Jabez’s Genealogy — What’s in a Name?

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Image with the words "Sticks and stones..."

Today’s Bible reading* includes a lot of names. The names flow as one long genealogy. For those who aim to read through the Bible, this is a common book to get bogged down and drop out. What’s with all of these names? Who are these people?

We tend to gloss over the names, thinking that there’s not much to them. But in their culture, names meant a lot. Oftentimes, giving a child a name marked them for life. A child’s name could be a great encouragement … or a great discouragement.

Take Jabez for instance. We’re told that his mother gave him that name after experiencing (unusual?) pain giving birth to him. (1 Chronicles 4:9) Jabez’s name means “sorrow” or “pain”.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Let me tell you plain and simple: That saying is a lie! Words can wound as badly as sticks and stones. And the pain can last a lifetime, especially when the words are repeated and replayed in our minds.

How would you like to go through life with the name, “Sorrow”? How about “Pain”? That in itself would cause someone a lot of pain! I think naming your kid, “Pain” would be worse than Johnny Cash’s story about a boy named, “Sue“!

But to counter this negative name, Jabez used his name to appeal to God to not let his name dictate his destiny. He prayed, “If only you would bless me, extend my border, let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm, so that I will not experience pain.” (1 Chronicles 4:10)

Instead of accepting his negative name, Jabez asked God to bless him so that he would not have to experience the burden of his name. But Jabez didn’t stop there. He also asked God to expand his territory. He asked God to bless him with more property. He asked God for “stuff”. And God granted his request.


Regardless of how you may have been treated by your parents, other family members, teachers, church leaders, and the words they may have used (or not used), just remember that they don’t control your destiny. God does. If you are a Believer, you are one of God’s children by adoption into His covenant relationship, Your Father alone determines your destiny!

Don’t listen to the voices you may have heard (both externally and internally) throughout your life. Listen to the Voice of Truth.

If you have been shackled with the burden of negative voices, take a few minutes to let the words of this song wash over you.

* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
1 Chronicles 3
1 Chronicles 4
1 Chronicles 5

This devotional was originally published on April 20, 2021.

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