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Verses 1-43

Some Familiar Names Jabez Caleb

1 Chronicles 4:0

In this chapter we find a compilation of scattered and broken notices, relating to the families or clans of Judah, with references to their settlements and increase at a time which is not specifically determined; this section is first of all a supplement to the account of Judah already given in the first, second, and third chapters, and is also an instalment of the similar survey of the other tribes, which is given in the fourth chapter, from the twenty-fourth to the twenty-seventh verses. The remainder of the chapter is occupied with similar notices relating to the tribe of Simeon.

The ninth verse contains a reference to Jabez; the whole history is brief:

"And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested." ( 1Ch 4:9-10 ).

Nothing more is known of this Jabez or of his brethren. The Speaker's Commentary regards it as remarkable that Jabez should be introduced without description or patronymic, as if a well-known personage, and supposes that he was known to those for whom the Book of Chronicles was written, either by tradition, or by writings which have perished. The word Jabez signifies sorrowful. Jabez was distinguished in some way above his brethren. By this distinction we are not to infer the exercise of an undue partiality in the spirit of his parents. Account for it as we may, some men appear to be born with what may be called a larger religiousness of nature than other men; it is easy for them to pray; it is a delight to them to peruse all sacred writings; it is a positive pain to them to be deprived of religious privileges. We must leave this mystery as insoluble. It is a very pleasant mystery to those who are gifted with religious intuition, but a most appalling mystery, on the other hand, to those who seem to be what we cannot better describe than by calling them natural atheists. The name which Jabez bore, was a memorial of his mother's sorrow, not a prophecy of his own. Yet Jabez was animated by that inexplicable superstition which discovers in names and circumstances omens and predictions, which the imagination can never treat with disregard. Jabez might intellectually know that his name did but represent what his mother had endured, yet a subtle feeling took possession of him, as if he himself would in some way be involved in the same sorrow Nor was this an irrational conclusion. As a matter of fact some men are born to more sorrow than others, as certainly as by constitution some men are more religious than others. Here again is a dark and painful mystery. We see the operation of this mystery even in the same family, where one of the children may be full of sunlight, and hope, and music, and another may be doomed to walk in darkness throughout a lifetime, unable to discern between summer and winter, loaded with trouble and oppressed with undefinable apprehensions.

Jabez is known to history, as pre-eminently a man of prayer. Although it has been considered that the prayer of Jabez was uttered in view of some imminent battle, or other dreaded experience, yet by common consent Jabez has been regarded by Christian students as a typical man of prayer. Judging the case within the narrow limits of the history given in verses nine and ten, it would seem as if Jabez started life in an act of prayer. The image is at once graphic and beautiful; think of a young man standing at the door of his house, looking abroad at the unknown and unmeasured world, listening to the conflicting voices which troubled his native air, and then turning his eyes to heaven and asking divine direction, before he would take a single step from the threshold of his home. Nothing of the nature of mere romance attaches itself to this picture. This indeed is what every young man ought to do, before going out to battle or labour. My son, in all thy ways acknowledge God, and he shall direct thy paths. It would appear from instances which have come under our view, that God condescends to receive from men promises of religious life on certain providential conditions. We cannot understand this now, but it is perfectly clear from such instances as Jacob and Jabez, that God was willing to respond to propositions of obedience founded upon the realisation of specified blessings. The prayer of Jabez must be judged to be good, for the sufficient reason that it was answered; "and God granted him that which he requested." Is the conduct of life then open to regulation upon such high and sacred lines? May a young man come before the Almighty, and speak out all his heart, and receive promises of continual guidance and defence from the Living One? If we could realise the certainty of this holy commerce as between earth and heaven, our whole life would be lifted to a noble level, our spirit would be released from the dominion of fear, and instead of labouring in toilsome prayer, we should be filled with the spirit of triumphant thankfulness and praise. What privileges are open to the young! It lies within their power to give a whole lifetime to God. Those who have advanced considerably in life, can now but give a fraction of their days, but the young soul can give God the brightness of the morning, the glory of noonday, and the tranquillity of evening. Let the young think of this, and give themselves diligently to the study of such instances as that of Jabez, knowing that if they remember their Creator in the days of their youth, increasing age will only mean increasing joy.

In the fifteenth verse we come upon the familiar name of Caleb. We have seen that Caleb obtained a part among the children of Judah, because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel ( Jos 14:9 ). The memory of the righteous is blessed. Come upon their honoured names where and how we may, there can be no mistake as to the reality of the blessing which testifies their divine acceptance. Are there not some faces which we are always glad to recognise in preference to all others? When we see them in the distance we take heart again, because we are sure of the hand of friendship, the smile of love, and the word of encouragement. Blessed, surely, are they, who enjoy this reputation in the hearts of their friends! Some persons we admire, some we fear, some we approach only on great occasions; but others we would have always with us, because of the tenderness of their hearts. Caleb was one of those sweet yet heroic natures that bless the world. We feel that whilst such men are in it, the world is not left without promise of restoration, and that every good cause has a friend in every Caleb. There was nothing boisterous in the courage of this son of Jephunneh. He spoke with the dignity of strength, with the ease of conscious power. Within his soft hand there lay a sinew of iron. Had he been violent, we should have trusted him less; being gentle we had no doubt of his ability. As in every other truly great man there was in Caleb a distinct vein of womanliness. Never can he be called effeminate; but never can it be denied that his great courage had about it the bloom which distinguishes motherly love from all other affection. In verse twenty-two we come upon the expression, "And these are ancient things"; and verse twenty-three reads "These were the potters, and those that dwelt among plants and hedges: there they dwelt with the king for his work." By ancient things understand things old and obsolete. We must not think of the antiquity, dating from our own times; it was Ezra who wrote this, and he lived before Socrates taught in Athens, and before any Chronicles now extant Think then of the great antiquity of Holy Scripture. Verse twenty-three has been regarded as showing the humiliating aspect of human nature. An ancient writer has called those that dwelt among plants and hedges hedge-rogues; the base brood of their forefathers, poor-spirited, mean wretches, who chose rather to abide under the hedges of Babylon, to plant gardens, make fences and flower-pots for the king than return to their own country, though liberty for them so to do had been proclaimed by Cyrus. Is it not so under Gospel proclamations? Has not Christ proclaimed a year of Jubilee, and offered freedom to all men, yet are there not some who are so accustomed to the yoke of sin as to choose it, rather than accept the glorious liberty of Christ? Let every man answer on his own account.

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