It’s interesting that Hoshea’s name was changed to Joshua in Numbers 13:16, when the Israelite spies are being sent to the land of Canaan. When they see the giants and the fortified towns, the spies, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, are afraid to conquer the land.
Moses appears to have changed Hoshea’s name to Joshua right when the spies were about to be sent—-unless v 16 is telling us that Moses changed Hoshea’s name to Joshua so that we can know who Hoshea is, since many readers are more familiar with Joshua the son of Nun than Hoshea the son of Nun, and so v 16 may simply be cluing us in that Hoshea is really Joshua.
But it would make sense that Moses would change Hoshea’s name to Joshua at this time, right when the spies are about to investigate Canaan. The name “Joshua” has to do with the LORD saving. “Hoshea”, if I’m not mistaken, just means causing salvation. Moses wanted for the son of Nun’s name to highlight that God would be the one who would save Israel from her enemies—-in the midst of battle, and maybe even at other times as well. This message was relevant to the events in Numbers 13, for Israel was planning to fight Canaan, and the Israelites would learn that their own resources would not be adequate for the task. They needed God to save.
Many of you don’t care for the story of the Conquest, and that is understandable. After all, one could argue that the Israelites were taking away somebody else’s land, and the notion that the Israelites slaughtered men, women, and children strikes a lot of people today as barbaric. But perhaps one can still be edified by the lesson of the story—-that God saves, and so we can trust in him, even when we look at our own resources and see that they are limited, and even when we are tempted to give in to fear.
It’s interesting that God had the Israelites send spies to Canaan to check out the land before they conquered it. Wouldn’t they have been better off not seeing the giants or the fortified cities? And couldn’t they have taken God at God’s word that the land was good, without actually beholding it before the Conquest? But God wanted for them to see the land—-perhaps so that they could witness for themselves the land’s goodness and thus be motivated to fight for it, or know what they were up against before they went to battle, or have an opportunity to exercise faith when sight told them that conquering Canaan was impossible. In the midst of all of that, they needed to know that God saves—-the meaning of the name “Joshua”.