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Othniel (Hebrew: עתניאל, ʻOthnīʼēl; "Name means::Lion of God") or Othniel Ben Kenaz (Hebrew: עתניאל בן קנז, ʻOthnīʼēl Ben Qenạz, (fl. Flourit::2612 AMDied::2644 AM)[1] was the third Judge of Israel and the only Judge from the tribe of Judah.


Othniel was a nephew of Caleb, who had a younger brother named Kenaz. Othniel also married Caleb's daughter. The Bible does not record his descendants.

First challenge

Othniel first established himself as a national hero shortly after the death of Joshua (2580 AM, or about {{#show:Joshua|?Died}}). Joshua had granted to Caleb the city of Hebron and the surrounding region. (Joshua 14:13-15 ) In that region was a city called Debir. Caleb offered his daughter's hand in marriage to any officer who could capture Debir. Othniel accepted the challenge and successfully captured the town.[2][3][4][5][6][7] (Judges 1:11-15 )

First oppression

Twenty-four years later, national Israel had provoked God to anger by its idolatry and spiritual negligence, and thus lay under the first of many oppressions. A king named Cushan-rishathaim, an Aramaean,[2][3][4][6][7] became the first of many Syrian kings to oppress Israel at one time or another. (The literal Hebrew name is ארם נהרים or Aram-Naharaim.[5]) Eight years passed, (Judges 3:7-9 ) and then Othniel stepped forward. The Bible describes his career in a single verse. (Judges 3:10 ) He "judged" Israel, i.e. brought that nation to realization of its collective sin. Then he rallied a force of unrecorded size and chased Cushan-rishathaim from Israelite country.

Thereafter he continued to administer justice for thirty-two years, and therefore the full length of the story of Othniel, from the beginning of Cushan-rishathaim's occupation to the death of Othniel, was forty years.[2][3][4][5][6][7] (Judges 3:11 )


Othniel died in 2644 AM, and left no immediate successor. Israel would thus be oppressed once again.


Many commentators remark on the career of Othniel. Though the story requires only seven verses to tell, it establishes a pattern that would repeat itself many times in the early history of Israel.[5]

Frank Wallace notes the alternative name of the city of Debir: Kirjath-sepher, or literally, "city of a book." Wallace suggests that the "book" in question is the accumulated learning of mankind, about which men tend to boast, saying that they do not need God. Othniel thus set an example for modern Christians, who ought to ignore the ridicule of a world that finds that Christians live in ignorance (and, some say, actually prefer ignorance to human wisdom).[6]

VacantTitle last held bysuccessor of::Joshua Member of::Judge
Flourit::2612 AMDied::2644 AM
VacantTitle next held bysucceeded by::Ehud

See Also


  1. Jones, Floyd M., The Chronology of the Old Testament, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004, p. 278
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Konig, George, "Othniel,", n.d. Accessed December 15, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Hirsch EG and Price IM, "Othniel," The Jewish Encyclopedia, n.d. Accessed December 15, 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Othniel," Jewish knowledge base, n.d. Accessed December 15, 2008
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Gordon I, "Othniel and the Power of God," Jesus Plus Nothing, n.d. Accessed December 15, 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Wallace, Frank, "The Days of the Judges (1): Othniel,", February 3, 2007. Accessed December 15, 2008.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Easton MG, ed. Taylor PS, "Othniel," WebBible encyclopedia, n.d. Accessed December 15, 2008.