Genesis 17:1-8 “Abram’s Name Changed To Abraham”

Posted on March 9, 2010. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School- Genesis Class

Genesis 17:1-8 “Abram’s Name Changed To Abraham”

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bryan E. Walker

Read Genesis 17:1-14

17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty;  walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram,  but your name shall be Abraham,  for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”




Introduction: In the last two weeks we have begun studying this chapter which is the high point of Abraham’s story and the covenant. We began by looking at the chapter as a whole and showing the various ways it can be outlined. The broad outline is that vss.1-21 is the covenant given by God to Abraham and vss.22-27 is Abraham carrying out the sign of the covenant, circumcision. In that first section there are 5 speeches given by God. In the last two weeks we have looked at the first half of the first speech, verse 1, and we have seen a new name for God is given, El Shaddai, and we have seen a command given to Abraham, “walk before me and be blameless.” El Shaddai has been translated as God Almighty because, even though the original meaning of the name has been lost, it is used most frequently when a miracle is needed and given, and in Genesis it is used frequently with the promise of descendents and nations. The stipulations of the covenant point us back to Enoch in Gen. 5, and Noah in ch. 6, both of whom walked with God. To be blameless means to have a life of integrity with no obvious faults and sins; it is related to the sacrificial animals that were to be “perfect”. We saw many NT applications that related to this command, such as in Matt. 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

This morning we are going to look at the covenant and the requirement for circumcision, and Abram’s name change to Abraham.


  1. I.                   God’s First Speech, continued vs.2
    1. A.     Announcing the Covenant
      1. 1.      “that I may make my covenant between me and you…” Wenham notes (p.20) that “It is not immediately obvious in what sense God needs to give a covenant to Abraham…” As I pointed out last time, this chapter is the third place out of four that the covenant is given to some degree. The first is in ch.12:1-3, the second in 15 and the fourth is 22. But it is in this chapter that the covenant is “established” in vss. 7, 19, 21. Wenham writes, “Whereas inaugurating the covenant was entirely the result of divine initiative, confirming it involves a human response, summed up in v. 1 by ‘walk in my presence and be blameless’ and spelled out in the demand to circumcise every male.” P.20). Sailhamer (p.138) points out, however, that the reason for there being a second covenant account may lay in the emphasis on land in ch.15 and the emphasis on descendents here in ch.17. That argument seems a bit weak to me, though, as ch.15 deals with the promise of descendents in vss.2-5 rather explicitly, but the main emphasis could be seen as being on the land. Ch 17 does deals almost exclusively with the promise of descendents and mentions the land only in v.8. I think that in looking at the covenant of salvation, it is wise to put slightly more emphasis on our relationship with the Saviour rather than on our heavenly reward, although staying in balance there is important.
      2. 2.      We need to make sure that we understand this: it is God initiating the covenant by his sovereign grace. This was not Abram seeking out God and establishing terms with God. This is the sovereign Lord graciously setting terms for Abram. God is not in the bargaining business. We humans all too often think we can broker a deal with God Almighty. God’s terms are always unconditional surrender, like Grant at Appomattox with Lee, or MacArthur in Japan.
      3. 3.      Waltke divides the covenant up into three parts in this chapter (p.259). He looks at vs. 4-8 as God’s part, with vss. 9-14 Abraham’s, and vss. 15-16 Sarah’s.
      4. 4.      “…and may multiply you greatly.” Wenham notes, p.20, that this phrase “is an anagram of Abraham” which anticipates the giving of his new name. (Anagram uses the exact same letters but in a different sequence to make a new word or phrase). Notice the huge promise here, using the Heb. superlative “greatly”. Abram is 99 yrs old and God is promising to multiply him greatly.
    2. B.     Abram’s Response, vs.3
      1. 1.      Then Abram fell on his face. This is a typical Hebrew worshipful response. (Lev.9:24; Josh.5:14; Ezek.1:28).
      2. 2.      Falling on our faces is not a typical move we Americans make in worship. Why? Greeks v. Persians and Alexander the Great illustration. Persians prostrated themselves before their sovereign, Greeks did not. What does prostration show? Humility? Dependence? Yet what do you feel and think when you see muslims on their faces praying towards Mecca 5 times a day?


  1. II.                God’s Second Speech, vss.3b-8
    1. A.     Vss.3b-6 God Changes Abram’s Name to Abraham.
      1. 1.      Behold- KJV says, “As for me…” which matches what we find in vers.9. Wenham translates as “For my part…” This is the LORD stating his part of the covenant.
      2. 2.      No longer …Abram….your name shall be Abraham. Abram is exalted father but Abraham is Father of a multitude. For so many years he had been childless, yet he was called Exalted Father. Now, with just one son, God is renaming him “Father of a Multitude.” Imagine the embarrassment as he meets people and they ask him about his name and his family.
      3. 3.      When God changed Abram’s name he was exercising his divine prerogative and sovereignly telling Abram, I am in charge, I am God Almighty over you.
      4. 4.      We Americans take names very lightly, naming our children after famous actors or actresses, or other meaningless things. But the ancient peoples took the naming of a person seriously. God is basically renaming Abram here to magnify the promised blessing that seems so impossible. It is therefore a type of prophecy, “You will be the father of a multitude, Abraham.” God looks at the future as an accomplished fact.
      5. 5.      Has God changed our names? In Acts 11:26 “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Christian- Christ-man. Here is a list of verses that point to us having the name of Christ- John 20:31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 3:6 In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

1Cor.1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours

1Cor.6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

2Thess.1:12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1Peter 4:14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory  and of God rests upon you.

  1. 6.      I will make you exceedingly fruitful- Moses here gives us another link back to the creation mandate in 1:28 and to Noah in 9:1. Adam was at the head of the human race, Noah restarted the human race after the Flood, and now Abraham is starting the race of the Redeemed.
  2. 7.      We are to bear much fruit as the spiritual descendants of Abraham. Mark 4 and the parable of the soils. Mark 11 and the cursed fig tree. Luke3:7-9; John 12:24; 15:1-17. Gal.5:22-23. But the fruit comes from the Lord.
  3. 8.      and kings shall come from you- this prophecy points forward not just to the kings of Israel and Judah, but to the King of kings as well. This is the first time it is explicitly stated that kings would come from Abraham, though it was implied as far back as 12:3.
  4. 9.      According to 1Peter 2:9f we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…we were once not a people but now we are God’s people; once we had not received mercy but now we have received mercy.

10.  And I will establish my covenant…The covenant is an everlasting covenant that is not just with Abraham but with his offspring. Keep in mind Moses is writing and preaching this to the Israel of his day in the wilderness. They are included in the covenant..

11.  everlasting covenant- This is the first time that the covenant is described as being everlasting or eternal. God is God from everlasting to everlasting, he is eternal by nature, and his covenant reflects his eternal nature. Praise God his covenant with us in Christ is also everlasting.

12.  to be God to you and to your offspring- this is the heart of the covenant, to enter into a special relationship with Abraham and his descendants so that he is their God and they are his people who worship and serve him, giving praise and glory to him. Exodus; Jeremiah 24:7; 31:33; Ezek. 34:30f; Zech 8:8;

13.  And I will give you…the land of your sojournings- the promise of land again.

14.  this world is not our home… we have the promise of a new heaven and a new earth, John 14:2 “in my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Heb.11:8-16; 13:14.


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