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Genesis 17:1-14

Several years have passed and still no child for Abram and Sarai. But God reassures Abram of his covenant promise, gives him circumcision as its mark, and changes his name to Abraham.

What’s in a Name?


When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”

At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!”
(Genesis 17:1-6)


Why did God repeat his covenant to Abram? He had already mentioned this agreement twice (Genesis 12 and 15). Here, however, God was clarifying it and preparing to carry it out.

He revealed to Abram several specific parts of his covenant: (1) God would give Abram many descendants; (2) many nations would descend from him; (3) God would maintain his covenant with Abram’s descendants; (4) God would give Abram’s descendants the land of Canaan.

The terms were simple: Abraham would obey God and circumcise all the males in his household; God would give Abraham heirs, property, power, and wealth. Most contracts are balanced exchanges: We give something and receive something of equal value in return. But when we become part of God’s covenant family, the blessings we receive far outweigh what we must give up.

To reaffirm these promises, God changed Abram’s name (which means “exalted father”) to Abraham (which means “father of many”). From this point on, the Bible calls him Abraham. Abraham’s name served as a reminder of God’s promises.


The Lord told Abram, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.” God has the same message for us today. We are to obey the Lord in every aspect because he is God—that is reason enough. If you don’t think the benefits of obedience are worth it, consider who God is—the only one with the power and ability to meet your every need.

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