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1 Chronicles 4:1-23
After the large space given to the "sons of David," of the tribe of Judah, in the previous chapter, this chapter returns for twenty-three verses to group together a few additional ramifications of the same tribe, whose registers were for some reasons, perhaps not very evident, preserved and known. The first verses follow in the direction already indicated in 1 Chronicles 2:1-55; near the end of which we were left with Shobal and Haroeh, probably the same with Reaiah (the same name as Reaia, 1 Chronicles 5:5, though not the same person).
1 Chronicles 4:1, 1 Chronicles 4:2
The Carrot of 1 Chronicles 4:1 is considered to lie doubtful between the Carmi of 1 Chronicles 2:7 or the Chelubai of 1 Chronicles 2:9, in which last alternation the five names of this verse would repeat the line of descent with which chrii, had made us familiar. Even then the object or advantage of repeating the first four of these, so far as what follows is concerned, is not evident. We keep near the close of 1 Chronicles 2:1-55. also in respect of another allusion to the Zorathites (1 Chronicles 2:53), whose families were replenished by the two sons of Jahath, Ahumai and Lahad, of all of whom this is all we know.
1 Chronicles 4:3, 1 Chronicles 4:4
Etam is, with little doubt, the name of a place (2 Chronicles 11:6) in Judah, south of Jerusalem. It was near Tekoah (1 Chronicles 4:5, and 1 Chronicles 2:24) and Bethlehem (next verse). The hiatus in the first clause may possibly be supplied by "the families of" from the last verse, or, more fitly, by "the sons of," inasmuch as some manuscripts have it so. The Septuagint, however, and Vulgate displace "the father of" (i.e. chief of), replacing it by "the sons of." The Syriac Version leaves out any notice of the sister, Hazelelponi, and gives the former part of the verse thus: "These are Amina-dab's sons, Ahizareel, Nesma, and Dibas, Pheguel and Husia; These are the sons of Hur, the firstborn of Ephratha, who was the father," etc. With this the Arabic Version is partly in agreement, but closes the verse with the words, "These are the sons of Hur, son of Ephratha, the father of whom [plural] was of Bethlehem." The Chronicle Targum translates, "the rabbis dwelling at Etam." This variety indicates the difficulty felt by each in turn. The verse, however, purports to give the names of three brothers and one sister (Hazelel-poni, i.e. the shadow looking at me, Gesenius) connected with Etam, as in the following verse Penuel with Gedor (1 Chronicles 2:51) and Ezer with Hushah (1 Chronicles 11:29; 2 Samuel 23:27). Of no one of these, in all six other descendants of Hur, additional to those found at the close of 1 Chronicles 2:1-55; is anything distinct known. It is to be noted that Hut himself is here called father of Bethlehem, while (1 Chronicles 2:51) his son Salma is so called.
1 Chronicles 4:5-7
Another before-mentioned person (1 Chronicles 2:24) is brought forward, viz. Ashur, the posthumous son of Hezron by Abia, now again, as there, styled father, or chief, of Tekoa, a town, as above, near Etam, Bethlehem, etc. He is brought forward that the names of his two wives, with four children to the latter of them and three to the former, may be given. The Roman Septuagint unaccountably gives different names to the mothers, and reverses the groups of the four and three children. Nothing else is known of these nine persons. The last two names of the group of four more resemble in form the name of the head of a family than an individual name; and for Jezoar, the middle name of the group of three, the easy Keri of "and Zohar" is followed by the Septuagint, and was followed by our 1611 Authorized Version.
1 Chronicles 4:8
The link of connection between the persons named in this verse and the tribe of Judah is utterly unknown. The introduction of them, abrupt as it is, is, however, paralleled by many others ira-mediately following in this chapter, as well as elsewhere. Nothing has yet been produced in elucidation of any one of the persons designated by these names, or of their relation to the context.
1 Chronicles 4:9
This is not less true of the name of verses. 9, 10, which, however, has made its own mark amid the whole scene. The episode of these two verses, offering itself amid what should seem, superficially, a dry mass of dead names, is welcome and grateful as the oasis of the desert, and it warns us that life lies hidden at our every footfall on this ground, spread over though it is with monument and inscription, and hollow, as we thought, with the deadest of the dead. But the glimpse of old real life given us in this brief fragment of a biography is refreshing and is very suggestive. It seems an insufficient and unnatural method of accounting for the suddenness of the appearance of this episode to suppose ('Speaker's Commentary,' in loc.) that the name of Jahez was well known, from any cause, to those for whom Chronicles may be supposed to have been primarily intended. We prefer by far one account of it, viz. that the work in our hands is not in its original complete state; or, variously put, that it is in its uncompleted original state. No root corresponding to the characters of this name in present order is known; it is possible that some euphonic reason makes the name יַעְבּץ out of the real word (future Kal) יַעִצֵב, i.e. he causes pains. We cannot suppose there would be any "play" appreciable on a transposition of alphabetical characters for mere play's sake. The resemblance that almost each part of this brief and abruptly introduced narration bears to incidents recorded in Genesis (Genesis 34:19; Genesis 33:20; Genesis 4:25; Genesis 29:32; Genesis 28:20) and Exodus speaks for itself, and strongly countenances the supposition that it is a genuine deposit of the genuinely olden history of Judah. The mother's reason for the naming of the child; the language and matter and form (Genesis 17:18-20; Exodus 32:32) of the prayer of the child, when presumably he was no longer a child; and the discriminating use of the words Elohim (verse. 10) of Israel, as comps, red with the name Jehovah (1 Chronicles 2:3; 1Ch 5:1-26 :41), generally found here,—all help to produce this impression, although some of these particulars would carry little conviction by themselves; e.g. a mother's reasons for assigning the name of her child long outlived the earlier times alone. Upon the whole, and regarding the passage in its present place, we may say that it must be very much misplaced, or else must be understood to connect Jabez with some branch of the family of Coz. There is the more room to assume this in the vagueness of the last preceding clause, "The families of Aharhel the son of Harum." The origin of the theories of some of the older Jewish writers, to the effect that Jabez was a doctor in the law, with a school of scribes around him, is probably to be found in the desire to find a connection between his proper name, Jabez, and the place so named (1 Chronicles 2:55), and where, as we are told, "families of scribes dwelt," belonging to the Kenites. That these were connected with Bethlehem, through Salma, and that Jabez of our present passage was also of a family connected with Bethlehem, is worthy of notice, but is not enough by a long way to countenance the thought, in spite of Targum and Talmud (Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' sub vet.). The Targum, as well here as in 1 Chronicles 2:55, identifies Jabez with Othniel "son of Keuaz" (Joshua 15:17; Judges 1:13; Judges 3:9), or more probably "the Kenizzite" merely; but there is nothing to sustain such an identification. The description, he was more honourable than his brethren, finds a close parallel, so far as the word honourable goes, in Genesis 34:19; although the honourableness of Shechem, the person there in question, does not come out to anything like the same advantage with that of Jabez, nor at all in the same direction. The word, however, is precisely the same, is often used elsewhere, and uniformly in a good sense, although the range of its application is wide. The essential idea of the root appears to be "weight." The phrase may therefore be supposed to answer to our expressive phrase, a "man of weight"—the weight being sometimes due chiefly to character, at other times to position and wealth in the first place, though not entirely divorced from considerations of character. We may safely judge, from what follows, that the intention in our present passage is to describe Jabez as a man of more ability and nobility than his brethren. It can scarcely be doubted that the meaning that lies on the surface is the correct interpretation, when it is said that his mother named him Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. The sorrow refers to unusual pains of travail, not to any attendant circumstances of domestic trial, as e.g. that the time of his birth was coincident with her own widowhood, as happened to the wife of Phinehas, when she named her offspring "Ichabod" (1 Samuel 4:19-22).
