Jabez, the Unknown Who Became Well Known(1 Chronicles 4:9 and selected Scriptures)

Jabez, The Unknown Who Became Well Known(1 Chronicles 4:9 and selected Scriptures)[1]Dream Big!

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, October 6, 2019

A number of years ago it was a beautiful summer evening and I took Mercedes and Abigail through an old graveyard. The sun was setting, and I wanted to point out the old tombstones. I wanted to show the dates on them, you know the tombstones that were well over 100 years old. You know, at one time each of those names were important to someone. At least I would hope so. Think about it, every time you see names in a phone book each name means something to someone, actually a group of people. We gloss over a list of names, but each name represents people. Each name represents important people. Each name represents people created in the image of God. Think about that whenever you see a name.

Today, we come to a name in 1 Chronicles. This passage is listed within the genealogies of 1 Chronicles. Many people may skip over these genealogies, but remember that these represent people. Sometimes as we read through the genealogies we see extra detail about people and that is the case with Jabez.

My theme:

Jabez, the Unknown Who Became Well Known


Seek the Lord and Dream Big.

Look with me at 1 Chronicles 4:9-10:

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother named him Jabez saying,

“Because I bore him with pain.” Now Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And God granted him what he requested.[1]

  1. Jabez was a man of honor.
    1. First, let’s think of where we are in the Bible.
    2. The ESV Study Bible helps us out: The genealogies of 1–9 are intended to show the Chronicler’s own generation, now existing as the small province of Yehud (Judah) in the Persian Empire, that they are still God’s people Israel and retain their central place in God’s purposes for humanity.The identity and legitimacy of this people are traced in a line beginning with Adam (1:1) and extending through the tribes of Israel (chs. 2–8) down to the community of Judean exiles restored from captivity in Babylon (9:2–34). This community is depicted not as the sum total of the people but as the representative nucleus or focus to which “all Israel” may join in God’s work of restoration.[2]
    3. This says that Jabez was “more” honorable than his brothers. We really do not know anything else about his brothers, but Jabez was more honorable.
    4. Looking at the names around Jabez it seems that he lived during the time of Joshua. This would be around 1300-1400 BC.
    5. Swindoll helps us out with that word, “honorable.” “The Hebrew word for honorable literally means “heavy.” We use that same concept in English when we say, “This is a weighty matter.” When used of a person, it conveys the idea that he or she is impressive or noteworthy.[3]
    6. Another source adds: The reputation of an individual is of central importance in these usages. Thus the person of high social position and accompanying wealth was automatically an honored, or weighty, person in the society (Num 22:15, etc.). Such a position, its riches, and long life were commonly assumed to be the just rewards of a righteous life (I Chr 29:28, etc.). While one would be honored automatically if one attained this stature, it is also clear that one was expected to merit the honor and the glory.[4]
    7. Do we seek to be honorable?
    8. Do we care?
    9. Do we care about our reputation?
    10. Next it says that his mother names him Jabez because she gave birth to him with pain.
    11. Once again Swindoll helps us with this: The English rendering is Jabez, but the Hebrew is pronounced yah-betz (the second syllable sounds like the word baits.) His mother had the Hebrew word ah-tzav in mind when she chose her son’s name. The term ah-tzav refers to anguish, intense sorrow, or pain. To arrive at his name from the Hebrew word, you transpose two letters. So it’s a pun based on sound play. This would be like someone who hates cottage cheese, which is made from milk curd, saying, “I don’t prefer milk crud, thanks.” Somehow, his birth was associated with intense pain, though we have no idea how or what that pain might have been.[5]
    12. Swindoll goes on to make the case that it could likely be that the family was going through financial distress.
    13. We all know how much stress a family can go through with a new baby.
    14. Actually, the prayer that is in verse 10 is not the prayer a rich person may pray.
    15. Further, we don’t see his father mentioned. Maybe his father died in one of the wars under Joshua.
    16. Imagine being a single mother during that day and age.
  2. Jabez prayed.
    1. Jabez called. But who did Jabez call? Jabez called on the God of Israel.
    2. In a polytheist day and age, a day and age when people worshipped many gods, Jabez called on the One Lord and God.
    3. Remember the Ghostbusters movies that came out some thirty years ago? Remember the song? They said, “who ya gonna call…” If there’s somethin’ strange in the neighborhood
      Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)
      There’s somethin’ weird and it don’t look good
      Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)
      I ain’t afraid a no ghost
      I ain’t afraid a no ghost

      Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)
      Who ya gonna call (ghostbusters)


