Who is Othniel in the Bible?

I have a confession to make. I honestly had not heard about Othniel until I received the invitation to write this guest post. Or maybe I have, but it must have been a very long time. Anyway, writing this guest post made me delve into the world of Othniel in the Bible. It was such an amazing experience and there are a lot of lessons to unpack from the life of judge Othniel. 

Othniel was the first judge of Israel. He was chosen by God to deliver the Israelites from their oppressors when they cried out to the Lord for deliverance. He was an answer to prayers.

He was a pacesetter. This period was a very crucial season in Israel’s history, marked by cycles of sin, oppression, repentance, and deliverance. The Lord needed a deliverer, and he chose Othniel. Othniel’s role as the first judge sets the stage for what is to come and for forty years, the land of Israel had rest.

Othniel being chosen as the first judge of Israel has a lot to say about his strength of character, his faith, and his obedience to God. God could trust him to deliver the Israelites from a long-standing oppression. Othniel had a past record of taking Kirjath Sepher. He was faithful in little, and God knew that he could commit more to his hands. There is a lot to learn from the story of Othniel.


Background on Judges 3

Before the rule of Othniel, the condition of Israel was one of oppression and spiritual decline. The Israelites had turned away from the worship of the one true God and had fallen into idolatry. They had abandoned the commands of God and embraced the worship of false gods and idols, breaking the covenant they had made with God.

As a result, God allowed them to be oppressed by foreign nations as a form of punishment. The oppressors, such as the Moabites, Ammonites, Canaanites, and Philistines, raided their land, seized their crops, and subjugated them.

During this time, there was a lack of centralized leadership and authority in Israel. The absence of strong leadership allowed the cycle of sin and oppression to continue, as there was no unified effort to resist the foreign oppressors or lead the people in the ways of God.

Amid their suffering, the Israelites cried out to God for deliverance and mercy. They recognized their sinful state and acknowledged their need for God’s intervention and salvation.

It was within this context of spiritual decline, idolatry, and foreign oppression that Othniel emerged as a deliverer and judge. His role was to provide leadership, deliver the Israelites from their oppressors, and guide them back to faithful obedience to God’s commands.

Who was Othniel in the Bible?

Othniel means God’s strength and God’s lion. Othniel lived up to his name. He displayed great courage and valor in the face of adversity.

Otheniel’s story is found in 5 short verses in Judges chapter 3, but in this short section and the preceding information about the time period, we can learn a lot about this strong man of God.

He was the younger brother of Caleb which tells us a bit about the kind of man he most likely would have been. Caleb stood on truth when others didn’t, trusted God, and had great reward for his faithfulness.

Othniel was a skilled military leader. He was willing to confront and engage with Israel’s oppressors, such as the king of Aram-Naharaim and the Canaanites. His bravery and fearlessness were essential in leading the Israelites into battle and securing their victory. He organized and led the Israelite forces in combat against their enemies. His strategic thinking, tactical decision-making, and ability to inspire and motivate his troops were crucial in achieving victory and delivering the Israelites from oppression.

Othniel possessed wisdom and discernment. He was able to identify the causes of Israel’s oppression and understand the necessary steps to bring about deliverance. His ability to assess the situation, make sound judgments, and take appropriate action demonstrated his wisdom and discernment as a leader.

Othniel took the initiative to address the challenges facing Israel. He recognized the need for liberation and actively sought to solve the problems that plagued his people. His proactive approach and willingness to act set him apart as a leader.

Othniel was committed to upholding justice and righteousness. He sought to establish a just society where God’s law was followed and where oppression and injustice were overcome. His commitment to justice served as a guiding principle in his leadership.

These qualities and strengths of Othniel contributed to his success as a judge and leader of Israel. His story provides valuable lessons in leadership, courage, faith, and the importance of seeking God’s guidance in fulfilling one’s responsibilities.

2 timothy 4:7 esv

Lessons from Othniel

There are a lot of lessons to learn from the book of Othniel, as relating to motherhood and Christian womanhood.

1. You are a deliverer.

The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. 

Judges 3: 7 -9 NIV

The Lord raised a deliverer for the children of Israel, and that is the same way the Lord raises mothers as deliverers for their children. A godly woman is an answer to God’s desire for a godly next generation.

God has raised you as a mother to deliver your children from every form of adversity and oppression, to protect and nurture them, to create a safe and nurturing environment for them. It is the Lord who has raised you, not any man. You are on an assignment. You are on a mission.

2. You are not alone.

The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel’s judgeand went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him.

