The Prayer of Jabez

1Chr 4:9,10
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, "I gave birth to him in pain." 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.


It is important to note that this verse stands within a genealogy starting in chapter 1 encompassing hundreds of names. Seldom within the genealogy is pause given to consider individuals. I could imagine God wading through the list of the hundreds of people, but then when he comes to Jabez he stops and gives him special consideration. We read the Jabez was reckoned more honorable than his brothers. Might this mean that he was more honorable than the others in the genealogy list? For it is possible for "brother" to mean not simply a male sibling, but rather it could mean a brother Israelite. But even if that were the case does it mean he was more honorable than all Israelites throughout history seeing as this proposition is found in a genealogy list, or simply more honorable than all Israelites at the particular time he made the request? That's an open question, but I would guess what is probably meant is that he was more honorable than the other Israelites at the time.

But what esteemed him in the eyes of God? To his mother he simply seems to have been a pain. If parents give names to their children as characterizations in some way, it is interesting that she chose to give him a name that sounds like "pain" in Hebrew. I would imagine the name itself became a pain as he could be ridiculed by others who would call him a "pain". Imagine, for example, if you called your son "pain in the neck", and then yelling out the door to call him to dinner, "Hey, pain in the neck, it's time to eat!". Perhaps also the society would have treated him as if his life would prophetically be a painful, miserable one. Interesting to note also that "Jabez" was also the name of a town in Judah apparently near Bethlehem, where the Savior was later born, of whom it was said, "He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, like one from whom men hide their face."

It appears from his prayer that Jabez was indeed concerned of the prophetic implications of his name as he prayed, "keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain." He was afraid of being harmed and he was afraid of pain and suffering. But what we might realize now is that the prophetic implication of his name was not fulfilled in him suffering pain, but rather in him being delivered from pain and suffering by the hand of God at his request as it is written in the Psalms, "call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me." Psalms 50:15 And God was indeed honored as he answered his prayer. God showed himself merciful to the afflicted.

In addition to being being kept free from pain Jabez also requested,"Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me" Sounds a bit greedy compared to Agur son of Jakeh of Proverbs 30 who made the following request:

"Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." Prov 30:7-9
I bring this up because there are alot of greedy selfish Christians today caught up in a health and wealth type of gospel of whom Paul says, "think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1Timothy 6:6-10   And so also the exhortation in Hebrews 13:5 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

It is not suprising today that the Jabez prayer has become extremely popular given the degree of greediness and discontentment of even rich American Christians. But given the rest of scripture, is it really that aspect of his prayer that made him esteemed in the eyes of God? Perhaps it tells us more of the society of the time in which the Israelites were so disconnected from God that the best God could expect was someone like Jabez praying a relatively selfish, but humble prayer. At least he prayed. It doesn't say that he was honorable in an absolute sense, but rather that he was more honorable relative to his brothers. But at the time if the rest weren't particularly honorable to begin with, then he was perhaps only a little bit more honorable than they. It would have been even more honorable if he prayed more selflessly, but at least he was more honorable than his brothers in praying at all. And that took a degree of humility which of itself is honorable in the sight of God.

Thus we should be careful when taking his request as a model for prayer. Better to use the Lord's payer of Matthew 6 as a model, or the Apostles prayers we find in the letters. Such are more in accordance with God's ideal compared to this prayer of Jabez. But if people aren't praying at all, and they're simply too greedy and selfish to be motivated to prayer in accordance with the New Testament models, then at least pray with humility in accordance with Jabez. And make sure to acknowledge God's answers to prayers. For in that way He is glorified among men.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources