By Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg and Rev. Jim Stowe

In Genesis 17, God describes the sign of the covenant He will make with Abraham and his offspring.  He gives Abraham a new name to symbolize his destiny as the patriarch of God’s chosen people.  In the wake of these amazing events, it’s easy to overlook the important fact that Abraham’s wife Sarah – one of Israel’s matriarchs also received a new name and a promise.

The name “Abram” אַבְרָם(Avram) is composed of two words, av and ram, and means something like “exalted father.”  Abraham אַבְרָהָם (Avraham), on the other hand, derives from the words אַב (av) and הֲמוֹן (hamon), as explained by the phrase “because [I give you as] a father of a multitude of nations” (Gen. 17:5). So a one letter change make the big difference.

Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.  And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.” – Genesis 17:15-16

Notice that Sarai parallels Abram’s renaming in meaning. Both are called by their new names, because of their future roles as father and mother of many nations. “Sarai” (שָׂרָי) and “Sarah” (שָׂרָה) are different forms of the same Hebrew word that basically means “princess/woman of strength”. It is likely that Sarai is simply the possessive form of Sarah (i.e. “My Sarah”). Sarah, therefore, signifies that her strength does not belong exclusively to her immediate family, but to the future nation of Israel and even the world-at-large. As in the case with Abraham, the changing of a single letter made all the difference.

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57 COMMENTS

  1. Genesis 17:5 ʼab-hămōn gôyîm “father of many nations” is a folk etymology. It would be better if we could use something like Arabic ruhām “large number, multitude.” However, as pointed out by Alan Millard, one can find an -h- inserted in names in other Semitic languages, as a matter of dialectical variation (Millard, “Abraham,” in Freedman, ed., Anchor Bible Dictionary, I:39; Noth, IPN, 145 n. 1), and that may be what is going on here. Love your articles, Dr. Eli. Bob Smith
  2. Power of the name is a gift from the Creators of Earth. When the Syrian war started Linda would pray and light a candle every night for peace in the Middle East. Linda saw the Hebrew letter Segol, with three golden pyramid float from the direction of the right side of my eyes to the left side of my eyes while going to a bio-feedback session of the music of the spreads. Linda calls this a sign of Moses, Jesus, and Elijah Trinity. Dr. Eli, thank you for giving me a chance to learn Hebrew letters. Amen
    • There is only One Creator of Heaven and of earth: the Lord Jesus Christ: John 1:10, for it is He in whom ALL the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily. Colossians 2:9.
      But asides from that, you are being deceived by a lying vision, I say that sincerely and kindly.
      You cannot mix the Bible and pyramids and the occult. All the best to you. Please consider.

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  3. My understanding is that God inserted His name into theirs as "ah" (breath) from his name Y-ah-weh; as part of the standard procedure of making a covenant.
  4. Sarah indeed becomes a mother of nations. Genesis 22-24 typifies her as the nation of Israel, Abraham as God the Father, and Isaac as the Child of Promise, Jesus. The Ahkedah created a rift between Sarah and Abraham since he has to GO TO HER after she dies. Why wasn't he with her? In Genesis 22, Jesus (Isaac/ram) is offered for sin, in Genesis 23 Sarah (Israel) is cut off for unbelief, in Genesis 24 the Father sends his un-named chief servant (Eli-Ezer, "God is my Helper", symbolizing the Holy Spirit) to get a wife from "outside the family" (Gentiles)
    • That's a stretch, Chris. And in any case, Eleazar did not get a wife from outside the family; he was specifically sent to Abraham's relatives to find a wife for Isaac among them. And Rebecca, a cousin to Abraham as well as her future husband, was shown to be the one.
  5. Hey, Chris, remember who the wives were kins of Isaac, daughters of the brother of Sara, nobody outside the family but very inside.
    • Yashusha is simply incorrect supposedly Hebrew original pronunciation of Yeshua or Yehoshua (I am yet to encounter a shred of evidence that this is in fact so).

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    • Dear David and Sabrina: Respectfully, as a Hebrew scholar I can tell you that there is absolutely no evidence for the name "Yahusha." Jesus' Hebrew name is spelled "Yeshua" (this name occurs nearly 30 times in the Hebrew Bible so we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is the correct spelling; cf. Ezra 2:2-40; 3:3-9; 4:3; 8:33; 10:18; Neh 3:19; 7:7-43; 8:7, 17; 9:4-5; 10:9; 11:26; 12:7-10, 24-26; 1 Chron 24:11; 2 Chron 31:15). I would deeply encourage you to discontinue your use of "Yahusha," which is both unattested and grammatically impossible from a Hebrew linguistic perspective.

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  6. I apply principles back and forth so if I understand correctly the name Abraham is based on God’s workmanship, not Abram's conversion to a different people group. This principle would mean Saul/Paul is Christ’s chosen vessel (Acts 9:15), not a conversion (cut off from his people)? I am trying to understand what "cut off from his people" means.
  7. I was directed to "Blogs" page by Alina Smagliy, I have not found a proper place to ask my question yet. I have also not found the answer to my question yet. The question is referring to the sound some Hebrew letters make. What is the difference between the sound tet and tav make? And the difference between Samek and Sin? Thank You, Mark W Chamberlain
  8. Is it true that one is a "Jew/child of Israel" if one's mother is a "Jew/child of Israel"? If so when/year did this come about? One has the impression one is a jew through paternity?
    • According to Orthodox Rabbinic halakhah (teaching), Jewish ethnicity is passed to the child through the mother. How and why the shift from patralineal to matrilineal descent took place is matter of some debate (like everything else in Judaism). The traditional answer is that this change occurred during the Exile but, again this is debated. A great book on this subject is "The Beginnings of Jewishness" by Shaye Cohen. I highly recommend it!
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