1 Chronicles 4:10
When Jabez grew to manhood he has learnt to estimate rightly the value of God's blessing. He invokes it, and depends upon it. His language implies the confidence that he had in the reality of providential blessing. For the expression, enlarge my coast, see Deuteronomy 12:20 : Deuteronomy 19:8; and though we know nothing as matter of fact about the occasion of this prayer, we may assume that it was one when not selfishness and greed of larger territory, but just opportunity, had awakened a strong desire for enlargement of borders. It may have been a legitimate occasion of recovering his own, lost or wrongfully taken from him or his predecessors before him, or of expelling successfully from their hold upon it a portion of the original inhabitants of the promised land of God's people. That thine hand might be with me. Many are the beautiful parallels to be culled from the Word of God for this expression, as e.g. Ezra 12:9; Psalms 80:17; Psalms 119:173; Psalms 139:5, Psalms 139:10; Isaiah 42:6. And that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! This, the last entreaty of the prayer, is the largest and most far-seeing. Warned by his own name, forewarned by his mother's emphasizing of her own pains in him, he thus concludes. Having begun in the evil of pain and excessive sorrow, he prays that he and his career may not so determine and end. He does not necessarily pray to be preserved from all suffering, but from such baneful touch of evil itself, its principle, its tyrannous, merciless hold, as might bring him to real and irreparable grief. Thus closes the whole prayer, each succeeding clause of which has been under the rule of the initial "if," translated with us, Oh that. This well-known Hebrew form of prayer supposes a solemn engagement, and that the answered prayer shall meet with the fulfilment of a vowed promise on the part of the suppliant, according to the pattern of Genesis 28:20. In the absence of that engagement here, we may notice, with Keil, the greater grace of the passage, in that it closes with the statement of the readiness to hear, and the abounding readiness to answer, on the part of Divine beneficence: And God granted him that which he requested. Evidently the thing that he asked pleased the Lord (1 Kings 3:10, 1 Kings 3:12); although it was in this case some form of riches, and long life for self, and the life of his enemies, that he asked, and was not altogether and in so many words "a wise and understanding heart." Perhaps, also there was in the way of asking, and in the exact occasion, unknown to us, something which quite justified the matter of the prayer, and which thus pleased the Lord. The remarkable and arresting episode could not have closed in more welcome or impressive way than when it is thus briefly but conclusively said, "And God granted him that which he requested."
1 Chronicles 4:11, 1 Chronicles 4:12
Of the whole of the group of names, contained in these two verses, it must be said that we are in the dark. The suggestion of Grove, in his art. "Ir-enahash" (Smith's 'Bible Dictionary'), is worth notice, that possibly the versos may be a reminiscence of some Canaanitish graft on Judah—the Shuah (שׁוּחָה) of verse. 11 pointing to the Shua (שׁוַּע)of 1 Chronicles 2:3; Genesis 38:2. Beth-rapha (the house of the giant) looks more like the name of a place than of a person, though the text needs a person, and such may be covered possibly by this name, though it be of a place. Ir-nahash (the city of the serpent). Jerome, in his 'Quaestiones Hebraicae in Parah,' asserts or repeats the assertion of some one else that this is no other place than Bethlehem; taking Nahash as a synonym with Jesse. Unlikely as this is, no place of the name is known.
1 Chronicles 4:13-15
We return here to the neighbourhood of names not quite strange. From comparison of the many passages in Numbers, Joshua, and Judges, which contain references to Othniel and Caleb (son of Jephunneh), the stronger conclusion to which we are led is that Othniel was younger brother of Caleb (probably not by both the same parents) and Kenaz a forefather, of course not literally father. The conclusion is not arrived at without difficulty, or with any real certainty. In the present instance, e.g; why should Othniel, if the younger brother and so expressly and repeatedly mentioned, be taken first? For the possible Kenaz of this passage, we might then refer to 1 Chronicles 1:53; Genesis 36:42. Hathath. The marginal reading, which joins Meonothai at once to Hathath, and then supplies "who" before "begat Ophrah," is decidedly to be adopted. Joab son of Seraiah is not to be assumed to be one with Joab son of Zeruiah. The valley of the Charashim (see also Nehemiah 11:35), i.e. smiths, or craftsmen, lay east of Jaffa, and behind the plain of Sharon; and is said by Jerome, in his 'Quaestiones Hebraicae in Paral.,' to have been, according to tradition, named so because the architects of the temple came thence. Iru. Perhaps the real name is It, and the final vau rather an initial for the next name. Elah. Probably another name is wanting after this, which the vau will then join to Kenaz; otherwise, as vau will not translate "even," the following name will become, as in the margin, Uknaz. The wanting name might be the Jehalaleel of the next verse. This last name is in the Hebrew identical with the Jehalelel of our Authorized Version (2 Chronicles 29:12).
1 Chronicles 4:16
Of none of the characters of this verse can anything be said beyond what appears here.
1 Chronicles 4:17, 1 Chronicles 4:18
From the tangle of these verses it is hopeless to attempt any certain conclusions. The fact of the antithesis of the Jewess wife (by some assigned as wife to Ezra), and the presumably Egyptian wife mentioned in the latter verse, is perhaps just enough in the general obscurity to suggest that Mered, the asserted husband of the latter, is to be understood as the husband of the former also But to compass so much as this, we have to overlook omission in 1 Chronicles 4:17 and inversion in 1 Chronicles 4:18. There is a tone about the verses, due to names they contain, that might suggest to us the times of Egypt and Moses, and traditions in keeping do not fail to come to view in Jerome ('Quaestiones,' etc.; see also art. "Meted," Smith's 'Bible Dictionary'). The four places, Eshtemoa, Gedor, Socho, Zanoah, may all with tolerable confidence be identified in Joshua 15:48-58, as of the number of the cities "in the mountains," though Zanoah and Socho are found also "in the valley" (Joshua 15:33-36). In this passage the Septuagint gives us no help, but betrays its own perplexity, offering to make Jether the father of Miriam; while the Syriac and Arabic versions simply skip the verses as incoherent.
1 Chronicles 4:19
The first clause of this verse in the Hebrew is, And the sons of the wife of Hodiah. The margin offers the Jewess again for Hodiah. Nothing is known explanatory of the descriptive word Garmite here. Its meaning, according to Gesenins, is "bony." Eahtomoa is here distinguished from the same-spelt word in 1 Chronicles 4:17 by the description the Maachathite, Maachad being a region at the foot of Hermon, bordering on and belonging to Syria.
1 Chronicles 4:20
The names of this verse obtain no light from other passages. The Septuagint (Alexandrian), in loc; speaks of "Someion, the father of Jomam," in the former verse which probably stands for this Shimon. Also the Septuagint for Vulgate, instead of counting Ben-hanan as the name of a third son, translate it, as of Rinnah "son of Hanan." Ishi; not to be confused with 1 Chronicles 2:31, son of Appaim. Our Authorized Version, following the Vulgate, does not translate Ben-zoheth, while the Hebrew would read naturally "Zoheth, and the son of Zoheth."
