The Name of Yeshua

n case you’ve joined mid-series, this is a 50 day study of the Scriptures which begin at the parting of the Red Sea and ends at the original Shavuot. Regardless of the precise schedule your family may be keeping, I encourage you to read these from the beginning, since there will certainly be references to past days and lessons as we continue to MOVE FORWARD. (See…like that reference from just a couple of days ago.)  

Shavuot is a 7 week holiday discussed several places in Scripture and more commonly known by Christians as Pentecost.  Shavuot is not a 1 day celebration.  It starts humbly with the resurrection of Messiah and builds and builds for 50 straight days.  We’ve been referring to this path as a Holy obstacle course called ‘The Way to Shavuot’. 

For each of the past 3 weeks, we’ve seen the Israelites pick up camp and move to a new site, synchronized perfectly to the corresponding theme of the lesson that YHWH had intended to teach them.  The premise of these vignettes is that each of the 7 weeks, as we count toward Shavuot, is teaching the Israelites a fresh foundational concept of who YHWH is as well as what His very basic expectations of His newly redeemed people are.  (If you’ve read every one of these posts, you’ll also have learned my haphazard my choice of what pronouns to capitalize, how my mind runs on several bunny trails at once, and how I tend to throw in non-sequiturs in parenthesis.)  

This week’s lesson occurs at the same place where our people were camped for the lesson on the water from the Rock, likely because there are similar props and players: The Staff, a Stone, Moses, Aaron, and an elder.  There’s also a transitional sentence, “Is YHWH among us or not?”  Exodus 17:8-16 clearly answers that question.  To that end, we are about to meet two major players on the Biblical world stage: Joshua the hero (yea!) and Amalek the enemy (boo).  

We’ll discuss Joshua today and Amalek tomorrow. 

Exodus 17:9 contains the first mention of Joshua in Scripture, and he is mentioned by name 7 times in the book of Exodus.  This is no coincidence, there are many foundational words and people mentioned intentionally exactly 7 times in Exodus—so Joshua certainly is being highlighted as a crucial persona.  Both his name and his attributes are crucial to understand, and realizing this was actually a turning point in my personal understanding of Scripture as well as the nature of Messiah.  Remember, there is an ayin in every variant of spelling of Joshua’s name, indicating some element of “realizing” something hidden and life-changing. 

Look at the name “Joshua” for starters.  Joshua, at least in the Masoretic text, is pronounced Ya-hoo-shu-a.  The Masorites were known for adding the letter “waw” as a vowel (‘oo’ as in ‘hoo’) into word that originally may not have had that letter, in order to homogenize the pronunciation of the Hebrew language throughout the diaspora.  So, if you remove that one letter, we are left with ‘Yah-shu-a’, ‘Yeshua’, or even potentially simply ‘Yesha’.  We learn, in a retrospective footnote in Numbers 13:16, that Joshua’s name was originally “Hoshea, Son of Nun”.  Moses renamed him, apparently, by adding the letter ‘yod’ to Hoshea, creating “Yoshea”.  Again we can argue about unprovable ancient sounds and especially vowels—but essentially Hoshea means “Salvation” and Joshua means “Yah’s Salvation”.  Certainly the internet didn’t invent disagreements on the pronunciation of Holy names.  Apparently the name of our savior has always been the most controversial! 

It doesn’t end there.  

As biblical time marches on, Hebrew gradually is influenced by Aramaic—The Book of Daniel for example is written in both languages (the parts meant for our people are in Hebrew, and the prophecies meant for the nations are in Aramaic.  That’s a bit simplistic, but this is not a college course—don’t virtually emoji-stone me to death for a lack of footnotes.) 

As we fast-forward hundreds of years from the original man introduced in Exodus 17, we see this prophecy: 

“Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. And say to him, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of YHWH. It is he who shall build the temple of YHWH and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’ (Zechariah 6:13-14

This prophecy is clearly Messianic (it never took place in the physical realm).  The name of the Levitical Priest/King is spelled to pronounce the name ‘Ya-hoo-sha,’ and his father’s name ‘Yehozadak’ means ‘YHWH is righteousness’.  

The last time we see this name referred to in the Old Testament is by Nehemiah. He is actually referring back to the original ‘Joshua’, introduced in Exodus 17, the subject of this post—but Nehemiah truncates the spelling—but is still referring to the same person. The ESV spells it “Jeshua”, but it’s clearly referring to ‘Joshua’. 

“And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths, for from the days of Jeshua the son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing.” (Nehemiah 8:17)  

In Hebrew the spelling in Nehemiah 8:17 is clearly pronounced ‘Ye-shu-a’, leaving out the extra “hoo” syllable altogether. 

In more modern times, the King James Bible has an obvious translation error that should really make you wonder about the scriptural understanding of the guys that King James hired to do the job:  

“For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest to the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:8-9

The context in Hebrews is obviously about the Exodus 17 Joshua (NOT JESUS).  The author is clearly referring to the original savior and hero of the Book of Joshua, who brought our people into The Promised Land for the first time.  But in those days, there were still battles to fight (both spiritually and with swords)—battles which were eventually lost when you stand back and look at the big picture.  In Greek, the name translated as ‘Joshua’ in English is pronounced ‘ee-oh-sus’ — the same exact name translated as ‘Jesus’ in English in every other part of the New Testament.  Throughout the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT)—‘Joshua’ and ‘Jesus’ would both be pronounced the exact same way: ‘ee-oh-sus’.  The KJV translators of the Book of Hebrews were consistent with the translations at least, but theologically they make it sound that Jesus couldn’t get the job done.  

Certainly not their intention, nor the truth. 

Here’s the thing: Regardless of whether you say or spell it, Joshua, Yohushua, Yashua, Yahshua, Yeshua, Iosus, Jesus, or any of the other endless variations– the invocation of this name as ‘YHWH’s Savior’ is always in the context of a violent battle.  Moses defeated the shepherds and “Yasha’ed” Jethro’s daughters.  When the Red Sea parted and eventually killed Pharaoh and his armies, Moses said “Behold the YASHUA of YHWH”.  The song of Moses celebrates that event in these words, “YHWH is a man of war, YHWH is His name!” Joshua himself, as we’ll see in great detail here in Exodus 17 (and even more so in the Book named after him) is first and foremost a warrior.  The divine and eternal Savior (The one in the gospels) beats death in a bloody battle, and that same Savior is returning with a sword in his mouth (figuratively, I’m sure) to usher in His Kingdom.  

One last super-cool fun fact: Joshua’s full name is ‘Joshua son of Nun.’ The following verse is the only verse in Scripture to use ‘nun’ as a VERB instead of simply Joshua’s dad’s name. ‘Nun’ is translated into English as “continue” but the spelling and context implies “in perpetuity”: 

“May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun!  May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!” (Psalms 72:17

Over the next week, the rest of Exodus 17 will show how YHWH made the power of his chief warrior available to His people (us).  It’ll also tell us about the nature of our eternal enemy.  

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