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1 Chr 4:9-10 Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.

Jabez is mentioned nowhere else. Neither do we find any similar stories anywhere. Nor do we know anything at all other about Jabez' circumstances other than what is in these two verses. What is the purpose of these verses: why are they in the Bible, and how should we interpret them?

Note: this is not a question about the hype around the "prayer of Jabez" a few years back.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

That's an interesting question. Jabez isn't mentioned anywhere else, he just appears, prays, and disappears again. I think that given the tone of this interjection, the chronicler's point was theological in nature. This fits with the overall theme of 1-2 Chronicles, which was written after the Jew's return from exile to remind them of God's covenant faithfulness in the past and their place as God's people in the present. This is why it is generally more positive than 1-2 Kings. It's possible that the community for whom 1-2 Chronicles was originally written knew the context surrounding this prayer; who Jabez was, how he fit into the genealogy.

Even without knowing the context, the rhetorical force of this prayer is to say that God answers those who pray to him in faith. He will take a name given as a curse and turn it into a blessing. I think, though there is no strong linguistic evidence in the text itself, it's possible that Jews who read this may have remembered Hosea and been encouraged that the God who changed Jabez's name from 'pain' to 'no pain' would change their name from 'no mercy' to 'mercy.' It's a two-verse word of encouragement from the chronicler.

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