1 Chronicles 4:21-23
The first of these verses takes us back to 1 Chronicles 2:3, where the first three of the patriarch Judah's sons are introduced in the genealogy, as Er, Onan, and Shelah; where of Er it is said," He was evil in the sight of the Lord; and he slew him;" and where nothing is added of Onan or Shelah. It would appear now that Shelah gave the name of the slain brother to his son. Respecting this Er of Lecah—with little doubt the name of a place—and Laadah, nothing else can be adduced; but Marebah (1 Chronicles 2:42) is the name of a place in the Shefelah, given in the same passage with Kailah and Nezib (Joshua 15:44; see also 2 Chronicles 11:8; 2 Chronicles 14:9). The fine linen (בּוּץ) here spoken of is, according to Gesenius, equivalent in this passage and in the later Hebrew, to the byssus of the Egyptians (Exodus 26:31; 2 Chronicles 3:14), the שֶׁשׁ, from which the Syrian byssus (Ez 1 Chronicles 27:16), to which בּוּץ does more strictly apply, is distinguished in some other places.
It was of fine texture, costly, and used as the clothing of kings (1 Chronicles 15:27), of priests (2 Chronicles 5:12), and of the very wealthy (Esther 1:6; Esther 8:15). Gesenius says that, after long research and dispute, microscopic investigations in London have concluded that the threads of the cloth of byssus are linen, not cotton. Ashbea (אַשִבֵּע) is not yet recognized elsewhere. Jokim. Gesenius considers this name (יוֹקִים) as a contracted form of יוֹיָקִים (Joiakim) of Nehemiah 12:10. Chozeba. The meaning of this name is "lying;" not found elsewhere, it is probably the same as the אַכזִיב, a town in the tribe of Judah (Genesis 38:5), and that is probably the same as the אַכזִיבּ, of the "valley" list of Judah cities (Joshua 15:44) and of Micah 1:14, where it is mentioned in near connection with the Mareshah, which also accompanies it in the above "valley" list. Joash. This name appears in three forms: יוֹאָשׁ, as in the text and 2 Kings 12:20; יְחוֹאָשׁ, as in 2 Kings 12:1; and יוֹעָשׁ, as in 1 Chronicles 7:8. Seraph. This is the word the plural of which gives us our seraphim (Isaiah 6:2), and is from a root of somewhat uncertain meaning. The different significations to which the root seems to lend itself in the substantive, according as it is used in the singular or plural, are startling (see Gesenius, 'Lexicon,' sub voce). The apparent meaning of this verse is that there was a time of old, when the above, of whom we can ascertain nothing elsewhere, ruled over Moab. Jerome, in the Vulgate, has made a strange rendering of this verse by translating some of the proper names, and reading at least one of them, the first, as though it were a form in the Hebrew (יָקִים), which it is not: Et qui stare fecit solem, virique Mendacii et Securus et Tircendens, qui principes fuerunt in Moab et qui reversi sunt in Lahem; haec autem verba vetera. Thus Jokim is turned into Elimelech, and the men of Chozeba into Mahlon and Chillon of the Book of Ruth, and Jashubi-lehem into Naomi and Ruth; and the last clause of the verse is equivalent to citing the Book of Ruth. Barrington ('Genealogies,' 1:179) regards Jokim as Shelah's third son in this enumeration; and ethers regard Jashubi-lehem as his fourth son. The preposition לְ prefixed to מוֹאָב and following the verb, is to be noted Verse 23 brings us to the last of Judah, and leaves us to part with the account of the tribe in the same obscurity which has lately involved it. The plants and hedges are probably an instance of inopportune translation of proper names, which should rather appear as Nelaira and Gedara, the former place or people not found elsewhere, but the latter possibly referred to. Joshua 15:36. Again, who they were that were the potters, is not clear—whether all of the preceding verse, or the last mentioned. From the last clause it may be probably safely concluded, that those designated, whoever they were, were employed habitually in the service, not indeed of one king necessarily, but of the succession of royalty. Passages that may be taken to throw interesting light upon this subject are 1Ch 27:25-31; 2 Chronicles 26:10; 2 Chronicles 27:4; 2 Chronicles 32:27-29.
1 Chronicles 4:24-27
The second of the twelve tribes is now taken, and occupies but small space as compared with Judah preceding, or Levi and Benjamin when their turn comes. The comparison of the enumeration of the sons of Simeon here with that in Genesis 46:10, Exodus 6:15, is helpful in detaching the idea that the compiler of Chronicles copied direct from Genesis and Exodus, or that he depended exclusively on identical sources of information. That comparison shows six names in both of those passages for only five here, and it shows also difference in three of the names, viz. Jemuel, Zohar, and Jachin, for Nemuel, Zeta, and Jarib. On the other hand, the list of Numbers 26:12 is in exact agreement with our list here (the omission of Ohad in both being sufficiently accounted for by one and the same reason), with the exception of Jarib here for Jachin still there; and this solitary difference may justly be suspected to be nothing but an early corruption of resh for caph and beth for nun (see Kennicott, 'Diss.,' 1.178; Barrington's 'Genealogies,' 1.55). Numbers 26:25 contains three descents from one of these—Shaul. Of Shallum, the first, it may be noted that there are fourteen others of the same name in the Old Testament; and of Mibsam and Mishma (whom some call brothers, surely in error), that there were others of the same name (and certainly given as brothers), viz. the sons of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13; Genesis 1:29). Numbers 26:26 adds apparently another three descents, viz. from Mishma. Of the first-named of these, Hamuel, it may be noted that the name appears in many Hebrew manuscripts as Chammuel; of the second-named, Zacchur, that six others of the same name (though the Authorized Version gives them Zaccur) are found in Numbers, the First Book of Chronicles, and Nehemiah; while on the third, Shimei (of which name the Old Testament contains fifteen others), our attention is especially detained as father of sixteen sons and six daughters, though it is observed that his brethren (query Hammuel and Zacchur) had not large families. The smallness of the whole tribe relatively to Judah, was only saved from being smaller by him. With this agrees the census of Numbers 1:23, Numbers 1:27; Numbers 2:4, Numbers 2:13; Numbers 26:14. It is possible that this Shimei is the same with Shemaiah of Numbers 26:37.
1 Chronicles 4:28-33
These "thirteen cities with their villages" and "five cities" are found, with some slight differences, in Joshua 19:1-9 (comp. Joshua 15:26-32, Joshua 15:42). They were carved out of the "portion of Judah," which had been found disproportioned during the interval that elapsed between the first settlements, viz. of Judah and the sons of Joseph, and the completion of the settlements westward of Jordan (Joshua 18:1-6; comp. Judges 1:3, Judges 1:17). From the second of these groups, Tochen (see suggestion in' Speaker's Commentary,' in loc.) is omitted in Joshua 19:7, where only "four cities" are summed. The allusion (Joshua 19:31) to the reign of David is sufficiently explained by the fact that during his persecuted wanderings he was often in the portion of Simeon, to three of the cities of which he sent presents from the spoils of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:26-31); and Ziklag became his own (1 Samuel 27:6), special mention being made of how it passed into the tribe of Judah. The fuller name of Baal (Joshua 19:33) is given as Baalath-beer in Joshua 19:8, where it is followed by the addition "Ramath [height] of the south." It may be noted that this description of the allotment of Simeon begins with Beer-sheba and ends with Baalath-beer. The expression (Joshua 19:33), and their genealogy"—הִתְיַחְשָׂם infinitive Hithp; used as a noun—will be more properly translated, their table of genealogy, or their registration. The following לָהֶם may then refer to "their habitations" rather than themselves, so that the clause, as a whole, would mean, "These were their dwellings, and their registration was correct to them." Bertheau, however, takes the meaning to be, "And there was their family register to them," i.e. "They had their own family register."
