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The Story of Jabez – 1 Chronicles 4:9-10

This study contains Greek or Hebrew words. They will appear as scrambled letters enclosed in <brackets> unless you have the appropriate fonts installed on your computer. See the Information about this web site page for more information.

Introduction

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, "Because I bore him in pain." Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that thou wouldst bless me and enlarge my border, and that thy hand might be with me, and that thou wouldst keep me from harm so that it might not hurt me!" And God granted what he asked.

Have you been facing a time of pain or heartache? These two verses in the Bible tell us about two people who faced difficulties in their lives – Jabez and his mother. These are the only verses that tell us anything about these two people. Jabez was born into pain so great that his mother named him < Cb2'(;yA> yabetz which means "pain."

It is impossible to know the pain that caused this name to be given. All birth is accompanied with pain, but the fact that eight days later when Jabez was named, the mother still felt the pain indicates her reference to the hurt must have been greater than the normal travail from childbirth. Perhaps this was a life-threatening delivery to the mother. Or maybe he was born at a time when the family was going through a time of heartache.

Matthew Henry comments, "His mother gave him the name with this reason, Because I bore him with sorrow, v. 9. All children are borne with sorrow, but some with much more sorrow than others. Usually the sorrow in bearing is afterwards forgotten for joy that the child is born; but here it seems it was so extraordinary that it was remembered when the child came to be circumcised, and care was taken to perpetuate the remembrance of it while he lived."

The Hebrew word < bc(> atzeb is repeated from the mother’s initial declaration in verse 9, "Because I bore him in pain," to Jabez’ prayer in verse 10, "that it might not hurt me." This seems to indicate that Jabez was either exposed to a life of pain and heartache, or he was facing a time of hardship when he prayed this prayer.

As Jamison-Fausset-Brown tells us, "The prayer of his which is here recorded, and which, like Jacob's, is in the form of a vow, seems to have been uttered when he was entering on an important or critical service, for the successful execution of which he placed confidence neither on his own nor his people's prowess but looked anxiously for the aid and blessing of God."

What pain or suffering are you going through? If you have been facing a time of heartache or despair, you can learn from this prayer of Jabez. In spite of the pain of his birth, the legacy of his name, and any difficulty he might be facing, Jabez knew where to go for victory over heartache. He went to the Lord. When we are facing difficult times or hard decisions, we can go to the Lord and know that he will answer our prayer.

Verse 9 tell us that, "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers." We are left to speculate as to what this means. Was he more honest, more reliable, more talented? Not much information is given to us. But perhaps we can find the answers in the next verse which talks about Jabez’ prayer. Maybe the reason Jabez was considered more honorable than his brothers was because he was willing to place God first in his life. In everything he did he not only acknowledged God, but he sought God’s direction.

I want to look at verse 10 phrase by phrase and see if we can’t learn from this extraordinary man.

"Jabez called on the God of Israel."

When we are facing a painful time, we need to call on the God of Israel. We should not look to our own abilities or talents or wisdom, but look to God. The Lord is there for us. He has offered us help. All we have to do is come to him.

As Peter Marshall wrote, "Now, Christianity, the power of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit of God, is the only force that can change people for good. It is the only power in the world that can change the gears in a man’s life, from self-will to God’s will. It is the only power that can give a man the right motives–to do what God wants him to do."

"Saying."

Now, we are going to examine the prayer of Jabez. He asks that God grant him 5 things. We can apply each one of these five requests to our situation when we are going through a time of pain or heartache.

1. "Oh that thou wouldst bless me"

The first request is for God’s blessing. What a great way to start. When we are facing difficulties, we don’t need our own blessing or someone else’s blessing; we need God’s blessing. He is the only one who knows exactly what we need. He is the only one who understands our pain and suffering. He is the one who can guide and direct us into the best path.

We may feel that we are unworthy to ask for God’s blessing, or we might even think it is selfish on our part to do this. But Jesus told us in Luke 11:9, "And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." We are to ask of the Lord, and he will bless us.

Matthew Henry remarks, "Spiritual blessings are the best blessings, and those are blessed indeed who are blessed with them. God's blessings are real things and produce real effects. We can but wish a blessing: he commands it. Those whom he blesses are blessed indeed."

2. "And enlarge my border."

Next Jabez prays for his material well-being. In an agricultural society it was necessary to have a large enough area to maintain livestock. This is the sense of these words. He is not necessarily praying for riches, but he is praying that God will provide for the needs of him and his growing family.

Adam Clarke points out, "He prays for the things necessary for the body as well as for the soul: And enlarge my coasts – grant me as much territory as may support my family. Let the means of living be adequate to the demands of life; let me have the necessaries, conveniences, and, as far as they may be safely intrusted with me, the comforts of life! O that thou wouldest enlarge my coasts!"

