Q – Why the name change for Abraham and Sarah?
As you’re reading through Genesis you might notice that there are specific reasons why someone is called by a certain name. The first woman is named Eve (which means “life”) because she would be the mother of all the living (Gen 3:20). In 5:32 Lamech named his son Noah because “This one will bring us comfort during our work and the hard labor that we must perform with out hands because the Lord has cursed the soil.” Noah in Hebrew sounds like the word for comfort. Think of Isaac. His name means “laughter.” He was called Isaac because Sarah had laughed when she overheard the Lord telling Abraham that in a year’s time she would be pregnant.
In the case of Abram, his name-change is communicating something. God changed his name to Abraham as a sign of the promise God had given to him. Remember in chapter 12 God said, “all nations on earth will be blessed through you.” And throughout the next chapters God repeatedly promised that his descendants would be numerous. In chapter 17 God changes his name. This is before the 3 men ever visited Abraham and told him that Sarah would soon become pregnant. In Hebrew Abram means “exalted father.” The name change is God again affirming his promise to Abram as we see in the fact that Abraham means “father of many.” It was another way God showed that his promises of making Abraham’s descendants great was going to come to fruition.
As far as the name change for Sarah, there’s no real difference in meaning from Sarai to Sarah. Both mean “princess.” We can’t be certain as to why exactly God had Sarah’s name changed.