1 Chronicles 4:34-41
These verses record an organized and determined movement in quest of new and rich territory on the part of some of the tribe of Simeon. They were thirteen princes of the tribe of Simeon who led the movement, possibly representing respectively the "thirteen cities" given above. The movement took place in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. That the house of their fathers had increased greatly is probably mentioned as some explanation of the cause of the movement. Though in one name out of the thirteen (verse. 35) the ancestors are traced to the third generation, and in another (1 Chronicles 4:37) to the fifth, no name is reached of the sons of Simeon enumerated in verses. 24-27. These mentioned by names is to be translated strictly these coming by names; and it is open to question whether the word of 1 Chronicles 4:41, הכְּתוּבִים, be not omitted after הַבָּאִים; so that the passage would read, "These that came, written by names, were princes in their families." Of the names, twenty-two in all, found in these verses, just so much is known as is here written.
1 Chronicles 4:39
The place Gedor cannot be identified in this connection. There is a town of the name situated in the mountainous district of Judah between Halhul and Beth-zur, to the north of Hebron (Joshua 15:58). It is evident that this cannot be the place we require here. There is another town of the name (1 Chronicles 12:7), probably belonging to Benjamin, and which as little admits of being fitted in here. Both the Alexandrine and the Vatican Codex of the Septuagint, however, evidently read גְּדרָ for גְּדֹר. Now, Gerar of the Philistines would suit well for position and description, and also (Genesis 10:14) for the allusion found here (1 Chronicles 4:40) to the dwelling there "of old" of the people of Ham. The Hebrew word, however, generally applied to the valley of Gerar (נַחַל, wady) is not the word used here of Gedor (הַגָיְא, ravine). See Stanley's 'Syria and Palestine,' p. 159, and note. Not only are references frequent to the fertility of Gerar, but the significance of that in 2 Chronicles 14:14 speaks for itself. This alteration of reading, however, with acceptance of the Septuagint manuscripts, cannot be regarded as altogether satisfactory, and Keil ('Comm.,' in loc.) offers some suggestions of weight against those of Ewald, Bertheau, and others.
1 Chronicles 4:41
The habitations that were found there. So the Authorized Version, which has mistakenly Englished a word which should have been left a proper name, "the Maon-ires," i.e. the people elsewhere called in the Authorized Version the Mahunim. In doing this, our translators followed the Targum, copied by Luther and Junius. Unto this day, in this verse, as also in 1 Chronicles 4:43, must not be understood to mark the date of the compiler of Chronicles, but that of the document or authority upon which he as a compiler drew—anterior, of course, to the Captivity.
1 Chronicles 4:42, 1 Chronicles 4:43
These verses give the further exploits, with a view of settlement, of certain of the tribe of Simeon. And of them we should prefer to apply to those already mentioned (1 Chronicles 4:34-41), did the expression stand alone. But the following clause in apposition, of the sons of Simeon, seems intended to prevent the supposition that they are the Simeonites to whom alone allusion is made. Keil again ('Comm.,' in loc.) refers those intended to 1 Chronicles 4:27, because he reads, for Ishi, the Shimei of 1 Chronicles 4:27, on very insufficient grounds. It is a question whether the movement of 1 Chronicles 4:42 is to be understood as arising out of that other the account of which closes in 1 Chronicles 4:41, or whether it were not a co-ordinate movement. It still would probably enough spring from the same intrinsic causes. The allotment of the tribe of Simeon carved out of that of Judah was found too small for their growing numbers, though Simeon was not of the most numerous. Nor is it necessary to suppose—perhaps it is rather necessary to correct the impression—that this expedition, issuing in a permanent settlement, lay at all near the conquests of the "thirteen princes." It is, on the whole, most natural to consider that one event concludes with 1 Chronicles 4:41, and that the following events (1 Chronicles 4:42, 1 Chronicles 4:43) are distinct and independent. All requisite light as to who these "smitten Amalekites" were, is for them too significantly furnished by comparison of 1 Samuel 27:8; 1Sa 30:1; 2 Samuel 8:12; with 1 Samuel 14:48; 1 Samuel 15:7. Of the names, five in number, found in this verse, just so much and no more is known.
1 Chronicles 4:9.-A unique instance of the beneficent disappointments of human suffering's cry.
The remarkable position of the brief episode, consisting of this and the following verse, does but draw our closer and more willing attention to it. Is it not like a spring in the dry land? Is it not like an oasis in the desert? Or again, in other figure, if the whole scene, in the very midst of which this brief narration is found, resemble some vast burying-place (and surely it does very much resemble this), crowded with tombstones which are worn with age and dishonoured by forgottenness and indifference, here the eye and the mind too are detained by an inscription worthy the notice and the thoughtful meditation. The inscription in question is not a long one. It is far from savouring of anything fulsome. But it is striking, and with the striking-ness of suggestion rather than of assertion; of what, unsaid, insists on coming to the thought, rather than of what, said, tasks unwilling thought. It must be called a Scripture providence which has preserved, and has in this way brought to the front, this interesting incident. We will for a moment shut off this verse from the following, and upon it, by itself, concentrate attention. It suddenly introduces to us one Jabez, grown presumably to years of manhood. And in designed, we may say manifestly designed, antithesis to the characteristic so "honourable" affixed to the mention of his name, a reminiscence of his christening furnishes us with the intelligence how he came by his name of sorrow. He has disappointed that name. The promise of its sadness he has not fulfilled. The exceeding pains of the mother seem to have led the way to a good and happy career for the son. And a dark morning's outlook has grown to a bright day. Let us notice that —
I. THERE IS A CERTAIN INSTRUCTIVE SUDDENNESS IN THE INTRODUCTION OF THE MATTER OF THIS VERSE. Abruptly as the name of Jabez here comes upon us, abrupt as is the introduction of the brief sketch of his history, it is nothing more abrupt than the case as it presents itself not unfrequently in real life, both then and now, and the facts of which are identical with those of the instance here presented to us. The very manner of Scripture history and biography harmonizes well with the matter of well-known life, and often reminds us of it. The surprises which Providence prepares or permits in the matter of human circumstance, character, career, have always been many; and though their number ceases not, they maintain the quality of their force.
II. THERE IS A CERTAIN SINGULARITY BROUGHT TO NOTICE IN THIS VERSE. A comparison is distinctly instituted. It is an invidious one. Happily, though invidious, it is a scriptural one. "Jabez was more honourable than his brethren." It is a comparison the more pronounced in that it lies within the range of one family. The defence of it is:
(1) First and in part, that it was no doubt utterly true—probably signally true. Further,
(2) that there was special, practical use in giving prominence to it. It was for the good of others, not for the satisfaction of individual pride or ostentation. And
(3) that the simplest statement of it, free from any flattery and any enlargement, was serviceable to gain a point of great moment. That point was one on a very different scale and of very different magnitude from any mere ordinary occasion. It brings into relief a contrast, and a very touching contrast, between the hasty verdict of present human feeling and experience, and the great, irresistible purposing and doings of the Divine mind in the midst of this lower scene of things. We are borne on a strong current, we are whirled round on many and frequent eddyings. The cry of anguish and of anger, the murmur of discontent and of doubt, often break from our lips and rise on high. This the reason thereof—that we thanklessly forget that very thing, viz. that we are borne on a strong current, that an irresistible hand is laid upon us, and a sovereign purpose is Lord over us. We are not told how or in what respects "Jabez was more honourable than his brethren." Therefore that we are told the fact without the detail, argues that a general principle is offered to our notice, and we are invited to grasp and utilize it rather than linger amid the interest of mere detail.
