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Achsah: Midrash and Aggadah

by Tamar Kadari

The Rabbis describe Achsah as being a beauty, finding an allusion to this in her name: “Whoever sees her is angry [koes] with his wife,” who is not as ravishing as she is (BT Temurah 16a). Achsah’s beauty explains the willingness of the men to go forth to war against the Anakites (giants) of Kiriath-sepher, since Caleb had promised his daughter Achsah to the man who would conquer the city. The midrash (Gen. Rabbah 60:3) criticizes Caleb’s pledge, for if a slave had taken the city Caleb would have been forced to give him his daughter. Nonetheless, God “arranged a proper match for her,” because Caleb’s brother, Othniel the Kenizzite, captured the city.

But Achsah herself was not pleased with the match that had been made for her and the Talmud (BT loc. cit.) reports that she complains about this to her father. She is concerned that Othniel is only a Torah scholar and that he will not be capable of providing for her livelihood. The Rabbis understand her complaint “For you have given me away as Negeb-land; so give me springs of water” (Joshua 17:19)—as referring to her husband Othniel, who possesses only water (i.e., Torah), but is desolate and dry of property and livelihood. In this narrative the Rabbis compare Achsah to an ass, who immediately cries out if there is no food in his crib. The picture of Achsah that emerges from this midrash is that of a practical woman who is concerned for her family’s sustenance.

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How to cite this page

Kadari, Tamar. "Achsah: Midrash and Aggadah." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 23, 2019) <>.


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