Circumcision and a New Lease on Life

Genesis 17:1-27

When Abram is 99 years old, and Sarai is 89, God appears to Abram and once again promises him many descendants to inherit the land. He tells Abram that from now on, he will be known as Abraham, meaning father of many nations, and his wife’s name will change to Sarah (which means princess, but is not defined by the text).


God instructs Abraham to circumcise himself and all male members of his household. From this point forward, all males born into Abraham’s family will be circumcised on the eighth day after their birth. He promises that with these changes, he and Sarah will have a son.


Incredulous, Abraham expresses the hope that Ishmael would walk in God’s ways, but God insists it is from Sarah, whose son will be called Isaac, that God’s promise to Abraham’s descendants will be fulfilled.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think God changes Abraham and Sarah’s names?

Comments ( 14 )

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  • Pauline Graham

    The shedding of blood is what YHVH sees and honors. it was a sacrifice of their most private and delicate body parts. They were incapacitated and would need the protection of YHVH over their flocks and their families.

  • Pauline Graham

    YHVH has changed their names I believe, that they have learnt the hard lesson of disobedience before Him. Their new names denote a new chapter in their lives, as they start to follow the path that YHVH has begun for them. Naming a child is important, the child's name describes who and what the child will be as he/she developes in life.

  • Barbara Knowles


  • The covenant of circumcision was a covenent for the ofspring of Avram. But not only with those that generated from him
    also with Avram himself, stressed by the change of name. (a very personal item. ) G-d put His Holy Name into the name of Avram. The "Hey" was put into AvraHam's name. The Hey of HaShem. Also in Saraj 's name a Hey was put. They both received something very personal of HaShem. In order to reassure HaShem's continuous presence. G-d gave from Himself.

    • The Hey is spoken without anything moving yourself. It is just outcoming air. It goes by itself. I had to think of Adam breathed in with the breath of HaShem (with the breath of life). Moreover in Paradise the name of flowing wind is Ruach. Ruach the wind is like a breath of life. Would it be strange if I call the Hey in the name of AvraHam and SaraH a touch of the "breath of life" showing up in their lifes…. a touch of Holiness?

  • "Incredulous, Abraham expresses the hope that Ishmael would walk in God’s ways, but God insists it is from Sarah, whose son will be called Isaac, that God’s promise to Abraham’s descendants will be fulfilled."
    The deed to the Land belongs to Yitzchak. It's not just the words we see within 17: 21 that clearly marks the true benefactor of the blood line. Yep. Here it is again, the "Aleph/Tav" symbol. The verse begins with it and is written, "Vav/Aleph/Tav", connecting it with "My covenant". The three combined letters generally translates to, "and". However, the "Vav" gives the whole symbol the meaning of, "a bridge to Aleph/Tav". Later in the verse, the "Aleph/Tav" symbol appears on its own in front of "Yitzchak".
    What this total placement means is, "Yitzchak will be the means (a bridge) to affect that covenant". No matter how much Ishmael, or mostly Esau, fights against it, The Elohim of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'acov will "rain heavily on their party". The Land belongs to Ya'acov and his descendants–ALL twelve sons, fourteen if you count Manassah and Ephraim.

  • In Hebrew, a name given reveals the destiny of the child, in this case, Avram. I agree with Kara & SueJean. The name change reflects a new beginning, an upgrade in stature that much better fits the promise given by HaShem.

    • I think it is not only in Hebrew that a name reveals one's destiny, it applies for all.

      • … applies for all people. So Yahweh intervenes and changes names that are bad for our destinies just like He did for Abram and Sarai.

    • I agree, a name is who ad what a person is. It is so important to take the time and pray before naming a child. This portion of scripture shows us that.

  • I believe that in Elohim’s eyes Father Abraham had reached spiritual maturity and was ready to understand that the call upon his life was far greater than everything that had gone before.
    If he had been told at the beginning of his journey just where all this would lead, he might not have been able to grow in a good way, but might have become haughty or somehow messed up the “eternal plan”. At this point in his life, he had stumbled enough to know that there was nothing in him that was great, but everything good in his life had come by the Hand of Elohim.
    Circumcision wasn’t something that Abraham was going to show off as a badge of honor, but being given a new name was a way of marking this big change in his relationship with Elohim. We’re taught that the name Abram was changed by the addition of the letter “hey” which ties his name to Elohim in a special way.
    Baruch Hashem.

  • The name change for Abraham and Sarah testified to a new thing that God was beginning in their lives at that point. They were going to be key progenitors of the covenant people that was yet destined to be born from them.

  • Sheila

    This covenant through circumcision was the seal and sign that guaranteed God’s promise to Abram and Saraithat he would be a father of many nations through the child of promise born to them. Sarai was included in this —- she would be a mother of nations , Kings of people shall be from her v16. These name changes correspond to this major call from the Almighty. Sarah as Princess is now linked in co-rulership with her husband Abraham as the Father of a Multitude. I sense that this also reveals a name change in character and maturity as they walked by faith in their call. Their new names also reminded them of their role and position through unknown challenges ahead of them.

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