The Prayer of Jab’ez
In 1 Chronicles chapter 4, there is a couple of verses that I’d like to talk about today. Open your bibles to that chapter if you would, 1 Chronicles chapter 4, and I’m going to read verses 9 & 10; Here’s what it says..
“Jab’ez was more honorable than his brothers; His mother called his name Jab’ez, saying; “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying; “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm, so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.”
Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? But I wonder if there’s more to be seen there than meets the eye? There’s something a bit odd about those two verses. What’s odd is that those verses don’t really have anything at all to do with the rest of the chapter. And they don’t really have anything to do with any of the preceding chapter, or the following chapters. They’re just there, inserted in the middle of a long genealogy, first of the descendants of Adam until Abraham; Then from Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel; And then the genealogy continues through the twelve sons of Israel, to the family of David; And then it continues through the priestly line of descendants.
And all of that, is what fills the first eight chapters of the book of 1 Chronicles. And in the middle of all that, in the fourth chapter, and a fourth of the way through that chapter, we have these two kind of “out of place” verses, about Jab’ez. And there is never again another mention of Jab’ez, in the entire bible. There is mention of a city named Jab’ez, in 1 Chronicles 2, verse 55. And that verse tells us that there were families of scribes who lived in Jab’ez. So we don’t know if Jab’ez himself possibly founded that city, or if the city was possibly named after Jab’ez; we’re simply not told.
But let me give you just a sample of the text, from chapter 4. I’ll read verses 5 thru 13, just for an example; “Ashhur, the father of Tekoa, had two wives, Helah and Naarah; Naarah bore him Ahuzzam, Hepher, Temeni, and Haahashtari. These were the sons of Naarah. The sons of Helah: Zereth, Izhar, and Ethnan. Koz fathered Anub, Zobebah, and the clans of Aharhel, the son of Harum. ”
Now here’s verses 9 & 10; “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” (Where did Jab’ez come from all of a sudden?) “Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying; “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm, so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.”
And now it goes right back to the genealogy, beginning with verse 11; “Chelub, the brother of Shuhah, fathered Mehir, who fathered Eshton. Eshton fathered Beth-rapha, Paseah, and Tehinnah, the father of Ir-nahash. These are the men of Recah. The sons of Kenaz: Othniel and Seraiah; and the sons of Othniel: Hathath and Meonothai.” and so on, and so on, it goes..
Am I the only one that finds that a bit odd? What is God’s purpose, in telling us about this man named Jab’ez? It would seem that Jab’ez was one of the sons of the clan of Aharhel, mentioned in verse 9. But did God simply want us to know that this man was more honorable than his brothers? Is that all there is to it? And that if you are “honorable” you can have your prayers answered by God? Is that the whole point? Is that the whole lesson there ? Maybe so, but then, maybe there’s more to it.
This section of scripture, is a lot like Genesis chapter 5, where the genealogy is being given from Adam to Noah. Names are simply being listed, as to who begat who, but then we get to Enoch, the son of Jared. And then we come to a section devoted devoted entirely to Enoch. And that section is, verses 21 thru 24; And here’s what God tells us in those four verses; “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah, 300 years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.”
So then God is simply letting us know the genealogy of man, but then He gets to Enoch, and God pauses the genealogy for just a minute, because God wants us to take note of Enoch; How that Enoch “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Is there a lesson for us there?
And what about this section of 1 Chronicles.. God was letting us know a specific genealogy, but then He gets to Jab’ez, and He pauses, because God wants us to take note of Jab’ez. Jab’ez prayed to God, saying; “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm, so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.” Is there a lesson for us there?
In these two verses, God tells us four things about Jab’ez. First.. Jab’ez is more “honorable” as the word is translated. Second.. Jab’ez got his name from his mother, who said; ““Because I bore him in pain.” Here’s what Strong’s Concordance says this about the word “jab’ez”.. From an unused root probably meaning to grieve; sorrowful; Evidently there was something about the birth of Jab’ez, that resulted in a lot of pain or sorrow for his mother.
Do you remember what the scripture says about Jacob’s wife Rachel, as she was giving birth? It says in Exodus 35, verse 17 & 18; “And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; But his father called him Benjamin.” The name “Ben-Oni”, means.. “son of my sorrow”.
The scripture doesn’t say exactly what happened with the mother of Jab’ez, except that she “bore him in pain”. And so the name Ja’bez, is a very humble name, to say the least. Certainly nothing to brag about, and feel “special” about, or “honored” about.
