Genesis 17:5
Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
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(5) Abram.—That is, high father.

Abraham = Father of a multitude, “raham” being an Arabic word, perhaps current in Hebrew in ancient times. Another interpretation of Abram is that it is equivalent to Abi-aram, Father of Aram, or Syria. This too is an Arabic form, like Abimael in Genesis 10:28. By some commentators the stress is thrown upon the insertion of the letter “h,” as being the representative of the name Yahveh or Yehveh. (Compare the change of Oshea into Jehoshua, Numbers 13:16.)

Genesis 17:5. In token of this, his name was changed from Abram, a high father, to Abraham, the father of a multitude. This was to confirm the faith of Abraham, while he was childless; perhaps even his own name was sometimes an occasion of grief to him: Why should he be called a high father, who was not a father at all? But now, God having promised him a numerous issue, and given him a name which signified so much, that name was his joy.

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.As for me. - The one party to the covenant is here made prominent, as in Genesis 17:9 the other party is brought out with like emphasis. The exalted Being who has entered into it imparts a grandeur, solemnity, and excellence to the covenant. "Father of many nations." The promise of seed is here expanded and particularized. A multitude of nations and kings are to trace their descent from Abram. This is true in a literal sense. The twelve tribes of Israel and many Arab tribes, the twelve princes of Ishmael, Keturah's descendants, and the dukes of Edom sprang from him. But it is to be more magnificently realized in a spiritual sense. "Nations" is a term usually applied, not to the chosen people, but to the other great branches of the human race. This points to the original promise, that in him should all the families of the earth be blessed. "Abraham." The father of many nations is to be called by a new name, as he has come to have a new nature, and been elevated to a new dignity. The high father has become the father of the multitude of the faithful.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). Abraham, i.e. the father of a multitude; Ham in the Hebrew being put for Hamon, which signifies a multitude, by a figure called apocope, which is usual in proper names.

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.

Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be {b} Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.

(b) The changing of his name is a seal to confirm God's promise to him.

5. Abram] The shorter form is here used for the last time. Except in Genesis, it only occurs in 1 Chronicles 1:27, Nehemiah 9:7.

thy name shall be Abraham] The change from “Abram” to “Abraham” is associated with the covenant promise that the patriarch shall be “the father of a multitude of nations” (’ab hamôn gôyyîm). As in many other instances, we have here a resemblance through assonance, and not a real derivation of a proper name. There is no such word as raham meaning “a multitude.” “Abraham” and “Abram” have, until recently, been regarded as forms of the same name, “Abiram,” which meant “exalted father,” or “the father is Ram,” i.e. “the exalted one.” But the longer name has been found in several Babylonian monuments belonging to the reign of Ammi-zaduga, who was tenth in the dynasty founded by Hammurabi. According to the distinguished Assyriologist, Ungnad, the Babylonian pronunciation was Abaram, and the meaning “He loves the father.”

a multitude of nations] The promise of the covenant in P contemplates not only the nation of Israel (as J, Genesis 12:2, Genesis 18:18, and E, Genesis 46:3), but also the kindred nations of Edom and Ishmael.

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. Genesis 17:5On the part of God אני placed at the beginning absolutely: so far as I am concerned, for my part) it was to consist of this: (1) that God would make Abram the father (אב instead of אני chosen with reference to the name Abram) of a multitude of nations, the ancestor of nations and kings; (2) that He would be God, show Himself to be God, in an eternal covenant relation, to him and to his posterity, according to their families, according to all their successive generations; and (3) that He would give them the land in which he had wandered as a foreigner, viz., all Canaan, for an everlasting possession. As a pledge of this promise God changed his name אברם, i.e., high father, into אברהם, i.e., father of the multitude, from אב and רהם, Arab. ruhâm equals multitude. In this name God gave him a tangible pledge of the fulfilment of His covenant, inasmuch as a name which God gives cannot be a mere empty sound, but must be the expression of something real, or eventually acquire reality.
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