Genesis 17-18: New Names, A Covenant, and an Incredible Promise from God

In the next chapter and a half in Genesis, God changes Abram’s and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah. He also makes a special covenant with Abraham and his descendants, again promising that even in their old age, Abe and Sarah will have a child! What’s in a name? Let’s dig in….

Genesis 17

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!

“I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.”

Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. 10 This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised…

14 Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.”

15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. 16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”

17 Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” 18 So Abraham said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!”

19 But God replied, “No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, [“he laughs”] and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant. 20 As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant will be confirmed with Isaac, who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year.” 22 When God had finished speaking, he left Abraham.

23 On that very day Abraham took his son, Ishmael, and every male in his household, including those born there and those he had bought. Then he circumcised them, cutting off their foreskins, just as God had told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and Ishmael, his son, was thirteen. 26 Both Abraham and his son, Ishmael, were circumcised on that same day, 27 along with all the other men and boys of the household, whether they were born there or bought as servants. All were circumcised with him.

Genesis 17: 1-10, 14-27 NLT

New Names, A New Identity

  • It seems that God was silent for 13 years — a true test of patience.
  • God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, for he’ll be the father of many nations. Here’s that promise again.
  • God reassures Abraham that Sarah (her new name), will indeed bear a son for him and that she’ll be the mother of many nations.
  • A covenant is an agreement between two parties — a 2-way contract. Each one makes a promise. Check out the video at the bottom that explains all about God’s covenants with us humans.

Here’s a paragraph from one of the Bible studies in the free YouVersion Bible app…

Changing Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham (“father of many”) and Sarah (“princess”), reinforced the fact that God would keep his long-awaited promise of a family. Their new names symbolized a new identity in Him and a future that rested in God’s hands. Circumcision would be the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham and Isaac, the son of promise, setting apart God’s chosen people from the others in the land. Abraham demonstrated his faith in all God told him by immediately and fully obeying.

Beginnings: A Study in Genesis from the free YouVersion Bible app

Genesis 18

The Lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. One day Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.

“My lord,” he said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while. Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet. And since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.”

“All right,” they said. “Do as you have said.”

So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get three large measures of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.” Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it. When the food was ready, Abraham took some yogurt and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees.

“Where is Sarah, your wife?” the visitors asked.

“She’s inside the tent,” Abraham replied.

10 Then one of them said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!”

Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. 11 Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. 12 So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh.”

But the Lord said, “No, you did laugh.”

Genesis 18:1-15 NLT

Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord?

Can Jesus change a life? Yes! Can Jesus soften a heart of stone? Yes! There is no heart too hard for Jesus! When you become a born-again believer, you also have a new identity: Child of God

That identity gives you a new future in Christ and entitles you to the promises God has made to all who call Him, “Father” (Galatians 3:14). God’s promises in the New Testament are His new covenant with you through Jesus Christ. That covenant is sealed through the circumcision of your heart – symbolic of the change made in your life by accepting Jesus as Lord (2 Cor. 5:17).

Beginnings: A Study in Genesis from the free YouVersion Bible app

A New Covenant for Us!

The “Spoken Gospel” Bible Study, also from the free YouVersion Bible app, explains it further…

Ultimately, we know that the final son of Abraham and Sarah who blesses all nations is Jesus. 

And Jesus gives us a sign better than the circumcision given to Abraham. Ours is a circumcision of the heart made inwardly by the Holy Spirit (Romans 2:28). The reason for an inward circumcision is that the true children of Abraham are not the ones who come straight from Abraham’s line, but those who believe in Jesus (Romans 2:29).

The Holy Spirit changing our hearts is the new sign of the covenant. 

And just as Abraham’s circumcision was a sign put on his body guaranteeing the fulfillment of the promise that was to come, the New Testament says that the Holy Spirit’s sign in us is our guarantee that all of Jesus’ promises will be fulfilled as well (2 Cor 1:22). 

Christians receive a new name, too. In fact, we are renamed twice. The first name is given to you when you put your faith in Jesus. You are made a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). At that moment, you are given so many new names: Bride of Christ (2 Cor 11:2), Adopted Son or Daughter (8:16), Beloved of God (Rom 1:7). The list goes on and on. 

There is a second name every Christian will receive as well. The last book in the Bible, Revelation, says that Jesus will give new names to everyone who perseveres to the end (Rev 2:17). No one knows what this name is or will be. It may be that Jesus gives each of us a private name only he calls us. A sweet pet name between us and our Savior. That’s a name worth looking forward to. 

Spoken Gospel

Are you a Child of God?

You were created in the image of God. Only when you become a born-again believer do you become a Child of God.

If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven and that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, this is what you have to do…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 in your life and surrender your life to Him.
  • Be Baptized — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift and Confident Hope of Eternal Life…


The Covenants


El-Shaddai


Hello My Name Is


Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

Top image by Lambsongs, from FreeBibleImages.org. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

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