17:5 Abram . . . Abraham. Abram, an ancient West Semitic name, means “exalted father,” perhaps originally a reference to Abraham’s father Terah. “Abraham” sounds like a Hebrew expression meaning “father of a multitude of nations.” His old name spoke of his aristocratic ancestry; the new speaks of his many offspring.
your name shall be. The name changes of the patriarch and matriarch show they are under God’s rule (1:5 note) and are called to a new destiny and mission.
father of a multitude of nations. Abraham was the physical father of many nations—ethnic Israel through the promised son Isaac, Ishmaelites (v. 20; 21:13; 25:12–18), Edomites (25:23; 36:1–43), and his descendants through Keturah (25:1–4). But this promise finds final fulfillment in the multitude from every tribe, language, and nation who share the faith of Abraham and are baptized into Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:16, 17; 15:8–12; Gal. 3:29; Rev. 7:9).