There are some characters in the Bible of which little is known, yet the brief mention of them is sometimes highly encouraging and offers hope to God fearing Christians. The word ‘Jabez’ is only found 4 times in the Holy Bible and one of those refers to a city or area of that name.(1 Chronicles 2:55) Often, there is much that can be learned from these briefly mentioned men of God. The concise quote below which mentions his name 3 times, when analyzed, can admonish us to do as Jabez did. This follows a listing of the genealogy from Judah, many of whom were not faithful followers of God. Finally we come to this quote about Jabez and his short prayer.
And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bare him with sorrow”. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!” And God granted him that which he requested. (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 KJV)
This type of scenario is found quite often in the Old Testament, where a single person stands out in their devotion to God and frequently, is surrounded by the unfaithful. This particular incident used for the title of a book written in the year 2000 by Bruce Wilkinson which has sold an astounding over seven million copies.
The name Jabez literally means, “that which causes pain (or sorrow)”. But Jabez, as Noah, Abraham, and a number of other outstanding men of the Bible, remained faithful to God regardless of how others about him were living. This problem exists today as it did in times past. When a person today exerts every effort to live according to the teachings of Jesus and his inspired writers, he finds himself in an extreme minority quite often. Without question, Jabez was an outstanding man of God or this account of him would not have been included. There are innumerable incidents recorded in the Bible which, when investigated, will have some valueable instruction for contemporary man.
It is a normal question to wonder just what caused his mother to name him that which causes sorrow or pain, yet any answer for it has to be pure speculation since no reason is given. It is somewhat logical to think perhaps she may have had a very difficult time giving birth to him. Or that she had some other severe problem at the time which caused her sorrow, unrelated to his birth.
Let us see his prayer in some other translations:
Jabez was honored more than his brothers; and his mother named him Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called on 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 hurt and harm!” And God granted what he asked. (NRSV)
Ya’betz was honored more than his brothers; his mother called him Ya’betz, she explained, “because I bore him in pain [Hebrew: ‘otzev].” Ya’betz called on the God of Isra’el: “Please bless me by enlarging my territory. May your hand be with me! Keep me from harm, so that it will not cause me pain [Hebrew: ‘atzbi].” God granted his request. (Complete Jewish Bible)
The prayer itself is notable. He did not specify personal gain with the exception of expansion of his territory. Most of it is similar to that which we pray each day to God. However, the asking within itself is not what caused God to grant his wishes, but rather lies in the fact that he was more honorable in the sight of God than those around him.