Jabez – Tucked into a Hebrew genealogy in I Chronicles 4:9,10 one man stands out, Jabez, an Arabian Kenite like Jael, related to the Israelites through Esau. Jabez, it was said, was more honorable than his brethren. Though a Gentile by birth, he more closely followed the One True God and sought to draw others to Him. He studied God’s laws, and he recognized God’s character through them.
Now in those days, the name given a child was thought to predict his or her destiny, so mothers would be careful what they “wished” for. This is why Hagar was so relieved when God told her Ishmael’s name – it was a heavenly promise that God will always hear and understand us.
Jabez must have been a difficult birth for his mother; she couldn’t stop saying what a “pain” he’d been to her. Seeing that the epitaph was sticking, she hoped to bless her son instead by playing on the same word used in Eve’s curse of childbirth, “causing pain,” and rearranging the letters to create a nonsensical name, Jabez. Even so, everyone knew his name meant that he was trouble to be around. If anything bad happened, Jabez would be the first suspected of causing it. But Jabez knew that God intends us to be a blessing to others. God did not define him by a name or circumstance, nor abandon him for the original sin we are all born under. God was already working on a solution.
At this time, the Israelites had just entered Canaan and were to divide its land among their twelve tribes. God told them to work together to drive out the inhabitants, but they left it up to each group, and the book of Judges shows the disastrous consequences of this disobedience. Though the Kenites were numbered among Judah—the tribe prophesized by Jacob to produce a king of peace, a Savior to end the curse of original sin—they were considered insignificant. Most of Israel would fall into worshipping the idols of their neighbors. Only a few would hold true. Jabez could already see the twelve tribes wavering in their beliefs, wanting more to be like their neighbors than to be like God. But how could his small tribe-within-a-tribe fight the Canaanites on their own and hope to hold it? How could the voice of truth drown out the mob?
With a heartfelt plea, Jabez invoked the One who could destine.
“Oh that you would indeed bless me and you would multiply my territory. Let your hand be with me, and keep me from evil, so that I may be free from causing pain.”
Jabez' prayer says so much in so few words. He asked for divine help in securing his portion of the land. That would not only increase his spiritual influence among the Israelites, it would also mean that his lineage would have greater inclusion in the promise that Judah’s descendants would beget the Savior. In effect, Jabez was praying that God keep His promise of redemption – to reverse the curse that came about from Adam and Eve’s fall – and to be involved in making God’s rescue plan come about.
In asking for “God’s hand to be with him,” Jabez sought God’s power, not only to overcome the immediate problem of taking the land, but to guide him and protect him from doing wrong – to be so in harmony with God, he needed no painful correction, nor would his sins result in pain for others. Jabez, then, asked God to help him overcome his naming. What if each of us strove to be a blessing to others? What if we asked for divine help in doing so? When we ask God for the very things He wishes for us, I John 5:14 assures us that He will absolutely provide those requests!
And God did. Jabez’ territory became a renown city of scribes for those who wished to study God’s laws and fully understand Him more, a city right beside Bethlehem.