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Name changes throughout the Bible are pretty significant.

Numbers 13:16 says that "Moses changed the name of Hosea son of Nun to Joshua."

What is the significance of this name change? What are the Hebrew meanings/spellings of each name? Are there any commentaries about this (i.e., Rashi)?

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3 Answers 3

Hosea means "salvation". Moses changed his name to Joshua because it means " Jehovah is salvation". Moses in Numbers 20 when he was told by Jehovah to speak to the rock and water would come out for the Israelites to drink. Forgot that it was Jehovah who gave him the power and instead gave himself (Moses) the glory. And that's why he was not aloud to enter into the promise land. I think that is significant because by Hosea's name being changed to Joshua (meaning Jehovah is salvation) gave Joshua a constant reminder of who is in charge. And maybe that's why God chose Joshua to lead the people to the promise land. Because God knew Joshua's heart and mind would give God the praise for delivering the Israelites into the promise land! Think about all the great things Moses did for God. A lot of times it's hard to stay humble when God allows or blesses you to be great!

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I believe the name change symbolizes a task ahead.I believe like Abraham who's name was changed to align with his future duties,Moses not knowing was led to change the name of Joshua who later led the Israelite's to the promised land instead of Moses.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

This is a very interesting start to an answer - I'd love you to flesh it out. –  Jack Douglas Jun 16 at 8:34

The aggadic interpretation shared by many Jewish commentators is that the basis for the name change is that Moses prayed for Joshua. Indeed Rashi explains that he prays he be saved from the counsel of the spies.

Why he didn't pray for Caleb as well is a question many commentators who take this line have great difficulty understanding (see the Kli Yakar). Another problem with this line of explanation is why he couldn't simply pray without changing his name - not every prayer for someone involves changing a name (see the Or Hachaim). It's obvious that there are vastly more prayers said than names changed in the tanakh.

There are a whole host of alternate explanations regarding the details of the name change. The Tosfot quote Midrash Tanchuma explaining that Moses saw Caleb taking his portion of the land of Israel, and Joshua taking the portion of the remaining ten spies (the added letter having numerical value ten). Another opinion brought is that it's the numerical sum of the additions made to Abraham's and Sarah's names (ה to each makes two fives = ten). A slightly more literal explanation is proffered by Sforno, that Joshua will be saved and will save others - the new name being the future tense "he will save", without funny number stuff.

While these all seem like a nice story, I find this incredibly tenuous as a biblical understanding. A much more solid answer to this question is given by the Rashbam, who explains that the name change was traditional in the appointing of a second-in-command. He points to Genesis 41:44-45, and Daniel 2,4 for equivalents. This cross-references well and explains the significance here. It doesn't explain the meaning of the name change, although the Sforno's explanation above seems more than plausible even in this case.

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+1 interesting insights! –  Emi Matro Sep 7 '13 at 18:11

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