In Jewish culture, names are significant. Some names reflect the mother’s pregnancy or birthing experience. Others give praise to God. Names are also a way for parents to express their hopes and dreams for the child’s future. Jewish parents want the name to capture the child’s personality and set the path of their life.
The first nine chapters of I Chronicles contain lists of names. Starting with Adam, they record generations of names covering about 2900 years. Very little explanation about the lives of the people is given. We read about some — good and bad, choices and traits — in other parts of the Old Testament, but here the focus is on their place in the genealogy of God’s people.
But in the middle of these lists, two verses stand out:
Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; but his mother named him Jabez, saying, “Because I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would indeed bless me and enlarge my border [property], and that Your hand would be with me, and You would keep me from evil so that it does not hurt me!” And God granted his request. (I Chronicles 4:9-10, AMP)
God did not tell us what made Jabez more honorable, so we must not need to know. We can be assured that Jabez’s character and life were pleasing to God. It was so pleasing that his prayer is recorded among hundreds of names representing 2900 years’ worth of lives.
The name Jabez appears to be an unpleasant burden. Although God viewed Jabez as honorable, his mother associated him with pain. We are not told why she made this connection; the Hebrew word for pain (otseb) can also mean sorrowful, wicked, or even idol. Perhaps it was a difficult labor and delivery. Perhaps there were negative circumstances in her life that she blamed on him. Whatever the reason, his name served as a constant reminder of that pain.
At some point, honorable Jabez had enough. He called out to God from his distress and made some bold requests:
Oh that You would indeed bless me… Jabez’s prayer begins with an appeal. He is desperate for God’s blessing. He acknowledges God as his provider, protector, and authority. He looks to God alone for His needs and wants. He knows nothing is impossible for God. Jabez knows God can reach beyond his name and pain to bless him.
and enlarge my border (property)… We do not know how much land Jabez owned, but he asked God to give him more. As an honorable man, it seems safe to assume he was wanted more than personal riches. More land would also bring more influence, responsibility, and productivity. Jabez wanted to do more, to become more, for God. Jabez was born into the tribe of Judah, which had received the greatest blessing from the Israelite patriarch, Jacob. Jabez boldly asked for the opportunity to be entrusted with more of God’s treasure and blessing.
and that Your hand would be with me… God’s hand represents power, guidance, help, and direction (Psalm 18:35; Psalm 21:8; Psalm 119:173; Psalm 139:10; Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 4:35). Jabez asked for more than just material blessing. He wanted to be blessed with God’s approval and help as well. He wanted a closer connection to God and to witness God’s work in his life. He wanted to experience God in action.
and You would keep me from evil so it does not hurt me. Jabez also wanted to rise above his name and the expectations it carried. Rather than being known as a man of pain, Jabez wanted to be known as a man blessed by God. He wanted to be as far from evil — and as near to God — as possible. He trusted God to protect him rather than his own strength, wealth, wisdom, or tribe. He wanted his life to be characterized by righteousness rather than sin. He wanted to rejoice in God’s work rather than be overcome by pain.
This prayer indicates that Jabez wanted far more life. He asked for a deeper connection to God that would impact every aspect of his life. Jabez knew his request would glorify God. And God shows His agreement by granting the request. This implies that Jabez’s life became a picture of God’s goodness, grace, power, and provision. God’s invisible qualities became visible to others; I believe Jabez gave God all the credit. God Almighty blessed the man of pain. God generously expanded the man of pain’s territory. God’s hand helped and guided the man of pain. God’s righteous instruction and provision protected the man of pain from evil.
By answering the prayer of Jabez, God showed His compassion. Although his life was hidden in the midst of generations spanning 2900 years, God noticed Jabez. God heard. God responded. God blessed. And He notices each of us, too. Especially when we, like Jabez, are asking for far more life.
Far more life is a blessed life. Sometimes it is blessed by pleasant circumstances. But it is also blessed by a connection to God. Blessed with stewardship of the gifts He gives. Blessed under the protection and guidance of God’s hand. Blessed with righteousness. Blessed to see God at work. Blessed with joy.
“Oh that You would indeed bless me and enlarge my border [property], and that Your hand would be with me, and You would keep me from evil so that it does not hurt me!” (I Chronicles 4:10, AMP)
What does your name communicate about you?
What do you think it means for God to call someone honorable?
Have you asked God to bless you? Was your motive honorable? How did God respond?
Would you want God to enlarge your border?
How have you seen God’s hand with you?
Have you asked God to keep you from evil so it could not hurt you? What happened?
Follow the example of Jabez this week as you ask God to bless you with far more life!
Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso