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 “father is exalted.”  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.



  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.

      • Amen 🙏 L. C. I agree w/ your discernment…I was completely confused by her statement…wow…where could you get such thinking if not from the father of lies himself…the deceiver.

  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).

    • 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.

  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

    • Sure.There is no difference in sound only in spelling. I think if you use your bonus course BIBLICAL HEBREW: FIRST STEPS it will also be clear.

      • Thank you for responding Dr. Eli, I appreciate it very much. I have taken the course BIBLICAL HEBREW: FIRST STEPS, It has been of a great help, I watched it several times over, I also watched it for the answer to my question about the similar sounds but he did not discuss it. He showed similar spellings. I have the unlimited plan. I want to learn as much as I can about Hebrew and the culture.

        • Hi Mark, your question about similar sounding letters is a good one. The tet used to be more emphatic and the tav was not. The sin used to be more dentally fricative and the samek was not. There are many other consonants (shin, chet, ayin, zayin, tsadi) which used to represent more than one consonantal sound, but sometime after the writing of the Septuagint, the Hebrew language was simplified so that each letter came to represent only one sound (with the exception of shin/sin).

  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!

  9. I started studying Hebrew last year as to have a deeper understanding of Torah and Hebrew thought and also because western culture has obscured much of our understanding of The Word. I know names are important & that He will one day give me His new name written in my forehead. My question is: If my name “Wilma” is said to mean (from germanic origin) ” resolute protector”, can I spiritually assume that my actual calling in life is to protect, or is it taking it to far? I want to be called Vilmah: vav lamed mem hey?

    • Hi Wilma. The names we give to our children have a powerful effect on their lives. God can work providentially in these things even when we them for granted. While we don’t want to over spiritualize the situation, I think its perfectly fine that you “own” that connection to known your name.

  10. When seeing their name changed with “ah” added. It just like accepting Jesus as our personal savior. They accepted their name as God is with them always. That’s their salvation here.

  11. I love the meaning of names, I want to know what I am calling the person. I like the meaning of Sarah’s name = princess/woman of strength. Truly she was a woman of strength giving birth beyond her child-bearing years! I would even state, she was a woman of ‘great’ strength!’ Truly the LORDs doing!

  12. It is correct that “Sarai” literally mean “My Sarai” with the ending of “ י “. The name of both Abram” אַבְרָם (Avram) and Sarai” (שָׂרָי) were given one alephbet of הָ. It is one alephbet – “ ה “ in God’s name יהוה . It might be a gift to Abraham and Sarah, or even better, a Covenant, What a blessing! Hallelujah.

  13. “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.”

    However, you have Resh inside, AbRaham.

  14. The Biblical story from Genesis 11-25 tells how ABRAM and Sarai allowed Hagar to become the mother of Ishmael. Clearly, it was Abram, with Hagar, and Ishmael, who was the “Father of Arabic nations, and the muslim world.” Hagar and Ishmael eventually returned to Egypt and worshipped Allah, the moon god of Baal. Allah had no son, and became the muslim’s object of worship in 610 AD.
    At the birth of Isaac, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah with God making a new everlasting covenant to bless Isaac. It was ABRAHAM, NOT ABRAM that set out to sacrifice his son to the Lord, so it was Isaac, not Ishmael as the Arabs claim. Father ABRAHAM, with Sarah, was the father of Hebrews-Jews-Christians…two completely different names, two different lineages, and two completely different everlasting covenant promises from God. There is a reason God changes names…like Jacob to Israel and Saul to Paul. So, when the ecumenical world popes want to say that muslims, Jews, and Christsians have the same Father God, and the same linage source…not true. God changed his name from Abram to Abraham for a reason.

    • Ishmael was the father of the Bedouin, not the Arabs. There was no “new covenant to bless Isaac,” it was a “renewed” covenant. Abraham was not the father of the Christians, who are not themselves a part of the covenant. Christianity did not even exist until the 2nd cen. Further Saul never had a name change. He was a Roman citizen and a Jew, so as was common he had a Jewish and a Roman name. But you came to the right conclusion- Muslims, Christians, and Jews don’t share a common lineage.

  15. Ibraham and Sara are from iraq… We can conseder Ibraham as afother to several nations especialy arabs and israils but Sara is amother of israils.

  16. Hi Dr. I have learned that the change of name derives from the covenant that YHWH made with Abraham, like in the steps that is made when two people do when they enters into a blood covenant. Is it true?

  17. promise is to the “seed” with abram/abraham as a type of christ who is “father of nations” (Is 9:6) & also Ps 2:8 where GOD asks of messiah after his resurrection in v7, “ask of me i’ll give you the nations for thine inheritance”

  18. Thank you Dr Eli. I now know more about my name. what a beautiful name from The Creator Himself.
    I have learned so much from this forum

  19. For more on this see “Be Obedient” Chapter 6 “What’s in a Name”. Wiersbe expands these name changes with God’s first provided name, the two boys names, first to be named prior to birth. It all ties together.

  20. Something worries me know in one of the comments, why do you say JESUS was illiterate? I think HE is one heck of a smart brainman. The Bible states that HE taught with power, and knew well to used HIS inviroment to enable a amphitheatre,

  21. With the birth of Ishmael, his desendants are today’s Arabic nations. At the birth of Isaac, God changed Abram and Sarai’s name to Abraham and Sarah for today’s Jews and Christians for a reason…two completely different names, different lineages, and two different everlasting covenants.


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