Abram to Abraham


Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

File:Tissot God's Promises to Abram.jpg

God’s Promises to Abram, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

“No longer shall your name be Abram.”

I can’t quite get my head around what that would be like to get a new name. This is not just a nickname. This is a new identity. He who was Abram is now the ‘father of a multitude’. Albino Luciani becomes John Paul. Karol Józef Wojtyła becomes John Paul II. Jorge Mario Bergoglio becomes Francis I. Whoever they might have been, they are now someone new. Kings take throne names. A woman (once not so long ago here, and still in many places) took the name of her husband and became Mrs. ___. She was once one person and became another, an identity and destiny now derived form her husband’s family not her own. Norma Jean Mortenson becomes Marilyn Monroe; it is a new identity, a new destiny.

No longer shall your name be Abram, the 90-year-old childless one. You will be Abraham, the ‘father of a multitude’.

And Sarai, no longer will she be Sarai; she will be Sarah, ‘princess’. And a child is coming whose name will be laughter. Joy. Delight. Descendants like the stars. The father and mother of nations. Those who had no future are given a future.

“No longer shall your name be Abram.”

No longer shall you be David; you shall be David, child of God. No longer are my children Anna and Megan, but Anna, child of God, member of the household of heaven, and Megan, daughter of heaven. “Once you were no people but now you are God’s people.”RSV

Of course, those from elite families have no desire to give up their names. Who would surrender a name like Rockefeller or Kennedy for the appellation “child of God”?

Those who would save their life.


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