|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
17:1-6 The covenant was to be accomplished in due time. The promised Seed was Christ, and Christians in him. And all who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abram, being partakers of the same covenant blessings. In token of this covenant his name was changed from Abram, a high father, to Abraham, the father of a multitude. All that the Christian world enjoys, it is indebted for to Abraham and his Seed.
Verse 5. - Neither shall thy name any mere be called Abram, - Abram, i.e. high father (vide Genesis 11:26); but Abraham - Abraham (in Arabic signifying a multitude); hence "the father of a multitude," as the next clause explains - for a father of many (or a multitude of) nations have I made thee.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Neither shall thy name be any more called Abram,.... Which signifies an "high father", which name he bore for many years before he was the father of anyone:
but thy name shall be Abraham: with all addition of the letter inserted into it, and makes the last syllable two, "raham": which word in the Arabic language, as Hottinger (g) observes, signifies "numerous" (h); so that with this addition his name Abraham may be interpreted, the father of a numerous offspring; and with this agrees the reason of it, as follows:
for a father of many nations have I made thee; not that he was so already in fact, but in the purpose and promise of God, Romans 4:17; Abraham has not only been the father of many nations, in a literal sense, as before observed, but in a mystical sense, of the whole world; that is, of all in it that believe, whether Jews or Gentiles; and so the Rabbins (i) interpret it: at first, they say, he was the father of Aram, and therefore his name was called Abram, but now he is the father of the whole world, and therefore called Abraham; and so Maimonides (k) himself says, quoting this passage,"behold he is the father of the whole world, who are gathered under the wings of the Shechinah.''
(g) Smegma Oriental. p. 88. (h), "numerus", "copiosus", Golius, col. 1055, 1056. Castel. col. 3537. (i) In Massechet Biccurim, apud Galat. in Arcan. Cathol. Ver. l. 5, 13. & 9, 12. in Maimon. in Misn. ib. c. 1. sect. 4. (k) Hilchot Biccurim, c. 4. sect. 3.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5. but thy name shall be Abraham—In Eastern countries a change of name is an advertisement of some new circumstance in the history, rank, or religion of the individual who bears it. The change is made variously, by the old name being entirely dropped for the new, or by conjoining the new with the old; or sometimes only a few letters are inserted, so that the altered form may express the difference in the owner's state or prospects. It is surprising how soon a new name is known and its import spread through the country. In dealing with Abraham and Sarai, God was pleased to adapt His procedure to the ideas and customs of the country and age. Instead of Abram, "a high father," he was to be called Abraham, "father of a multitude of nations" (see Re 2:17).
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