Jabez was never cursed. Who told you he was?

…and he was not broke either.

I attended church service last Wednesday and I heard the pastor use Jabez as an illustration; he was talking about curses and infirmities. And something didn’t feel right.

For a long time, I have heard many Christians use Jabez as a prayer point for pain, affliction and general bad news. And each time, I had difficulty saying that prayer. The reason was simple, I didn’t understand it.

I understand Adam was cursed, but why was Jabez cursed? Because he was born in pain? Who isn’t?

So I decided to do some digging. Well as it turns out, this might be a classic case of the one-eyed man leading the blind. Because the first sentence in the story of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9) says.

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.

I am no English scholar, but I’m pretty sure “honorable” is a good thing. It evokes thought of respect, prestige, fame, nobility. Basically, the first part of the story says Jabez was more respected than his brothers. More famous; more noble; more accomplished etc

To be honest, Jabez was doing a lot better than most of us, especially when you consider “his brothers” were his peers from the tribe of Judah; the supposed chosen tribe of Israel — where all the Kings come.

Okay, so let’s go to the second sentence.

His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.”

There we go… this guy was definitely cursed.

But wait.

His mother actually didn’t curse him; she simply acknowledged the curse that was placed upon all women (remember Eve)? All women bore their children in pain. She simply chose to acknowledge it.

And guess what, Jabez does not exactly mean pain.

Jabez does not mean anything actually. The name is a play on words, a pun, on the Hebrew word “atsab”, (which you may pronounce azeb) which means pain.

The play on the word “atsab” is actually the mother’s expression of hope, that one day, the curse will be reversed/removed.

Meanwhile, that curse has been removed, but most people don’t know about it. Anyways, that’s another story for another day.

So, we have established that Jabez’s mother did not curse him; and secondly, the name is actually an acknowledgement of the pre-existing curse and an expression of hope.

Next sentence.

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.

Someone say “and Jabez CRIED OUT!”

Fortunately other translations simply say “Jabez called on the God of Israel”. The expression “cried out” is in reference to the perception of God at the time. God was seen as all powerful and distant, far above in the heavens. A conversation with him will have to involve a lot screaming and bowing.

Thankfully, we now have Jesus and the Holy Spirit; God is now personal.

So Jabez prayed to God saying “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory…”. Which some Christians infer to mean his territory was previously small, which then infers he was broke. That’s lazy deduction.

You see, God promised Israel a particular land/territory. And Joshua was actually given clear instructions on how to divide this land amongst the tribe of Israel. Very detailed instructions I might add, because it takes all 7 Chapters in the book of Joshua (Joshua 13–20).

But there was one minor problem; Those lands were already inhabited, so the men of Israel will need to drive them out. How typical.

To be fair, it was a very big problem, since the inhabitants were actually bigger and stronger. But from God’s perspective, it was no problem at all. “You only need to drive them out.”, I can imagine Him saying.

So the land was divided amongst each tribe, and each tribe was supposed to spilt the land amongst families. And these families were supposed to coordinate attacks to take over their territories.

So Jabez’s prayer makes more sense now. He was asking for God’s help in taking over his territory.

It is important to point out that one of the most grievous sins the people of Israel committed is their refusal (or fear) to take over ALL the land God promised them. Consequences of which they still suffer to this day.

I think Jabez understood his purpose, and his position. As a well respected person and a leader, his prayer when paraphrased is instructive.

God, help me to do that which you have asked of me. And protect me from evil actions, so it does not bring harm to me.

I believe the story of Jabez isn’t one on reversal of curses (that’s Jesus); his story is one on how to pray, and depend on God for leadership.

Which is why I believe the story of Jabez was quickly included in the midst of some family tree chronicle. You will notice the chapter mostly talks about this was the son of that, and this had so so brothers.

The people of Israel aren’t the only ones God made a promise over and gave an inheritance. And they certainly aren’t the only ones who were too afraid (or ignorant) to take over this inheritance — grab the promise.

How many of us know what God has promised us, what he has asked of us; what he has blessed us to do; or why he has put us in certain positions.

God has made certain promises to every one of us. He has given us certain territories to conquer. But do we trust God enough to totally depend on Him, because He actually only needs us to trust him and do as he says, He has done the hard part already.

Let’s stop focusing on the seemingly difficult task or situation, and focus on His power instead.

As believers, we should take great joy in the fact that when we ask God for something that is in line with His promise and purpose, then there is only one possible outcome.

And God granted his request.