Little is known about Jabez. Aside from being a descendant of Judah, it is said that he was given birth in pain – a possible reference to Genesis 3:16 when the LORD God declared His righteous judgment on Eve (and by extension, all child-bearing women) “To the woman He said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (NIV). From a scientific perspective, this is the first recorded case of genetic re-setting, when God partly altered or modified a woman’s default physiological setting to increase pain in childbirth. It’s like a woman’s pain receptors that have been dormant were suddenly turned on at the exact time of child delivery.
Jabez means affliction http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/jabez/ . It could be translated as illness, suffering, sorrow, pain, or misery.
In 1Chron. 4:9-10, we read: “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.“ (NIV) And God granted his request.
The prayer is composed of four parts. First, Jabez asks God to bless him. This is a common or a general petition for blessings in the Old Testament and even in the modern times when one wishes to receive a generic or undefined blessings from God.
Second, he asks God to enlarge his territory. The plea is starting to take form and a more specific petition is shaping up in claiming what rightfully belongs to him: to take the territory that has been allotted to him and his family (as per Joshua chapter 13 to chapter 20). It could also mean to increase his responsibility (vertically – a promotion to leadership position, and horizontally – authority over more people).
This blessing is also possible for modern-day believers in Christ owing to the Abrahamic blessing found in the second part of Genesis 12:3 that says: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3, NIV)
The New Testament confirms this in the form of the heavenly or spiritual blessings we received in Christ, when the Apostle Paul said:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3, NIV)
“He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Galatians 3:14, NIV)
Third, Jabez prays that God’s hand be with him and near him. Essentially, Jabez is requesting assistance from God in the formidable task of taking territories that belonged to him or his family. The same thing can be said of modern-day believers: day by day we are faced with insurmountable odds as we live our purpose, fulfil our mission, and obey our calling to the service of the Lord. God’s hand symbolizes strength, stability, protection, and help, in times of trouble.
Lastly, Jabez asks God to keep him from harm so that he will be free from pain. Jabez understands that when he was born he caused pain to his mother prompting her to name him as such, and therefore he wishes earnestly to God that causing pain or harm to others shall not be the defining characteristics of his life.
Today, we can ask the Lord the same thing. We can be better than our parents. We can always be better than who we were yesterday or the day before. We can always improve and become the best versions of ourselves. But we must first make the choice to invite God into our life. Jabez wants to succeed and increase his sphere of influence for God. When we want to reach our goals or succeed in life, it is essential that God is on our side.
At the end of the verse, it is clear that his devout prayer for blessing was answered. And no doubt, the Lord can do the same for each one of us.
Pain and doubt can create mountains of affliction; but faith can move and remove them.
“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy”. Psalms 126:5 (NIV)