Is Ishmael the child that You promised? Ishmael did come from Abram’s loins, but not from Sarai. So what’s the deal here?”
“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly” (Gen 17:1-2).
“As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram (Exalted Father), but thy name shall be Abraham (Father of a Many); for a father of many nations have I made thee.
And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee (King David and Jesus both came from Abraham’s blood line)” (Gen 17:4-6).
“And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
And the uncircumcised man child 1 whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai (the princely), but Sarah (the princess) shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart 2, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year” (Gen 17:11-21).
1 The Circumcision Covenant of that time is still true to God, if you’re uncircumcised, you’re going to Hell. Yet, this circumcision does not pertain to the body, but the heart. If you have faith in Jesus you are circumcised, if you don’t, you’re uncircumcised and to Hell you will go (Act 2:25-29, Phil 3:3, and Rom 7:6).
2 This laughter was not of ridicule, but of complete happiness that God would do this for him, but Sara’s laughter was unbelief.
Naming of Children
Ancient Near Eastern peoples attached a deep significance to the naming of children.
Unlike modern parents, who typically choose names, often long before a child’s birth, on the basis of cultural popularity, family tradition, personal preference or sound, Israelite parents tended to select names based upon circumstances surrounding the birth or words spoken near the time of birth.
For example, in Gen 35:18 we read that Rachel, dying in childbirth, named her son Ben-Oni (“my painful son”), although Jacob renamed the baby Benjamin (“son of the right hand”).
On rare occasions God revealed a name to a child’s parents before birth, signifying the divinely established role that child would play in history.
For example, God specified the name Isaac, meaning “he laughs.”
This name may reflect not only Abraham’s and Sarah’s laughter of disbelief upon learning that they were indeed to have a son in their old age (17:17; 18:12; 21:6) but also the ultimate joy Isaac would bring as the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s longstanding promise to Abraham (17:4-8; 21:1-2).
Another clear example of God naming a child is his own Son Jesus (the Greek version of Joshua, meaning “he saves”), whose divinely revealed purpose was to “save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:20-21).
See also Hos 1:4, 6, 9 for more sobering names God designated for the offspring of the prophet Hosea.