of Othniel in Bible?
Othniel was married to Aksah, the daughter of Caleb. In some translations her name is spelled Achash.
What tribe was Othniel from?
Othniel was from the tribe of Judah.
Which city was conquered by Othniel?
He conquered the city of Debir also known as Kiriath Sepher.
Free Othniel Bible Study PDF
I thought it would be fun to add Othniel into my Bible Character printables. It’s fun one sheet printable that gives you tons of facts in a quick-view study. This absolutely free, all you need to do is sign up for my newsletter (just scroll down a bit) and I will send you a link to download the PDF!
More Judges in the Bible
Othniel is just the first judge in the Bible! There are many other judges after him. I have started a series on the topic (it’s still growing!). So, If you would like to learn about the other judges, you can click on the links below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have studying them!
- The Judges of the Bible (overview of all Judges mentioned in the book of Judges)
- Judge Ehud in the Bible: Lessons and Facts
- Judge Ibzan in the Bible: Lessons and Facts
- Judge Elon in the Bible: Lessons and Facts
- Judge Shamgar in the Bible: Lessons and Facts
- Samson in the Bible
I hope this study of Othniel in the Bible has been an aid to you in your sermon prep, sunday class, or just personal growth. It’s amazing what we can learn about a character in scripture when we dig a little deeper. If you would like to leave me a comment you can do so below! I would love to hear what God is teaching you!
Melissa is a passionate minister, speaker and an ongoing learner of the Bible. She has been involved in church and vocational ministry for over 18 years. And is the founder of Think About Such Things. She has the heart to equip the saints by helping them get into the Word of God and fall more in love with Jesus. She also enjoys family, cooking, and reading.
She has spoken in churches in California, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico and has been featured in Guidepost Magazine and All Recipes Magazine. Read More…