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Hebrews 4:8

ESV For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.
NIV For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.
NASB For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.
CSB For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.
NLT Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come.
KJV For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.

What does Hebrews 4:8 mean?

This verse is notable for a major difference between the King James Version and virtually all other mainstream translations. While the KJV refers here to "Jesus," other translations refer to "Joshua." The KJV makes this same choice in Acts 7:45. In Hebrew, both of these men share the same name. Moses' successor was named Yeshua, as was the son of Mary. Both of these names came into the Greek as Iēsous. The New Testament uses this version of the Hebrew name for several people (Colossians 4:11; Luke 3:29).

However, since the primary English name for the son of Nun, who was the central figure of the conquest of Canaan, is "Joshua," this is the name which probably ought to be used for this reference in Hebrews. From a purely lingual standpoint, using "Jesus" is a valid translation by the KJV, especially since that translation does not use the English name "Joshua" anywhere in the New Testament. It is, however, much less clear than other translations which more precisely specify the person in question.

The context of this verse is the potential loss of one's spiritual inheritance. This "rest" is symbolized by the failure of Israel on the borders of Canaan. Since they lost faith, God denied an entire generation entry into the Promised Land. According to the writer of Hebrews, there are three key facts to consider. First is the use of words like "today" in later Scriptures (Psalm 95). Second is that only those who were disobedient were cut off from their inheritance (Hebrews 3:16–19).

Finally, here, is the fact that the "rest" won by Joshua was not permanent or complete. If it had been, there would have been no need for David to appeal to the nation to obtain that rest in Psalm 95. Jewish theology held that the Promised Land would not be permanently held until it was ruled by Messiah. In other words, this rest is something still available to the children of God. It's important to see the application to the original readers of the book of Hebrews, and to modern Christians today. Salvation is not at stake here (John 6:39–40), but eternal rewards certainly are (Revelation 2:26–27). Earthly, material, or political dominion is not the issue, either. As applied to Christians, this is a matter of our spiritual inheritance, not dominance of our physical world.

The next few verses will round out the writer's argument. God rested when His creative work was complete (Genesis 2:2). Israel was denied "rest" in Canaan when they failed to complete their work (Psalm 95:7–11). In order for us, as Christians, to enter into our inheritance "rest" in Christ, we must "rest" from our work in the same way, and for the same reason, that God did: after completing our work.
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