- In this chapter we have a further account of Judah, the most numerous and most famous of all the tribes; also an account of Simeon. The most remarkable person in this chapter is Jabez. We are not told upon what account Jabez was more honourable than his brethren; but we find that he was a praying man. The way to be truly great, is to seek to do God's will, and to pray earnestly. Here is the prayer he made. Jabez prayed to the living and true God, who alone can hear and answer prayer; and, in prayer he regarded him as a God in covenant with his people. He does not express his promise, but leaves it to be understood; he was afraid to promise in his own strength, and resolved to devote himself entirely to God. Lord, if thou wilt bless me and keep me, do what thou wilt with me; I will be at thy command and disposal for ever. As the text reads it, this was the language of a most ardent and affectionate desire, Oh that thou wouldest bless me! Four things Jabez prayed for. 1. That God would bless him indeed. Spiritual blessings are the best blessings: God's blessings are real things, and produce real effects. 2. That He would enlarge his coast. That God would enlarge our hearts, and so enlarge our portion in himself, and in the heavenly Canaan, ought to be our desire and prayer. 3. That God's hand might be with him. God's hand with us, to lead us, protect us, strengthen us, and to work all our works in us and for us, is a hand all-sufficient for us. 4. That he would keep him from evil, the evil of sin, the evil of trouble, all the evil designs of his enemies, that they might not hurt, nor make him a Jabez indeed, a man of sorrow. God granted that which he requested. God is ever ready to hear prayer: his ear is not now heavy.
1 Chronicles 4:1-8 . POSTERITY OF JUDAH BY CALEB THE SON OF HUR.
1. the sons of Judah--that is, "the descendants," for with the exception of Pharez, none of those here mentioned were his immediate sons. Indeed, the others are mentioned solely to introduce the name of Shobal, whose genealogy the historian intended to trace ( 1 Chronicles 2:52 ).
1 Chronicles 4:9-20 . OF JABEZ, AND HIS PRAYER.
9, 10. Jabez--was, as many think, the son of Coz, or Kenaz, and is here eulogized for his sincere and fervent piety, as well, perhaps, as for some public and patriotic works which he performed. The Jewish writers affirm that he was an eminent doctor in the law, whose reputation drew so many scribes around him that a town was called by his name ( 1 Chronicles 2:55 ); and to the piety of his character this passage bears ample testimony. The memory of the critical circumstances which marked his birth was perpetuated in his name (compare Genesis 35:15 ); and yet, in the development of his high talents or distinguished worth in later life, his mother must have found a satisfaction and delight that amply compensated for all her early trials. His prayer which is here recorded, and which, like Jacob's, is in the form of a vow ( Genesis 28:20 ), seems to have been uttered when he was entering on an important or critical service, for the successful execution of which he placed confidence neither on his own nor his people's prowess, but looked anxiously for the aid and blessing of God. The enterprise was in all probability the expulsion of the Canaanites from the territory he occupied; and as this was a war of extermination, which God Himself had commanded, His blessing could be the more reasonably asked and expected in preserving them from all the evils to which the undertaking might expose him. In these words, "that it may not grieve me," and which might be more literally rendered, "that I may have no more sorrow," there is an allusion to the meaning of his name, Jabez, signifying "grief"; and the import of this petition is, Let me not experience the grief which my name implies, and which my sins may well produce.
10. God granted him that which he requested--Whatever was the kind of undertaking which roused his anxieties, Jabez enjoyed a remarkable degree of prosperity, and God, in this instance, proved that He was not only the hearer, but the answerer of prayer.
13. the sons of Kenaz--the grandfather of Caleb, who from that relationship is called a Kenezite ( Numbers 32:12 ).
14. Joab, the father of the valley--literally, "the father of the inhabitants of the valley"--"the valley of craftsmen," as the word denotes. They dwelt together, according to a custom which, independently of any law, extensively prevails in Eastern countries for persons of the same trade to inhabit the same street or the same quarter, and to follow the same occupation from father to son, through many generations. Their occupation was probably that of carpenters, and the valley where they lived seems to have been in the neighborhood of Jerusalem ( Nehemiah 11:35 ).
17, 18. she bare Miriam--It is difficult, as the verses stand at present, to see who is meant. The following readjustment of the text clears away the obscurity: "These are the sons of Bithiah the daughter of Pharaoh, which Mered took, and she bare Miriam, and his wife Jehudijah bare Jezreel," &c.
18. Jehudijah--"the Jewess," to distinguish her from his other wife, who was an Egyptian. This passage records a very interesting fact--the marriage of an Egyptian princess to a descendant of Caleb. The marriage must have taken place in the wilderness. The barriers of a different national language and national religion kept the Hebrews separate from the Egyptians; but they did not wholly prevent intimacies, and even occasional intermarriages between private individuals of the two nations. Before such unions, however, could be sanctioned, the Egyptian party must have renounced idolatry, and this daughter of Pharaoh, as appears from her name, had become a convert to the worship of the God of Israel.
1 Chronicles 4:21-23 . POSTERITY OF SHELAH.
21. Laadah . . . the father . . . of the house of them that wrought fine linen--Here, again, is another incidental evidence that in very early times certain trades were followed by particular families among the Hebrews, apparently in hereditary succession. Their knowledge of the art of linen manufacture had been, most probably, acquired in Egypt, where the duty of bringing up families to the occupations of their forefathers was a compulsory obligation, whereas in Israel, as in many parts of Asia to this day, it was optional, though common.
22, 23. had the dominion in Moab, and Jashubi-lehem--"And these are ancient things" seems a strange rendering of a proper name; and, besides, it conveys a meaning that has no bearing on the record. The following improved translation has been suggested: "Sojourned in Moab, but returned to Beth-lehem and Adaberim-athekim. These and the inhabitants of Netaim and Gedera were potters employed by the king in his own work." Gedera or Gederoth, and Netaim, belonged to the tribe of Judah, and lay on the southeast border of the Philistines' territory ( Joshua 15:36 , 2 Chronicles 28:18 ).
1 Chronicles 4:24-43 . OF SIMEON.
24. The sons of Simeon--They are classed along with those of Judah, as their possession was partly taken out of the extensive territory of the latter ( Joshua 19:1 ). The difference in several particulars of the genealogy given here from that given in other passages is occasioned by some of the persons mentioned having more than one name [compare Genesis 46:10 , Exodus 6:15 , Numbers 26:12 ].
27. his brethren had not many children--(see Numbers 1:22 , 26:14 ).
31-43. These were their cities unto the reign of David--In consequence of the sloth or cowardice of the Simeonites, some of the cities within their allotted territory were only nominally theirs. They were never taken from the Philistines until David's time, when, the Simeonites having forfeited all claim to them, he assigned them to his own tribe of Judah ( 1 Samuel 27:6 ).
38, 39. increased greatly, and they went to the entrance of Gedor--Simeon having only a part of the land of Judah, they were forced to seek accommodation elsewhere; but their establishment in the new and fertile pastures of Gederah was soon broken up; for, being attacked by a band of nomad plunderers, they were driven from place to place till some of them effected by force a settlement on Mount Seir.