🔼The name Josiah: Summary
- Despair Of Yah
- Support / Woman / Fire Offering Of Yah
- From (1) the verb יאש (ya'ash), to despair, and (2) יה (yah), the shortened name of the Lord.
- From (1) a verb אשה ('shh), to support, or the noun אשה ('ishsha), woman, or the noun אשה ('ishsheh), fire offering, and (2) יה (yah), the name of the Lord.
🔼The name Josiah in the Bible
There's really only one person in the Bible named Josiah, and he is a son of Zephaniah. It seems he ran a kind of reception center for the returnees from exile (Zechariah 6:10). The prophet Zechariah also mentions a Hen, son of Zephaniah, who may be a brother of Josiah or, as most source suggest, he is the same person by another name (Zechariah 6:14).
The most famous Josiah is actually called יאשיהו, Josiahu, spelled יאושיהו in Jeremiah 27:1 only. He is the son and successor of king Amon of Judah and his mother is Jedidah (1 Kings 13:2). King Josiah is remembered as a good king, who destroyed much of the centers of pagan worship, and cleaned up the temple in Jerusalem. King Josiah died in battle against Egypt on the plain of Megiddo; this battle may be the one after which visions of the final battle of Armageddon were modeled.
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Josiah
The name Josiah consists of two elements. The final part is יה (Yah) = יהו (Yahu) = יו (Yu), which in turn are abbreviated forms of the Tetragrammaton; the name of the Lord: YHWH.
The origin of the first part of the name Josiah is unclear. To start with, it looks exactly like the verb יאש (ya'ash), meaning to despair:
The little used verb יאש (ya'ash) means to despair. It has no extant derivatives.
Thus the name Josiah also carries the unmistakable meaning of The Despair Of Yah.
BDB Theological Dictionary dictates that the name Josiah derives from the verb אשה ('shh), which is unused in the Bible but which probably means to support. Its derivative אשיה ('oshya) means buttress or pillar and occurs only in Jeremiah 50:15. Hence BDB reads Yah Supporteth.
This verb, however, is strikingly similar to the word אשה ('ishsha), meaning woman or female, which comes from the root group אנש ('nsh), having meanings like to be sick, weak or social (see the name Enosh):
The verb אנש ('anash) appears to emphasize the weakness of the human individual and mankind's consequent tendency to clan up and have strength in numbers first and then in social stratification. It either means to be weak or even to be sick, or it swings the other way and means to be friendly and social. It yields the important noun אנוש ('enosh), man or human male individual who is weak yet social.
In the Bible, societies are feminine (and maternal) and although some scholars insist on a whole other but identical root, the noun אשה ('isha) means woman or wife. And again perhaps from a whole other root or perhaps the same one, the noun איש ('ish) means man, or rather man of; man in some specific function such as "man of war" or "man of the earth." It's also the common word for husband.
Since societies form around central fires (or the "purifying light" of wisdom, which is where the metaphor comes from), the noun אש ('esh), fire, may also derive from this verb.
And what to think of the similar noun אשה ('ishsheh), meaning a fire offering (Leviticus 1:9). This word probably comes from the word אש ('esh), meaning fire:
The noun אש ('esh) means fire. Noun אשה ('ishsheh) describes a fire offering.
Alfred Jones (Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names) assumes this mystery root indeed once existed, and liberally reads Given Of The Lord as meaning of the name Josiah.
Younger sources point at a possible meaning of Yahweh Heals (NOBSE Study Bible Name List) or Whom Jehovah Heals (Spiros Zodhiates — The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament). These seem to suppose that the name Josiah was imported from another language because the Hebrew verb to heal is רפא (rapa — hence the names Riphath and Rapha).
Since we have no sound recordings from the olden days, it can't be said with any certainty what the name Josiah sounded like to a Hebrew audience. Perhaps the noun for fire came from a verb meaning "to make fire," and the name Josiah reflected God's creating fire: Fire Made By YHWH