What’s in a Name?

This week we start our exploration of the Book of Joshua. To begin, the very name of the book is a testament to something great. Joshua, the eponymous character of this account, was not always referred to as this…

In fact, in Numbers 13, where Moses has been instructed by God to select twelve men to enter and scout-out the land of Canaan, we read in verse 8 of how Moses selected from the tribe of Ephraim “Oshea the son of Nun.” Several verses down, in verse 16(b), we find an interesting footnote:

“…And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Jehoshua.”

Moses (being quite close with this boy, as we read in various passages) essentially renamed Oshea Jehoshua, a Hebrew name that translates to “Jehovah is Salvation.” Now here is something really interesting: Jehoshua in Greek is Jesus!

Taking this naming business a step further, we need to look at a passage from Exodus 23:20-23:

“Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.

What do we see here? A prophecy of sorts concerning a conquering angel who will make a way for the people into the land prepared for them, who possess the name of the Lord within him; a conqueror who will destroy the Amorites, Hittites, and other such peoples. Something important to note here is that the word “angel,” while evocative of those celestial beings of light that we are all so familiar with, is not necessarily a reference to such, but rather a messenger. Angel in Greek (anggelos [ἄγγελος] – Strong’s Greek: 32) simply means messenger, and in this case it seems that that is the case.

What of it? Consider for a moment the implications of not only who Joshua is recorded as waging war against, and subsequently defeating, but also the fact that his name holds not only the name of Jehovah, via translation, but also the name of Jesus, via transliteration! Could it be that Joshua was the “angel” prophesied to lead the people into the land prepared for them and conquer the sinful rulers therein? I believe so, yes.

Going back a bit further, we find that God had plans for Joshua even early on in the Exodus, chapter 17, many years prior to the time in which the events of his book are to take place. In verses 9-13, we read of a battle in which Joshua, bolstered supernaturally by Moses’ assistance, defeated Amalek. Most interestingly, in verse 14 we read this:

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.”

Moses was to rehearse the events of this battle, and likely much else, into the ears of Joshua specifically! This, I trust, was in effect an effort to groom Joshua as a replacement for Moses, essentially preparing within him a firm foundation for trusting the sovereignty and power and faithfulness of the Lord, through which he could triumphantly lead the people!

What we find, both in his backstory and in the account provided in his book, is that Joshua is a profound type or foreshadowing of Christ! He was divinely appointed, their names are highly compatible, both were commanders, leaders, and conquerors, and their positions in life saw them as both servants to and successors of Moses, with Christ in particular keeping the law until, through His resurrection, He succeeded the whole Mosaic tradition of law. This typology actually will come back later, in another post, but we must address a number of other notions first…

Jumping right in, let’s look at Chapter 1:1-4

“Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.”

Here we find a review of God’s Abrahamic covenant, a notion established back in Genesis 15, whereby a great swath of land, the Promised Land, was given to the descendants of Abraham. No option was given to back out of the deal, nor was it conditional. God gave them the land; it was theirs. The intriguing thing you should note however comes in verse 3 here, where it says that “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you.” He gave the Israelites the land, but they still had to do the legwork to claim it.

Don’t miss the point there: don’t we ourselves have such a promise, a gift? A gift given to us on a dusty and stained cross in the Judean sun two millennia ago? It’s ours if we but accept it and take it…


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Thank you very much, and God bless!

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