III. THE SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS OF A MOTHER IS DELICATELY BUT SIGNIFICANTLY HINTED in the very verse which has stamped the honour of her son. The family—her family—is known, and known for good too, by one individual of it. But that individual is the child she marked evermore and signalized as the cause of special and exceeding suffering. But how soon was that suffering over! How soon was it obliterated! How little was it worthy to be compared with the exceeding joy, which, if she lived to see it, the "honourableness" of her son was sure to have given her! The suffering was that of the body, the joy was that of mind and heart. What a comment we have here upon the utterances of human lips, whether hasty or not, whether true to the moment or not, whether not to be wondered at or censured sternly, or the reverse, and the issues that lie with God, the event which we may live to see, and which shall be found to contrast so strangely, so sharply with our old feeling, impression, anticipation, or foreboding! The man who rescues that mother's family from oblivion, and finds it a place on the page of the Divine Word for ever and ever, is the child named of old—Jabez. This babe of old, of bitterer pains than usual, must needs therefore, by a loving mother's own act, be chartered to tell to the ends of the earth the tale of her suffering, rather than to bear a testimony to the spirit of endurance and hope and trust that were in her. So Heaven disappoints human calculations, sometimes as much by its undeserved beneficence as at other times by its just visitations of punishment. So Divine strength avails itself of one method of showing its perfection in human weakness. So our Father's generous eye overlooks and forgives the suspicion that lurks in our eye.
1 Chronicles 4:10 (first part).-An example of earnest prayer for earthly things, to be imitated.
"And Jabez… enlarge my coast." No syllable nor whisper is heard by us of the child that cost the mother so much suffering in bringing into the world, from the time that he was named till he is now arrived at manhood. Then he is again introduced with this testimony, that he is "more honourable than his brethren." The probability is that this expression does not refer exclusively to honourableness of moral and religious character. It is an equal probability, considering the remarkably uniform usage of the word in a favourable sense, and the balance of its use in even a high sense, that it does by no means exclude these elements. The intermediate time is left to our imagination to fill up. It was not like that intermediate time of our Saviour's life, lit up only by the incident of the temple and the discussion with the doctors, when Jesus was but twelve years of age. We are warranted in permitting imagination to depict all that interval as one continuous growth of goodness and display of spotless bollness, and it is for quite other reasons that we there bid imagination learn reverence and caution, and chasten itself. Not so here; in the darkness and the silence of some twenty years or more, we are sure that there mingled error and imperfection and sin, with whatever else there was of redeeming feature in character and conduct. Still maturity finds Jabez an honoured man. Considering all things, that was not a little thing to say. But better and more to our purpose, it reveals him a man of prayer—a man who knew, who believed in, who practised prayer. Nay, there is something in the first opening of his mouth in this prayer which prepossesses us, and invites special consideration. Let us notice —
I. THE TITLE UNDER WHICH JABEZ APPEALS TO THE OBJECT OF HIS PRAYER. He prays to the "God of Israel." It is true that these words are not found here within the borders of the prayer itself, but it is also true that the historian says that it was to the "God of Israel' that the prayer of Jabez was directed. This descriptive designation of God would mean at least three things with Jabez. The God of Israel is for him,
(1) the God of his fathers;
(2) the God who had often wrought wonderful works of interposition, of deliverance, of victory and conquest, on behalf of his people; and
(3) he is especially the God whose pronounced and most gracious covenant of truth and mercy was with Israel. The aids of memory are great aids for faith. A lively memory of long-past mercies also tends to kindle gratitude. He who comes with gratitude into the Divine presence wins fresh favour, gains fresh gifts. So also to have promises is one thing. These we all have. To take hold of them, avail ourselves of them, grasp them, is another and far greater thing. To live by the light, and in the strength and joy of the covenant, is the grandest privilege any man could possess.
II. THE DETERMINED AND EARNEST DIRECTNESS OF THIS PRAYER, It is the prayer of well-defined petition. Jabez wants a blessing, knows the blessing that he wants, asks it with fervour. He asks it with earnest emphasis. All argues his belief in the need of superhuman help, in the reality of such a thing as superhuman help, and in the availing power of prayer to obtain. This constitutes genuine prayer. It is not, indeed, any one of those high forms of spiritual exercise, the meditation of the unseen, the apprehension of Divine realities, the spirit's communion with the Father of all spirit, and refreshment from his presence. But, on the other hand, it is the prayer which links on earth to heaven, and shows a human hand taking hold, with the free permission of mercy, of God. Jabez goes far on to say, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me," when he says, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!" The emphasis "indeed" is the emphasis of importunity, not of distrust. The meaning, as every reader of the Hebrew knows at once, is "Oh that thou wouldest greatly bless me!" As though Jabez meant, "Unworthy as I am, oh that thou wouldest grant me a great blessing!" How often our posture is prayer, our language prayer, our tone prayer, yet the reality, the definiteness, the heart of prayer, is far from us! We ask and have not, because we really know not what our own asking is. In the midst of vague form and heartless performance, nothing is asked.
III. The instance we have here, and which we shall not do wrong in drawing into a precedent, of prayer offered, and acceptably offered, the burden of which is temporal good, family and private advantage, substance and possession. These all belong to the very structure and texture of our present human life and character. They much tend to make or mar our character. The way in which we get them, use them, give them again, is often the criterion, and very decisive criterion, of everything with us, for good or for harm. The great man of business and the man of great property are borne on a strong current, are tossed on deceitful, dangerous tides; but it may none the less be that, under certain conditions, they are fulfilling appointed and most important offices in the general scene of the world's traffic. But how much securer that man must feel who has gained, and gained much, not by sharp practice, chicanery, unscrupulousness, but by clear views, determined wishes, diligent devotion, and the liberal "blessing," the "great" blessing of God l Desire for earthly substance is not necessarily mere earthly desire. It is too true that it is too often this, but not always. Some of the greatest men of business in the world have been, and are to-day, the best men of business in the Church. By their liberality and charity, by their beneficence and philanthropy, the "cords have been lengthened, the stakes strengthened," of the tabernacle of the Lord God of Israel. And their watchfulness, their prayerfulness, their sustained Christian consistency and humility, have been an example far and wide.
1 Chronicles 4:10 -The prayer for the hand.
"And that thine hand might be with me." This amplifying petition follows significantly upon the more definite and specific entreaty of the beginning of the verse. It also takes us into the ancient workshop of language. The countenances of us all, and their infinitely various expression, come from the different combinations of a very few features and other elements. All our words come from the immense number of combinations possible between and among twenty-six letters. And the amazing proportion of the whole vast mass of our language comes from the figurative and the analogic appropriations of what would otherwise be, and once was, a very scanty vocabulary. This is especially observable of our religious and devotional language, though none truer of it than of our ordinary language. The twenty-third psalm, and very many sentences of other psalms, give abundant illustrations of the way in which figurative language at once doubles, but in point of fact far more than doubles, language. And the sentence of the text is one of the most elementary and most plain of all illustrations of the kind. The first uses of a hand, the many uses of a hand, lend a wealth of imagery, and thereby of enrichment, to language. From the suggestion of the prayer of Jabez to the effect that "the hand" of God "might be with" him, let us take opportunity to view some of the chief scriptural representations of the exercise of the Divine hand and of the effects thereof, and thus lead up again to the prayer before us. And we often read of —
I. THE CREATIVE HAND. Man is spoken of as the work of God's creative hands: "Thy hands have made me and fashioned me" (Psalms 119:73). So also the heavens: "The heavens are the work of thy hands" (Psalms 102:25). So, again, the earth and the sea: "The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land" (Psalms 95:5). And all living things and things inanimate: "Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas" (Psalms 8:5-8). (See also glorious reminiscences to the same effect, Job 10:8; Job 14:15; Job 34:19; Isaiah 48:13; Isaiah 64:8.)
