9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. 1 Chronicles 4.9–10
God shares His glory with no one else. He is in the business of carrying out His desires and making complete successes of His own plans. The book of Chronicles is a book of success, God’s success. To illustrate God’s successes, the writer identified the people of God (hence all the names), the kind of relationship God had with His people, and what God did for them. It was God’s kingdom, God’s people, and God’s plan, after all, and therefore its eventual success was a foregone conclusion.
The book of 1 Chronicles shows the successful results of the covenant God had made with David. God gave David the following promises and successfully fulfilled them:
“Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock, to be ruler over my people Israel. 8 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 9 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 10 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also subdue all your enemies. (1Ch 17.7–10)
In the middle of the genealogy, the chronicler includes the prayer of Jabez. Why does he include this prayer in the middle of a genealogy with little comment? It seems that the writer is highlighting one of God’s successes:
The prayer of Jabez highlights God’s success in providing for His people.
God is successful in overcoming the evil effects on His people
Jabez was surrounded by and suffered sin’s evil effects
The writer uses a play-on-words with Jabez’s name. He was named “Jabez” because he was born in pain. The writer continues to say that the circumstances surrounding Jabez were painful.
We have no commentary on what is causing his pain. The Hebrew word for “harm” may be translated “harm” meaning that Jabez wanted protection from physical harm. Also, the Hebrew word for “harm” may be translated “evil” suggesting that Jabez wanted protection from some sinful effects.
Whether Jabez wanted protection from physical harm or sinful effects, the point is the same. Sin brought harm into Jabez’s world and he trusted God to overcome sin’s evil effects.
Jabez, though surrounded by sin’s evil effects, remained honorable
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.
When we approach passages like this one, we are quickly intrigued by questions like: “What did Jabez suffer?” “What ‘harm’ was he facing?” The writer of 1 Chronicles does not pacify our curiosity. Instead, he focuses on the character of Jabez.
Jabez was “more honorable.” When a person was considered “honorable” in the ot sense, he was honorable in the religious sense. Our nt way of saying the same thing is “Jabez was more ‘godly’ than his brothers.”
Our western eyes quickly skip over this accolade. The culture of which we are a part would possibly commemorate a man for academic, political, sporting or media achievement, hardly for being honorable. In Semitic cultures, however, honor is carefully celebrated.
No matter what life brings our way, we can make this our pursuit. God is knowable and able to be imitated (even in the smallest degree). Therefore, we ought to make godliness our pursuit.
God is successful in answering the prayers of His people
10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.
The key to understanding this small prayer comes from the greater context. The writer of 1 Chronicles is paving the way for people to glorify God because of His successes. God made a covenant with David and the people of Israel that they would have a place of their own:
9 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 10 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. (1Ch 17.9–10)
Jabez simply wanted God to have success in His plan. It was God’s plan that the Israelites have land. The “territory” that Jabez sought for was land that God set aside for the tribes of Israel. The land belonged to God. He had the right to divide it and rule. Therefore, Jabez’s request was not self-serving, but was in agreement with God’s plan for Israelites like himself.
When you pray to God, do so with His purposes ultimately in view.
14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him. (1Jn 5.14–15)
Unlike Jabez, we do not have Israel’s promises. God promised Israel success in their campaigns, land ownership, and material wealth (among other things). This passage does not apply to us in the same manner. However, it does apply in at least the following ways:
- God expects us to pray in accordance with His desires: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1Jn 5.14)
- When we pray in accordance with His desires, our desires will also be met. 15 And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him. (1Jn 5.15)
- The bulk of our blessings are reserved for eternity: And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2.6–7)
 Eugene Merrill, “A Theology of Chronicles,” in Biblical Theology of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody, 1991) 158.
 Ibid, 185.
World Evangelical Fellowship. Theological Commission, vol. 20, Evangelical Review of Theology : Volume 20, “A Digest of Articles and Book Reviews Selected from Publications Worldwide for an International Readership, Interpreting the Christian Faith for Contemporary Living.”, electronic ed., Logos Library System;Evangelical Review of Theology (Carlisle, Cumbria, UK: Paternoster Periodicals, 2000, 1996).