    4. So, who do you call?
    5. Who do we go to when we need help?
    6. We have the awesome gift of prayer and most of us don’t care.
    7. Think about it, something is going on and we are unhappy about something, we don’t usually pray, we phone a friend. In calling a friend we often meditate on negative things and even gossip, but what we should do is pray.
    8. Do you know that you can gossip in your head. I think the problem with gossip is we are meditating on the negative rather than the positive. God calls us to think on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise…(Phil. 4:8). But we think on the bad and I dare say that is a sin of omission. I challenge you and I challenge myself to pray. Every time you are going to think on the bad, pray. Call on the Name of the Lord with your thought life. He is the only One who can help.
  • Jabez made 4 requests.
    • Jabez made 4 requests: Divine Ennoblement, Divine expansion, Divine Empowerment and Divine Enablement
    • He asked for blessing, what some call, Divine Ennoblement.
    • About Divine Ennoblement, Chuck Swindoll writes: First, he asked for God to bless him . . . but this was no cliché, no ordinary request. The Hebrew reveals the deep emotion of his prayer with what scholars call a particle of wishing. This very rare expression combined with the intense form of the verb reveals a man desperately wanting something. As a result, the request “bless me” is doubly intensified so that it becomes “bless me with overwhelming blessing.”
    • He asked for what we might call divine ennoblement. The Hebrew blessing is no insignificant matter, as it is very closely connected with God’s covenant with Israel, which will become clearer in the next section. All Hebrew people desired this covenant blessing, but the request by Jabez was different. In effect, he petitioned the Lord with, “Bless me with uncommon blessing. Lord, break through the cloud that has covered my life, from the sorrow that surrounded my birth to the limitations that I have endured all these years. Make my future a contrast to my past. Give me a giant stake in Your covenant with my people.[7]
    • Next, Jabez asked for Divine Expansion. He asked that the Lord would expand his borders. Remember he may very well come from a family of poverty and pain and this prayer may show that. Here he is praying that the Lord would bless him by expanding his borders and that was a typical Hebrew prayer. Expanding his borders is helping the Hebrew people. Swindoll shares: Make no mistake, though, enlarged borders in the ancient world meant greater wealth, higher standing in the community, more power, and increased responsibility to the Lord and the community. Land was wealth . . . and much more. Jabez called out to the God of Israel to make him rich and powerful. This was an over-the-top prayer by a man with a genuinely sanctified ambition and great hope.[8]
    • Third, he asks for Divine Empowerment. He asks that the Lord’s hand be with him. The Lord’s hand was a symbol of power, strength and control.
    • Jabez was asking for the Lord to be with Him.
    • Jabez lasts request is similar to the third. Jabez asks that the Lord keeps him from harm and not cause pain. Interestingly, Jabez prays that he does not have pain as his name implies. Remember, his name means “pain.”
    • God answered his prayer.
  • Let’s Apply:
  1. Jabez was honorable, are we pursuing being honorable?
  2. It is important that we call upon the Lord for help as well.
  3. Success only comes from the Lord, we must remember that.
  4. It is okay and quite good to be successful in what the Lord calls us to.
  5. We must, we actually should, ask the Lord that we would be successful.

Now, I want to share some applications that Chuck Swindoll makes:

“First, a small, struggling start doesn’t necessitate a limited life.”

“Second, no measure of success is safe without God’s presence and power.”

“Third, when God prospers and blesses a life, no place for guilt remains.”[9]

The Challenge: Dream God-Sized Dreams

Let me make all of this personal. Could it be that your current vision, your present paradigm has been shaped by the restrictive demands and limitations of your original setting? Could it be that the influences that give your life order and comfort are the very things that hold you hostage, bound to a certain way of life or a certain way of thinking? Could it be that you have not broken free simply because the thought of breaking free hasn’t occurred to you? Have you asked the Lord to give you a vision far beyond your current borders? Why not?[10]

In his book Beyond Jabez, Bruce Wilkinson shares the story of an old African woman who demonstrated faith in God’s power to provide. Although she lived in a tiny mud hut, she had taken on the responsibility of caring for 56 orphans.

A small group of Wilkinson’s “Dream for Africa” volunteers had arrived in this grandmother’s native Swaziland to plant gardens. On the final day of their visit, they came upon her tiny home, surrounded by the many children in her care. A number of little gardens had been dug up all around the hut, but oddly, no plants were growing in any of them.

The volunteers learned that, earlier on the same day, the woman had told the children to dig lots of gardens. When the children asked her why—since they had neither seeds nor money—she responded, “Last night I asked God to send someone to plant gardens for us. We must be ready for them when they come.” 

Wilkinson’s volunteers had come with hundreds of ready-to-plant seedlings. God sent them to the very place where one of his servants had begged for his intervening hand. The faithful grandmother and her children were ready when the answer came.[11]

Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.



[1]New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update(La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 1 Ch 4:9–10.


[3]Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/fascinating-stories-of-forgotten-lives/id614832271

[4]John N. Oswalt, “943 כָבֵד,”ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament(Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 426–427.

[5]Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/fascinating-stories-of-forgotten-lives/id614832271

[6]source: https://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/ghostbusterslyrics.html

[7]Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/fascinating-stories-of-forgotten-lives/id614832271

[8]Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/fascinating-stories-of-forgotten-lives/id614832271

[9]Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/fascinating-stories-of-forgotten-lives/id614832271


Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/fascinating-stories-of-forgotten-lives/id614832271


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