This is one of quite a number of name changes in the Bible – Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah, Jacob becomes Israel, Gideon becomes Yeruba’al, Solomon becomes Yedidiah, Eliakim becomes Yehoiakim, Mattaniah becomes Zedekiah.
In our sidra the two names Hoshea/Yehoshua are connected. The first is past tense: “He (God) has saved”; the second is future, “May He (or He will) save”.
According to Rashi, as usual quoting earlier sources, Moses was concerned that the evil counsel of the ten alarmist spies might affect Hoshea and overcome his optimism, so he prayed, “May God save him from the counsel of the spies”.
Moses knew that it is hard for a leader to maintain his courage and nerve in the face of opposition. It is easier to go with the flow and do what other people want. Popularity seems to matter more than principle to some leaders.
There is an old Jewish saying, “A rabbi whom everybody likes is no rabbi; a rabbi whom nobody likes is no mensch”. Rabbis – and leaders of all kinds – have a lonely job.
The interesting thing is that when it comes to the verdict of history, people smile at the thought of the person who bent with the wind, but the one that posterity admires is the courageous person who stood for principle and was prepared to tread the lonely path.
It is Yehoshua who is acclaimed by history, not Hoshea.