The name Abram, of which Abiram is another form, may mean “the father is exalted” (cf. Jehoram); but the analogy of Abijah (“Jah is father”) suggests that it signifies “Ram (? Ramman) is father.” Abraham is probably only a dialectic variation of Abram; but in Gen_17:5 the latter part of the name is brought into relation with the word hâmôn, “multitude,” and the appellation is made to signify “father of a multitude of nations.”
In the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archœology, 1894, p. 212, Professor Hommel announced that he had discovered the proper name A-bi-e-ra-mu on a contract published by Professor Meissner in his indispensable book, Beiträge zum Altbabylonischen Privatrecht, No. 111. The original is in the Royal Museum of Berlin, catalogued VAT 1473, and has the contract in duplicate, that is, the contract on the tablet is copied on to the outer case, and both copies are intact. Hommel repeated his discovery in several books, and it misled Professor Sayce in his Early History of the Hebrews, and Dr. Pinches in his Old Testament in the Light of the Historical Records of Assyria and Babylonia, but the latter has corrected the matter in his third edition, 1908. As a matter of fact the name does not stand on the tablet, but both inner and outer copies have A-bi-e-ra-aḫ, as Dr. Ranke correctly read in his Personal Names of the Hammurabi Dynasty, p. 58. The text has been republished in the official publications of the Berlin Museum, Vorderasiatische Schriftdenkmäler, vol. viii. No. 12. The word in question occurs at line 18 on the tablet, and 19 on the case. Professor Driver also corrects this error in the seventh edition of his Book of Genesis, p. 49.
The name, however, does occur several times on tablets, in the Berlin Museum, published in vol. vii. of the same series, and Dr. Ungnad has recently called attention to this fact in his edition of some letters from Dilbat, Beiträge zur Assyriologie, vol. vi. part 1. The tablets are from Dilbat, dated in the reign of Ammizaduga, fourth successor of Ammurabi, contemporary of the Biblical Abraham.
These texts leave no possible doubt as to the fact that the name Abram was current in the days of Ḫammurabi. The Hebrew tradition evidently preserved two pronunciations, one Abam-ra-'-am, and one Abam-ra-am. The former would be the original Babylonian uncontracted form, with hiatus to represent an elided guttural. It is this form which lies at the basis of Hebrew Abraham where the h represents the Babylonian breathing. Naturally Abram is nothing but the Babylonian contracted form. The Hebrews later took the two words for different roots, but their philological explanation in Gen_17:5 had better be passed over in silence. It is one of those philological monstrosities in which both Babylonian and Hebrew too often indulged. The word is apparently South Arabian, from a root ra'm, “to love.” The later Arabic pronounced the perfect ra'ima, “he loved,” the imperfect iar'amū. The forms râma, ra-am-râm appear to be the infinitive or imperative. At any rate the usual Hebrew derivation from rum, “to be exalted,” is excluded by the fact that the Babylonian has abū in the accusative. The name means apparently, “love the father.”1 [Note: S. Langdon, in The Expository Times, xxi. (1909) 90.]