II. THE HAND OF THE SOVEREIGN, ABSOLUTE OWNER. (Job 5:18; Job 12:10; Daniel 5:23; Ecclesiastes 9:1; 1Ch 29:12, 1 Chronicles 29:16; Psalms 31:15.)
III. THE HAND OF THE PERPETUAL, BOUNTIFUL GIVER. (Psalms 95:7; Psalms 104:28; Psalms 145:16.)
IV. THE HAND OF ONE THAT DELIVERS, UPLIFTS, AND UPHOLDS. (Exodus 32:11; Deuteronomy 5:15; Ezra 7:9; Nehemiah 2:8; Psalms 44:3; Psalms 63:8; Psalms 73:23; Isaiah 51:16.)
V. THE HAND OF THE CORRECTOR AND CHASTISER. (Judges 2:15; Psalms 32:4; Psalms 38:2; Psalms 39:10; Psalms 106:26; Job 2:10; Job 19:21.)
VI. THE HAND OF WIDEST SWAY AND SOVEREIGN CONTROL, of power to rule and power to overrule. (Isaiah 40:12; Isaiah 48:13; Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 4:35.)
VII. THE HAND THAT EXALTS TO REAL HONOUR. (See the splendid description of Isaiah 62:3; Psalms 16:11.)
VIII. THE HAND THAT PLEDGES AND SECURES ABSOLUTE AND EVERLASTING SAFETY. See such passages as more than satisfy the soul; they go far even "to ravish it with the thoughts" of the glory signified. "I have graven thee on the palms of my hand" (Isaiah 49:16); "They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand" (John 10:28, John 10:29). And, as during all our lifetime it had been the lesson to be learnt that our breath is in God's hands, and all our ways and our times in his sovereign hand, so at last it is permitted us to breathe the spirit into that same mighty, merciful, safe hand: "Into thy hands I commit my spirit" (Psalms 31:5). Perhaps it was not all of these powers of the Divine hand that could have been as familiar to Jabez as they may be to us; yet it is evident that he knew and had prized the meaning and the virtue of the hand of God. And he does not ask to know it in one particular way nor in another. He does not dictate or suggest-at least, not beyond a certain very wide margin. He prays that the Divine hand may be "with" him—now to help on, now to stop; now to uphold, now, if necessary, to cast down; now to put it on his lips, and to bid his mouth be dumb, and himself wait the sovereign will of a sovereign God—patient, content, trustful; now to release those lips and open his mouth, that he might render grateful praise to the bountiful Giver of all good, or the loving and careful Protector of all those who put their trust in him. When Jabez says, "Oh that thine hand might be with me!" he puts himself into that vast and secure hand of God, and wishes nothing more, nothing better for himself, than as the little child, feeble, uncertain, and easily wearying, to take the strong hand of his Father. He had simple faith that the hand, the presence of which "with" him he entreated, would be under all events a "good hand upon" him. The surrender of dependence betokened by the prayer was justly as hopeful as it was trustful. We need nothing more than that the hand of God, in all its varied exercise, should be with us. But when we have thus prayed, we may not forget what our prayer has been. And in great variety of experience on our own part—experience of sorrow, and difficulty, and toil, and slowness, as well as in all the converse of these respectively—we must remember to trace and acknowledge the tokens of that hand for which we prayed being with us, and not another hand, inferior in goodness and wisdom as well as power. For often the variety and contrasts and reverses of our own mutable state reflect the ever-varying and adapting presence and grace of One who is in himself the Unchanging. How often has our own hand misdone, how often has the hand of others misled or misdirected us! How blessed is he who can say that, for his prayer, God has "beset him behind and before, and has laid his hand upon him!"
1 Chronicles 4:10 -The prayer of victory over evil
"And that thou wouldest.; may not grieve me." This is the last petition of the prayer of Jabez. While the foregoing petition was very comprehensive and wide-reaching in one sense, this is comprehensive and farseeing in another. There could scarcely be a larger or a wiser intreaty than that God would vouchsafe the perpetual presence of his hand—the hand that makes, that gives, that leads, that upholds, that shields, that at last saves with an everlasting salvation. Igor, on the other hand, could there easily be offered prayer that should more betoken self-knowledge, self-distrust, and a wise estimate of the constantly endangered position in which any man may justly describe himself as placed in this present world, than the prayer with which Jabez now sums up what he has to say: "And that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!" Of the few petitions of our Lord's Prayer, this forms one, and an emphatic one, "Deliver me from evil." Evil is a large enemy. In one shape or another, it is ever threatening to attack. And if in anything we need superior help, it is in combating a foe so ubiquitous, so persevering, so subtle, and so essentially disastrous. We may observe here —
I. THAT THERE ARE SIGNS OF A USEFUL LESSON HAVING BEEN LEARNT FROM PAIN. Pain is intrinsically evil in this world. It was no original part of it. It is now utilized in many a direction. It is now overruled to many and high advantages. But it is none the less to be noticed as foreign in itself to the nature of God, to the conception of a perfect creation, to the bliss of man. Yet as things are, and as we are, it is wise to learn from even bodily pain. It is often because we will not learn from other suggestions that we are compelled to learn from the actual experiences of pain. We may probably put down something higher to the credit of Jabez. We do not know as fact that he himself had been called to endure much pain, or any at all noteworthy. But he knew his own name. He knew what it meant, and how it had come to be given to him. He took the warning of it, and the forewarning of his mother's method of emphasizing what were her opinions and convictions on the subject. It was not the mark of Cain that was on his open brow. But the name of a mother's love and anguish mingled was named upon him. And he prays to the Mightier than he, to preserve him so from evil, that it might not bring him to fulfil in his nature what was confessedly his name. Two things may be ever well remembered respecting pain:
(1) that it must faithfully and honestly be ranked among the enemies of God and the antagonists of perfect nature; but
(2) that for a time, and for our present condition, it may be a timely lesson, a source of valuable suggestion, the adapted caution of the hour, the safeguard that may act with the quickness and the certainty of an instinct. Yet, whatever may be said justly and correctly respecting the acquired uses of pain, Jabez offers his petition deprecatory of that evil, the fruit and end of which is mere pain.
II. THAT THERE ARE SIGNS OF A CORRECT LESSON HAYING BEEN LEARNT ABOUT EVIL ITSELF. It is evident, from the very words of Jabez's prayer, that he distinguishes between evil and gratuitous pain, or unrewarding "grief," as it is here expressed. Evil, i.e. suffering, calamity, more or less of occasional adversity, disappointment, are the absolute lot of man here. It would be vain to shut the eyes to the fact, folly to deny it. But there are immense differences within the range and the limits of what is called evil. Jabez had learnt this. He does not pray to be kept from all suffering, vicissitude, adversity, disappointment, though doubtless he would fain be kept from as much of this as may be. But we are to understand that he earnestly deprecates the baneful touch of evil itself. He discerns what its essential principle is. He dreads its tyrannous rule, its merciless hold, its mocking treatment of those who have trusted it, and, if unstayed, its destructive results. He prays, accordingly, to be kept from the evil that would "assault and hurt the soul," and prove the herald of irreparable grief. It is such intrinsic form of evil which the uncompromising petition of our Lord's Prayer puts upon the lips of all his disciples. How certain and distinct this difference is! How much "evil" there is, through which we all are called to pass! But the deep water does not overflow us. How much disappointed hope and sorrow's visit there is for the very best of men, by which in part they have been helped to become what they already are, right and excellent and devout, and by which the best of to-day become yet better to-morrow I This is the "evil we receive also at the hand of God, as well as" his good. It is chastening, purifying, elevating. But contrast with this the sorrow that worketh death. Contrast-with this the "wounded spirit." Contrast with this the evil that hardens hearts, sears consciences, cradles remorse, and is fruitless of everything else but unavailing regret. And we shall be ready to join to pray, "That thou wouldest keep me from evil, that" its gratuitous "grief" may not be mine.
