and thy name is no more called Abram, but thy name hath been Abraham, for father of a multitude of nations have I made thee;
Genesis 17:5 Additional TranslationsClarke's Commentary on the Bible
Thy name shall be Abraham - Abram אברם literally signifies a high or exalted father. Ab-ra-ham אברהם differs from the preceding only in one letter; it has ה he before the last radical. Though this may appear very simple and easy, yet the true etymology and meaning of the word are very difficult to be assigned. The reason given for the change made in the patriarch's name is this: For a father of many nations have I made thee, אב המון גוים ab-hamon goyim, "a father of a multitude of nations." This has led some to suppose that אברהם Abraham, is a contraction for אב רב המון ab-rab-hamon, "the father of a great multitude."
Aben Ezra says the name is derived from אביר המון abir-hamon, "a powerful multitude."
Rabbi Solomon Jarchi defines the name cabalistically, and says that its numeral letters amount to two hundred and forty-eight, which, says he, is the exact number of the bones in the human body. But before the ה he was added, which stands for five, it was five short of this perfection.
Rabbi Lipman says the ה he being added as the fourth letter, signifies that the Messiah should come in the fourth millenary of the world.
Clarius and others think that the ה he, which is one of the letters of the Tetragrammaton, (or word of four letters, יהוה YeHoVaH), was added for the sake of dignity, God associating the patriarch more nearly to himself, by thus imparting to him a portion of his own name.
Having enumerated so many opinions, that of William Alabaster, in his Apparatus to the Revelation, should not be passed by. He most wisely says that ab-ram or ab-rom signifies father of the Romans, and consequently the pope; therefore Abraham was pope the first! This is just as likely as some of the preceding etymologies.
From all these learned as well as puerile conjectures we may see the extreme difficulty of ascertaining the true meaning of the word, though the concordance makers, and proper name explainers find no difficulty at all in the case; and pronounce on it as readily and authoritatively as if they had been in the Divine council when it was first imposed.
Hottinger, in his Smegma Orientale, supposes the word to be derived from the Arabic root rahama, which signifies to be very numerous. Hence ab raham would signify a copious father or father of a multitude. This makes a very good sense, and agrees well with the context. Either this etymology or that which supposes the inserted ה he to be an abbreviation of the word המן hamon, multitude, is the most likely to be the true one. But this last would require the word to be written, when full, אב רם המון ab-ram-hamon.
The same difficulty occurs, Genesis 17:15, on the word Sarai, שרי which signifies my prince or princess, and Sarah, שרה where the whole change is made by the substitution of a ה he for a י yod. This latter might be translated princess in general; and while the former seems to point out her government in her own family alone, the latter appears to indicate her government over the nations of which her husband is termed the father or lord; and hence the promise states that she shall be a mother of nations, and that kings of people should spring from her. See Genesis 17:15, Genesis 17:16.
Now as the only change in each name is made by the insertion of a single letter, and that letter the same in both names, I cannot help concluding that some mystery was designed by its insertion; and therefore the opinion of Clarius and some others is not to be disregarded, which supposes that God shows he had conferred a peculiar dignity on both, by adding to their names one of the letters of his own: a name by which his eternal power and Godhead are peculiarly pointed out.
From the difficulty of settling the etymology of these two names, on which so much stress seems to be laid in the text, the reader will see with what caution he should receive the lists of explanations of the proper names in the Old and New Testaments, which he so frequently meets with, and which I can pronounce to be in general false or absurd.
Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
but thy name.
Genesis 17:15 And God said to Abraham, As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
Genesis 32:28 And he said, Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince have you power with God and with men...
Numbers 13:16 These are the names of the men which Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Jehoshua.
2 Samuel 12:25 And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD.
Nehemiah 9:7 You are the LORD the God, who did choose Abram, and brought him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gave him the name of Abraham;
Isaiah 62:2-4 And the Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory: and you shall be called by a new name...
Isaiah 65:15 And you shall leave your name for a curse to my chosen: for the Lord GOD shall slay you, and call his servants by another name:
Jeremiah 20:3 And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah to him...
Jeremiah 23:6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called...
Matthew 1:21-23 And she shall bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins...
John 1:42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, You are Simon the son of Jona: you shall be called Cephas...
Revelation 2:17 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna...
Abraham. i.e., father of a great multitude.
Genesis 17:5 Parallel CommentariesAbraham Abram Longer Multitude NationsAbraham Abram Longer Multitude NationsTHE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica®.
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