Boys named Joshua and Caleb

Do you know any boys (or men for that matter) named Joshua or Caleb?  I do.  When I think about it, I know a lot of Joshua’s and Caleb’s.  

I found a web site from the US Social Security department.  They register all births and using their database they were able to come up with a list of the most popular names that are given to babies in a year.  in 2008, Joshua was the 4th most common boy’s name and Caleb was 34th.  My own name Timothy was 108th and dropping fast.  The year I was born (1963) Timothy was 15th.  When I was younger, I knew Timothy was a popular name, in 5th grade their were four Timothy’s in my class, Tim Smolzer, Tim Song, Tim Plona and Tim Daugherty.  I am not sure what we have done in those 45+ years to discredit our own name, but it is falling in popularity, sniff, sniff.

For historical curiosity, I queried on the name Adolph.  A hundred years ago it showed up as the 900th or so most popular name.  In 1883 it peaked at 112, making it more popular than Joshua (202) or Timothy (192).  The higher numbers for Adolph  in the 1880s and 1890s reflect the surge in German immigration.  But over time you can see that the name became less and less popular until it takes a bit hit in the 1940’s and finally falls off the chart in 1970.  Can you guess where it shows up on the list today?  Well, it seems fairly obvious, it doesn’t even show up on the list anymore.  Someone about 70 years ago made sure that name falls into the dustbin of history.  


As you can see in the above chart I made, Joshua has always been a top 1000 name in America.  But in late 60’s early 1970’s it skyrockets up and has hovered in the top 10 for the last 30 years.  I have to assume the mixture of the Jesus movement of that time and the desire to find unique and creative names led people to look for newer names than the regular, John, Michael, David and Timothy.

But we have to ask ourselves, why are 3000 + year old Hebrew names the 4th and 34th most popular names in our day and age.  What are American mom’s and dad’s thinking when pick that Hebrew name for their child?  In today’s reading from Numbers 13 there are many other Hebrew names they could have chosen.  They could have picked any of these from that chapter….

Shammua. Shaphat. Igal. Palti. Gaddiel. Gaddi. Ammiel. Sethur. Nahbi. Geuel

I am pretty sure you do not know anyone called by those names.  I can just tell by typing them that they are not common, they all have red lines under them because the dictionary does not recognize them.

Caleb and Joshua are special names and people have been naming their kids Caleb and Joshua for thousands of years.  In today’s reading Numbers 11 – 13 (especially Numbers 13) you can find out why Caleb is a popular name and why you never hear a mother saying this in your neighborhood – “Shaphat, Igal, come home, it is time for dinner.”  .  Tomorrow’s reading  will explain better whay Joshua is a popular name.

About plimtuna

I am just an average guy trying to find his way along this journey of life. I am definitely middle aged. I am definitely happily married with a wife and two children. Personally, I have a passion for things eternal. Professionally, I have a passion for things that are securely in control.
This entry was posted in 04 - Numbers, Read through the Bible in a Year, Some Lessons Learned and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Boys named Joshua and Caleb

  1. Greg M says:


    Do you think a person’s name can contribute to their character or personality? I wonder how many Calebs or Joshuas have been influenced by the stories behind their Biblical namesakes? I also wonder what would have happened if Joshua and Caleb’s names were Sethur and Igal… would they still have become as popular? Finally, too bad they weren’t named Tim and Greg, right?

  2. plimtuna says:


    That is a very interesting question. I know in my case, Timothy was just a name. I was not told who he was, just that it came from the Bible.

    I think one could make the argument that if the family has named all their kids after significant Bible characters (Sarah, Rebecca, David,Esther, Joshua, Caleb, etc) that maybe the family and the world can see that there is a dedication to the things of God and thus hope to live to a higher standard.

    I heard a sermon last week about Samson. Your question reminded me of it. It discusses Samson’s birth and how everything was lined up for him to be a great man. His parent’s were told he was to be special, he was dedicated to the Lord he had training, everthing should have gone his way, yet he still failed. It was also a good message for parents who adult children chose a different path.

    Here is the link if anyone is interested… it is from my old pastor and friend Ray Pritchard at

    Finally, we should be thankful Methuselah did not become too popular, I would have to look it up each time.


  3. Pingback: What is in a name? « 1 Year, 1 Book, Many People

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