3. And that thy hand might be with me."

Jabez prays for God’s strength. He may have been a strong man who had many talents, but he knew he still needed God’s help. No matter how capable we are in handling difficulties, we will always do a better job when God’s hand is with us. Let us be willing to allow God to have his way in our life.

Clarke comments, "He is conscious that without the continual support of God he must fail; and therefore he prays to be upheld by his power: That thy hand might be with me! May I ever walk with thee, and ever feel the hand of thy power to support and cover me in all the trials, dangers, and difficulties of life; and the hand of thy providence to supply all my wants in reference to both worlds!"

There may be times when we must go through pain or heartache. It is during those times we should pray that God’s hand would be with us. When we are overwhelmed with sorrow and agony, let us realize that God is with us in spite of outward appearances. Even when burdens are heavy upon us, let us not be brought so low that we can’t in faith look up. In turmoil, in confusion, in trouble God’s hand is with us.

Thomas Hastings wrote this wonderful poem of hope:

In Sorrow

Gently, Lord, oh, gently lead us,
Pilgrims in this vale of tears,
Through the trials yet decreed us,
Till our last great change appears.
When temptations darts assail us,
When in devious paths we stray,
Let Thy goodness never fail us,
Lead us in Thy perfect way.
In the hour of pain and anguish,
In the hour when death draws near,
Suffer not our hearts to languish,
Suffer not our soul to fear;
And when mortal life is ended,
Bid us in Thine arms to rest,
Till, by angel bands attended,
We awake among the best.

4. "And that thou wouldst keep me from harm."

Jabez prays that he might be kept from harm. He may have been facing a very difficult time in his life. He may have been afraid that the name his mother gave him might have been fulfilled in his life. What sorrow or pain he was facing we do not know. But it was enough that he cried out to God to keep him from the harm. What trouble is threatening you? What danger is lurking ahead that is causing you to fret and worry? Come to the Lord. He will keep you from harm.

Elmslie remarks, "But Jabez deserves kinder treatment. His name signified ‘pain’ or ‘sorrow’ and the fact preyed on his imagination suggesting that he was a man handicapped in life, sure to be unfortunate. He had the courage to refuse to despond. Face your fears. Put up a fight against misfortunes and difficulties."

5. "So that it might not hurt me!"

God will protect us from harm. Jabez knew to come to the only one who could keep him from hurts. Do we know this? Do we realize that God’ will have his hand upon us so that we won’t be hurt? David experienced the same help from God that Jabez had. David wrote in Psalm 46:1-3, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult."

What tumult are you facing? Does it seem like the earth is shaking and the waters are roaring around you? Let us never forget that God is our refuge and strength. No matter what troubles may surround us, they cannot hurt us.

"And God granted what he asked."

These are the words that end verse 10 – God granted to Jabez what he asked. God answered the prayer of Jabez and he will answer our prayers too. He will bless us, will grant our physical needs, will be with us, will keep us from harm, and will prevent us from being hurt.

Matthew Henry remarks, "What was the success of his prayer: God granted him that which he requested, prospered him remarkably, and gave him success in his undertakings, in his studies, in his worldly business, in his conflicts with the Canaanites, and so he became more honourable than his brethren. God was of old always ready to hear prayer, and his ear is not yet heavy."

Conclusion

These two verses tell us everything we know about Jabez, but his name is recorded once more in scripture. It is found in 1 Chronicles 2:55, "The families also of the scribes that dwelt at Jabez...." Jabez became the name of a city. Jamison-Fausset-Brown comments, "The Jewish writers affirm that he was an eminent doctor in the law, whose reputation drew so many scribes around him that a town was called by his name."

How this came about we are not sure. But one thing we do know is that in all things Jabez acknowledged God. And it seems that God blessed him abundantly. We may never have a town named after us, but let us come to the Lord in prayer. And as Jabez, we will also be abundantly blessed.

Footnotes:

This study on 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 1998 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.

All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version 1971, A. J. Holman Company

Matthew Henry’s Commentary, electronic edition, 1996 by Biblesoft

Jamison-Fausset-Brown Commentary, electronic edition 1996 by Biblesoft

Marshall: Mr. Jones, Meet the Master pg. 45 1950, Fleming H. Revell

Matthew Henry’s Commentary, electronic edition 1996 by Biblesoft

Adam Clarke’s Commentary, electronic edition 1996 by Biblesoft

Adam Clarke’s Commentary, electronic edition 1996 by Biblesoft

Hastings: In Sorrow from The Home Book of Verse, vol. II, pg. 3808 1940, Henry Holt and Company

Elmslie: The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. III, pg. 360 1954, Abingdon Press

Matthew Henry’s Commentary, electronic edition 1996 by Biblesoft

Jamison-Fausset-Brown Commentary, electronic edition 1996 by Biblesoft

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