The third thing that God tells us about Jab’ez, is that he “called upon the God of Israel”, and prayed to a prayer to God A “humble” man calls upon the God of heaven doesn’t he? A man who wants and needs.. mercy, and kindness, and compassion, and blessing. And so Jab’ez called upon God.
And the fourth thing that God tells us is that Jab’ez received what he prayed for. “And God granted what he asked.”
Jab’ez, the son whose mother “bore him in pain”. I would imagine that every time Jab’ez heard his name spoken, he was reminded of his mother, and of whatever pain it was, that she went through. What if that were you? During the course of your life, would you tend to exalt yourself over that fact? Over the fact that your mother endured such sorrow and pain, that she named you, in memory of it, so to speak? Or instead, do you think that would tend to humble you. To have a much more “lowly” attitude, and probably grow up to possess what Jesus called, “a poor” and “meek” spirit. That’s my guess. That that situation would almost naturally create in you a humble, meek, and lowly spirit, and attitude towards life, and toward others, and toward God. it’s the kind of thing that would probably make you “call upon the God of Israel.. The God of heaven.. The God of all.
1 Chronicles 4, verse 9 says; “Jab’ez was more honorable than his brothers;” “More honorable”. But you know what? After a lot of study on these two verses, and after a lot of study on the word translated “honorable”, I don’t think that word really gets the message across for us. I don’t think it a very good translation here. And it certainly doesn’t get God’s message across. For example; What does being “honorable” have to do with his mother naming him “son of my sorrow”? Well, it has nothing to do with it.
You see, the word translated “honorable” can have a positive connotation, or it can have a negative connotation. And the way you translate it, would depend upon the connotation intended. Now “honorable” would convey a positive thought. Like.. Oh look at Jab’ez, what an honorable man he is. And that word is used like that in the old testament several times. But here’s an example of that word being used in a negative way.. Genesis 18, verse 20 says; “..And because their sin is very grievous..” “Grievous” is the word. Now that’s a far cry from “honorable” isn’t it?
Genesis 48:10 says, speaking of Jacob; “Now the eyes of Israel were DIM for his age, so that he could not see.” “Dim” is the word.
And speaking of Pharoah, the Lord says in Exodus 10, verse 1; “..for I have hardened his heart, and the hearts of his servants.”
You can see my point can’t you? Listen to this translation of 1 Chronicles 4, verse 9, concerning Jab’ez; “Jab’ez was more burdened than his brothers; And his mother called his name Jab’ez, saying; “Because I bore him in pain.”
Or this one; “Jab’ez was given greater affliction than his brothers; His mother called his name Jab’ez, saying; “Because I bore him in pain.”
It kind of make you feel sorry for ole’ Jab’ez. But it all worked out for good.. (where have you heard that before?) Because Jab’ez’s burdens, and his affliction, evidently caused him to “call upon the God of Israel”. And you know what the result of that was? “God granted what he asked.” God honored Jab’ez. Jab’ez didn’t honor himself; Jab’ez humbled himself, and called upon God, and God honored him!
Listen again to the prayer of Jab’ez, from verse 10; “..Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm, so that it might not bring me pain!” Now that sounds like a very humble prayer that maybe we all should pray.
But you know, some commentators have said that when Jab’ez said; “..enlarge my borders”, that he was asking for land to live on, and to maybe farm, or graze livestock, to become more wealthy. But you know what I think Jab’ez meant? He wasn’t talking about the borders of the land that he lived on. He was talking about HIS borders! He was talking about his personal limitations. His personal abilities. God, please enlarge my borders, and relieve my ,imitations, and add to my abilities, so that I can serve you better. That’s what I think Jab’ez was praying for.
A man who was burdened, and acquainted with sorrow, a humble man who was probably in the habit, of calling on the Lord, for his blessings, and for his sustenance.
And what about us? Could we use our “borders” enlarged? Could we use less limitations in serving God? And we use more ability to serve? Maybe we need more motivation, to do what God has already told us to do. If that’s the case; Lord, enlarge the borders of my desire, to serve you, and to serve my family, and my neighbors, and everyone.
Enlarge my ability to be the Christian that you want me to be. James 4, verse 3 says; “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, (you ask amiss) to spend it on your passions.” Maybe we simply need to pray the prayer of Jab’ez more often.