III. THAT A LESSON RESPECTING SELF'S GREAT NEED OF SUPERIOR HELP IN THE PRESENCE OF SOME FOES HAD BEEN WELL LEARNT. There are some passages of life when the best and hardest work is the best and most earnest prayer. Not so here. It is said the sailor always has his enemy before him, and the battle ceases not till the haven is won. And men live in such a scene of evil, such surroundings of evil, such dispositions of evil, such a very atmosphere of evil, men are tossed upon such an ocean of evil, that the danger will prove overmastering in some direction, unless a man "pray always," and pray this prayer of Jabez. No armour of one's own, no self-knowledge, no vigilance, no pride of foreknowledge, no mere creed of distrust of the vain world, and the wicked heart, and the soul's chief adversary, will suffice. This living, hearty, earnest prayer will alone command the sure victory in the most critical of warfare.
1 Chronicles 4:10 -The gracious benignity of answer to prayer
"And God granted him that which he requested." Abruptly as the name and the prayer of Jabez were introduced, with equal abruptness do they vanish from view. Favourably as they were introduced, so favourably do they seem to take leave of us. The naming of Jabez was indeed that of toilsome travail and tears, but therein was that saying fulfilled, that the going forth with weeping and with precious seed shall issue in a rejoicing return with golden sheaves. For that this was the case may be justly read between the lines, when we are informed that "God granted Jabez that which he requested." The words of this prayer and the several petitions of it we have before us, and they speak for themselves, what they are and aim at. But whether the prayer conveys to us the "request" of Jabez, that one desire of his heart which was enwrapt in all the rest, is not quite plain. Probably it does, and if so it must have been "the enlarging of his coasts." This would not be a request out of harmony with his time of day, or with what men of his position sometimes earnestly wished, and even with diviner instincts sought. To have a sure footing and an abundant footing in Canaan, or in whatsoever land most nearly corresponded to Canaan in the time of Jabez, meant very much more than the mere inheritance or purchase of ever so tempting an estate or property in our day. But if this were not the burden of the prayer, and its central subject, we are but relieved in this, as in all the rest of the context, from detail in favour of principles. In the absence of clear information as to what Jabez requested, we may make sure that he did not ask what was contrary to God's glory to give or to his own good to receive, while on the other hand we are not in want of information as how he made his requests known. We have seen that manner to be characterized by simplicity and fervor, by strong conviction of dependence and by trustful reliance, and these were lighted up by hopefulness. And having watched the dependent suppliant, in sympathy with him, we are now invited to see the other sight. God sees his suppliant, and sees him with gracious eye. He hears his suppliant, and bends a willing ear. He approves his suppliant, and "grants him that which he requested." We have here what we may justly regard in the first two particulars as leading instances, in the last as a fruitful suggestion.
I. OF THE EFFICACY OF PRAYER IS GENERAL. The tale is very short, very plain, and, if not true, is simply gratuitously false and misleading. It is the ease of the supplication of a righteous man availing much in its operative effect with God. The person who prayed probably exercised no very important and influential sway over society and his fellow-beings around. The thing for which he prayed probably stood in no very vital or active relation to the well-being of those around. Probably the time was no very critical moment, when great issues might depend on what should seem a very small matter, as affecting primarily but one individual. The person, the thing granted, and the time must have had—they always do have—their importance and their own inevitable significance; but this was all that they had now. But in the absence of knowledge of details and of surroundings, it is deemed sufficiently important for the Divine page to use this opportunity of showing us God answering the earnest, trusting prayer of his child and servant.
II. OF THE ANSWER OF A MAN'S PRAYER, TRUE TO THE EXACT REQUEST OF IT.
This is a thing not always possible. We ask and have not, because we ask amiss. The ways of asking amiss are many, almost innumerable. They may be classified, however, under few heads. The amiss may consist in the thing not being good for us; not being for God's glory to give. The "amiss" may consist in the thing asked not being good for us as yet. The "amiss" may consist in the thing asked not being the best thing for us. How often God withholds the literal answer to give a spiritual substitute I How often, in the very process of gift, short as it is, he substitutes a higher, better prize than that which we asked! How often the very highest mode of answer is found to consist in withholding the solid, material substance, which is what does not last, in order to give the unseen, spiritual substance, which is in its very nature eternal l Sometimes, again, the "amiss" may consist in what we ask not being good for others as well as self. Each of us is part of a great whole, and an intrinsic part of it. Fellowship of joy, vicariousness of suffering, combination in toil and work, partnership on the largest scale, in the largest sense, and in the most searching detail, are all radical elements of our human nature and human life. And the clear vision of these, and the prompt recognition of them, are constantly obscured and eclipsed to us simply because we let self-regard slip into selfishness, forget the second great command, and try to famish on a lower principle in place of flourishing on charity. And it is in prayer that we may not unfrequently give the most subtle illustration of this subtle snare of our nature and life. Hence it may be rarely that God can give the answer of prayer true to the exact matter of it. But here we have a grateful and suggestive instance of the kind.
III. Of the fact that there is in the sovereign Giver the gracious inclination to give, when possible, according to this rule. His is the disposition full of grace as to the method of giving, as well as of bounty in the matter of what is given. We may often spoil what we give by the manner in which we give; not so he. We may often receive, spoiled by the manner of it, what is given; but never so when the gift is from him. These are some of the chief marks of the grace in giving which is so acceptable to those who ask, or who, without asking, stand in need; and they are all suggested by this history.
1. To give if possible just that which is asked.
2. To give it promptly, and make it thereby twice given.
3. To give it without any reflections on the past.
4. To give without imposing conditions on time to come.
5. Still to give, though it be on the part of the supreme, gracious Giver himself, without reminding there and then of the debt which it involves, of the bounty which it reveals, of the absence of claim, right, merit, in default of all of which nevertheless it is not withheld.
Most gratefully does that one sentence of the sacred page suggest all these thoughts to us, in which it is said, with effective brevity in reference to Jabez, "And God granted him that which he requested."
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
1 Chronicles 4:9, 1 Chronicles 4:10 -Jabez
These two beautiful verses come in the midst of a dry and (to us) comparatively uninteresting genealogy, like an oasis in a desert. We know nothing at all of the person here mentioned except what is recorded in this passage. Yet there is so much of meaning in these brief sentences, that Jabez is certainly to the readers of this book more than a name.
I. Observe his NAME. Scripture names are often significant. This was given by the mother, in token and memory of the sorrow in which she bore her son. "In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children," was the primeval sentence upon the mother of mankind. Yet, as Christ reminds us, it is usually the case that a mother "remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world." The mother of Jabez did not forget, and accordingly named the child in memory of her pains.
II. Observe his PRAYER. It is an interesting fact that we know some Scripture characters chiefly by their prayers. Thus we know Agur as having besought the Lord, "Give me neither poverty nor riches." And we know Jabez by the comprehensive petition which he is recorded to have presented to Heaven.
