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What's in a name?

What’s in a name?

There are many details in the Bible that are easily overlooked.  I stumbled across one while preparing for our Sunday night Bible classes.  (For the schedule and times, visit  This particular detail makes for great Bible trivia: What was Joshua’s name before it was changed? 

Know the answer?  If every word in the Bible is from God, how is knowing this detail significant for you today?

In the book of Numbers, Israel is about to enter the promised land. God has Moses send men to scope it out first, so he sends twelve, one from each tribe.  These twelve are listed in Numbers 13:4-15.  Joshua was one of the twelve, but the name listed there is “Hoshea, son of Nun” (v.8).  Verse 16 says, “…but Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun Joshua.”  No reason is given.  It does not seem all that significant. 

Does it end there?  You know the story of Joshua.  Of the twelve, ten return in fear, while Joshua and Caleb urge the people to have faith in God.  God later chooses Joshua to lead Israel into the promised land.  Joshua becomes a famous figure of faith and courage.  He becomes a “type” of Christ, a living picture of the One God promised would come.  In Joshua, we see Jesus, who displayed faith and courage.  Jesus is our victorious leader, who conquers sin and death.  Jesus leads us from sin’s wilderness into a fruitful relationship with our Father in Heaven. 

So what is in the name?  Hoshea is Hebrew for “salvation.”  In Numbers 13, Moses changes that name to “Yahweh is Salvation,” or “Yahweh Saves.”  Joshua lives up to his new name in the very next chapter.  He urges the people to trust in Yahweh for victory in the Promised Land.  Instead, their emotions rule the day; they walk in fear instead of faith. 

Israel wanted salvation to be visible in the scenery.  They wanted the land to be conquered before they crossed the Jordan.  Fear made them think returning to Egypt was a good idea.  Fear makes us do and say stupid things.  God revealed his name to us so we would know that HE IS—that is he exists.  Moses changed Hoshea to Joshua (Yeshua) to emphasize the fact that salvation is linked with this God, Yahweh.

Fast forward to the New Testament.  Jesus is entering Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey.  Exuberant crowds cry out, “Hosanna!” (Matt. 21:9)  It is the same as “Hoshea,” meaning “Save, please!” or, “Save, now!”  The people longed to be saved from the fears of today.  Maybe Jesus would become their victorious leader, like Joshua.  In fact, Jesus’ name, in Hebrew, is Joshua.  But the people missed a detail we often miss.  The salvation God offers is not always what we are looking for.   They called out Hoshea! (Hosanna!), and they missed Joshua (Yeshua).  Jesus came not to save from hunger, sickness and physical death, but to bring us from the wilderness of sin into relationship with himself.  In calling on the name of Jesus, Yeshua, you enter into new, eternal Life with God the Father. 

This is what is in THE name.  Keep calling out to Jesus.  The fearful sights may continue to appear on your horizon, but God promises victory on the other side of that river.  You may have to get your feet wet, but he promises to be with you.  Do you believe that?  I hope so, because we aren’t going back to Egypt.  Hold fast, press on, cry out to Yahwh who saves, Yeshua—Jesus!

Posted by Joshua Holland with