The second half of Numbers 13:16 seems insignificant, but it deserves an entire comic. One thing you’ll discover about the bible, even at a cursory glance, is that a lot of characters have two names. Abram and Sarai are later called Abraham and Sarah, Jacob is renamed to Israel, and now Hoshea is now called Joshua. There will be a couple dozen more before the end.
This has confused the casual reader for centuries, and since the bible offers no explanation for these name changes, self-righteous believers have taken it upon themselves to present their own opinions as fact. The most common response you’ll find on the Internet is that a person gets a new name when there is some major change in their life. Which is true, except for when it’s not. Several of the renamed people in the bible have no significant changes in their lives near the time of their name change. Joshua is a great example of this, in this story he’s not having a personal reawakening, he’s just being sent out to spy on some Canaanites. In fact, his name change is about a minimal as you can get. He goes from Hoshea, meaning “salvation,” to Joshua, meaning “Jehovah is salvation.”
And now that it’s brought up, do you remember Joshua ever being called Hoshea? Turns out, that name hasn’t been featured in a single verse since Genesis 1! Which makes you wonder, why even bother pointing out that Joshua’s name was originally Hoshea? The answer may come from what lies ahead. He will be called Hoshea in future books! But how can that be? If Moses changes his name to Joshua, and the future books take place after the book of Numbers, why is it we find the son of Nun still using the name Hoshea?
This mystery remained unexplained until religion slowly lost its stranglehold on politics and historians were allowed to investigate the bible objectively without fear of incarceration. We’ve talked about it several times before, but the Documentary Hypothesis gives a very fitting answer. The reason Joshua has two different names is because his story was shared between two neighboring kingdoms, each with their own take on it. When the two stories were brought together to form the Pentateuch, the different names were preserved, and this single unexplained sentence was sloppily inserted to bring it all together.
This also helps explain why name changes occur with non-humans, that can’t have life-altering events happen to them. Cities, deserts, even mountains have two names, one from each kingdom. The ancient kingdom of Israel used the name Mt. Horeb while the ancient kingdom of Judah used Mt. Sinai.
Of course, if you don’t buy that and you want to believe the bible, then all you have to do is accept that a guy known only as Joshua had his named changed to Joshua, so that he wouldn’t be called Joshua in the future!