Judges 3:10 NIV

God raised Othniel as a deliverer and God equipped him for the assignment, as the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. Because the spirit of God was on him, when he went out to war, the Lord delivered the enemies into his hand. 

Right now, the spirit of God is not just upon you, but it is within you and so, in your journey of life, you are not alone. You are equipped for every assignment. The Lord is with you every step of the way. His spirit is in you, leading you, and directing you in whatever He has called you to do. So, don’t be afraid. Step out, knowing fully well that whoever the Lord calls, He equips.

3. You need to go to war.

Another important lesson is that Othniel obeyed God’s calling. He stood in the face of adversity. He went out to war. He didn’t sit at home, doing unnecessary things, but he stepped out of his comfort zone. And the Lord honored him. The Lord delivered the enemy into his hands, and his hand prevailed over the enemy. 

What is the assignment that God has committed into your hands? You need to partner with him by acting. Step out of your comfort zone. Your victory is assured because God is with you, but victory can only be obtained after a war.

As a mom for instance, you must partner with God and war over your children. You can’t afford the enemy to come in and take them over. You need to go out to war, teaching them, training them, instructing them, disciplining them, and praying for them.

4. You can ask God for help.

But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. 

Judges 3:7 -9 NIV

When the Israelites cried out to God, God raised up for them a deliverer. You can cry out to God for help. God hears, He listens, He is not a high priest that is not moved by the feelings of our infirmities. It was a deliverer that the Israelites needed, and the Lord supplied. When you cry out to God for help in your life journey, He will meet you just at the point of your needs. 

5. God can give you rest

the land had rest for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.

Judges 3:11 NIV

The Lord is the giver of rest. When the Lord steps into a situation, there will be rest and there will be peace. Just like the land of Israel enjoyed rest, because the Lord sent a deliverer, who depended on God.

We can enjoy rest in our lives by trusting in the Lord, every step of the way. God wants us to have peace. He does not want our lives to be in chaos. We can trust him fully, knowing that he oversees any situation that we might be going through.

Andrew Murray quote

Questions to Ponder from Judges 3:7-11

As I read and studied the story of Othniel, these were the questions that came to mind:

  1. What were the qualities and characteristics that made Othniel a successful leader and judge. How can I incorporate those traits into my own life and leadership roles?
  2. How can I deepen my own faith and trust in God, especially during times of leadership, responsibility, or uncertainty?
  3. Looking at the role the Spirit of the Lord played in Othniel’s life. How can I seek a deeper connection with God’s guidance and empowerment in my own endeavors?
  4. Rest has a significance in Othniel’s story. How do I prioritize rest in my own life? Are there any changes or adjustments that I can make to ensure that I am allowing yourself enough time for rejuvenation and self-care?
  5. Reflecting on the concept of legacy and how Othniel’s story ended with his death. What do I want my own legacy to be? How can I ensure that the impact I make in my own life continues to influence others even after I have gone?
  6. How can I step up as a leader, deliverer, or catalyst for positive change in my own community or sphere of influence?

Closing prayer

Dear Father,

We come before you today with a grateful heart, acknowledging your faithfulness and sovereignty in all things. As we reflect on the story of Othniel, we are reminded of your provision, guidance, and deliverance throughout history.

Like Othniel, we pray for the empowerment of your spirit in our lives. Fill us with your wisdom, courage, and discernment as we navigate the challenges and responsibilities before us. Help us to rely on your strength and guidance in all that we do. Teach us to prioritize rest. Help us to live a life that honors you and inspires others to seek you. Help us to live a life marked by obedience and dependence on your will. Thank you, Lord, for the lessons and inspiration drawn from the story of Othniel. Help us to be vessels of your love, grace, and mercy in all that we do. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Who is Othniel? is one post in a series of Lessons from the Judges for Motherhood. Wanting more? Check out Samson, Deborah and Gideon.

Guest Blogger Bio: Oluwapelumi is a daughter of God, writer, speaker, passionate about being an example of good things to young women & ladies. Her mission is to live an authentic & purposeful life that will equip, challenge, & motivate other women to love the Lord, their husbands, their children, & live their lives on purpose and be a blessing to the world. She blogs on www.oluwapelumiboluwaji.com. She is also the creative director of Kids and Teens Bible World, a company that produces resources for children’s spiritual growth. Follow along on Instagram.

One thought on “Who is Othniel in the Bible?

  1. staceypardoe

    Great job digging into this topic! I love learning more about obscure Old Testament people and seeing how their lives connect to mine! This blessed me!

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