1. It was a prayer to a covenant God—the God of Israel.
2. It was a prayer for blessing; i.e. for good as the expression of Divine favour and approbation.
3. It was a prayer for prosperity; "Enlarge my coast." We know nothing of Jabez's way of life, whether he was a husbandman, or a warrior, or a ruler; but it is clear that he asked for enlargement of means, or authority, or territory, etc.
4. It was a prayer for strength: "That thy hand might be with me."
5. It was a prayer for safety and purity. The evil from which this good man would fain be kept was, probably, both temporal and spiritual. How suitable a petition for us all!
6. It was a prayer for freedom from sorrow. If disasters should befall him, or if he should be tempted to apostasy or sin, such a fate would be fraught with grief to his heart.
III. Observe THE ANSWER to his prayer. The petition was large, but it was offered to a King, who was the rather pleased with its magnitude. There was no hesitation, no withholding. A lesson this as to God's willingness to hear and answer the supplications of his people.
IV. Observe HIS HONOUR AMONGST MEN. Who the brethren of Jabez were we know not. The verse contains nothing in disparagement of their character or position. But Jabez was more honourable than they. The Lord is wont to honour those who honour him. Jabez acknowledged God as the Source of his prosperity, and God rewarded Jabez, by raising him to a position of authority and esteem in his family and amongst his countrymen.—T.
1 Chronicles 4:21, 1 Chronicles 4:23 -Weavers, husbandmen, and potters
This portion of the book contains the record of the descendants of Shelah, one of the sons of Judah. The chronicler mentions incidentally the employments of several of these ancient families. Some were engaged in weaving byssus, or fine linen. Others were occupied in tilling the estates and tending the herds and flocks of the king. Others, again, pursued the calling of the potter. Now, there is no reason for surprise in meeting with such references in a book of the canonical Scriptures. There is a religious side to all such useful and respectable vocations. Those who follow them may not always be aware of the fact; but a fact it certainly is.
I. HANDICRAFTSMEN AND HUSBANDMEN MAKE USE OF MATERIALS WHICH A KIND PROVIDENCE HAS SUPPLIED. The soil which is tilled, the vegetable substances which that soil produces, the minerals which are dug from it, are all of God. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof."
II. THE FACULTIES OF BODY AND MIND WHICH SUCH PERSONS EXERCISE AND EMPLOY ARE ENTRUSTED BY THE CREATOR. The limbs of the body, the strength of the muscles, the skill of the intelligent and designing mind, are all needed for the production of the results. Every artificer is himself a miracle of creative power and wisdom; and he who framed the workman is glorified in the handiwork.
III. THE WELFARE OF CIVILIZED HUMAN SOCIETY, WHICH IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF SUCH LABOURS, IS A PART OF THE DIVINE PLAN. The arts, useful and aesthetic, tend to the comfort and the development of humanity. All the conveniences of human life are instrumental in furthering the purposes of God.
IV. AMONG SUCH ARTIFICERS RELIGION OFTEN FINDS WARM ADHERENTS, SUPPORTERS, AND PROMULGATORS. The busy and useful classes of society furnish the largest proportion of strength to our Churches. These have often been the salt of society, when the wealthy, luxurious, and dissolute on the one hand, and the idle and predatory on the other, would have introduced corruption and death into the body politic.—T.
1 Chronicles 4:33 -Dwellings and genealogies.
In many instances the chronicler records not only the names of the families of Israel, but the places where they were settled in fixed habitations. When the land of Canaan was conquered, it was parcelled out among the several tribes. In this way family relationships and sentiment were closely connected with territorial possession. Even certain households were attached to estates and villages. And as the Hebrews were an agricultural and pastoral people, it was natural that they should cherish an hereditary regard for the lands tilled by their fathers. The sons of Simeon transmitted to their posterity certain cities and. villages. "These were their habitations, and their genealogy."
I. A LOCAL HABITATION IS DIVINELY APPOINTED AND SANCTIONED. There are many who, as travellers and explorers, as soldiers and seamen, etc; may serve society without having any fixed abode; and homelessness may be profitable discipline in youth. But, generally speaking, a home is the best sphere of labour, the best pledge of diligence, the best guarantee of responsibility; and it is well for those who, from generation to generation, can retain the same feelings towards an ancestral abode.
II. FAMILY REGISTERS AND PEDIGREES, IN CONNECTION WITH SUCH DWELLING-PLACES, ARE OF UNDOUBTED SERVICE. The public census, the domestic register, the family tree, the civil and ecclesiastical registration of births, deaths, and marriages, are all valuable. They may be abused by pride, but they are more likely to foster humiliation. They are useful for civil purposes, contributive to family feeling, pro-motive of patriotism. The squire, the yeoman, the labourer, are all susceptible to the influence of hereditary feeling and local associations.
III. RELIGION DEALS WITH HOMES AND HOUSEHOLDS. Certain places and certain families have been noticeable and memorable for piety. And true religion is not content to deal with the individual; it seeks to leaven families with its influence, and to penetrate villages, cities, and nations with its light and spiritual power and grace.—T.
1 Chronicles 4:38. -Princes in their families.
Words transferred from one language, and one state of society to another, are often misleading. By "princes" here we are to understand head-men of certain towns which were in possession of families among the Simeonites. They were persons of importance, of consideration, and influence in their localities. The record of them hears witness to a settled state of society, and to the establishment of civil order and subordination.
I. HUMAN AUTHORITY IS OF DIVINE APPOINTMENT. That this is so in the family will be admitted by all who believe in a Creator, and in his interest in the human race. It is also admitted by thoughtful persons with regard to civil and national life. It does not follow that rulers are always righteous, or are even always to be tolerated and obeyed. It is an absurd inference to draw from the fact that sovereignty and submission in some form are of Divine appointment—that kings have nothing to do but to command, and subjects nothing but to obey. The world has had enough of absolute monarchy, and theologians have too long inculcated "the right Divine of kings to govern wrong." Still, "the powers that be are ordained of God;" it was divinely intended that men should live in civil society, and that order should be maintained and authority upheld, and justice administered between man and man.
II. As a consequence, SUBJECTION TO CIVIL AUTHORITY IS, WITHIN CERTAIN LIMITS, A HUMAN DUTY. In ordinary cases, where conscience does not enjoin the express contrary, men are bound to obey the laws of the land. Especially is this the case where, as in our own country, the government is constitutional, and the people have power to amend unjust and inexpedient laws, and to reform abuses in administration. The immoral character of lawful governors is no religious ground of resistance to their decrees.
III. RULERS, SMALL AND GREAT, ARE THEMSELVES ACCOUNTABLE TO HIM WHO IS "THE BLESSED AND ONLY POTENTATE, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS." Let them remember this, and be wise and just.—T.
1 Chronicles 4:40 -Fat pasture.
This passage relates an expedition of certain Simeonite chiefs and their followers, which took place in the days of Hezekiah. The tribe of Simeon was restless and warlike. This exploit was performed, apparently, from selfish, rapacious motives. The Simeonites wanted more pasture for their flocks; and, finding just what suited them in a territory possessed by their neighbours, they invaded their fertile and peaceful valley, slew the inhabitants, and seized their lands for their own use. What circumstances may have justified or extenuated such a proceeding we are not told.
I. PLENTY IS A DIVINE GIFT. The land itself is the gift of God. Its favourable situation, its chemical constituents, the sunshine and the moisture, which make up its fertility,—all are from him, and are proofs of his creative wisdom and goodness. The flocks and herds, and their increase, are his, whose are "the cattle upon a thousand hills." When the valleys are covered over with corn, when the sheep bleat in the pastures, when there is abundant provision for man and beast, then let our hearts ascend in gratitude to him who "openeth his hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing."
II. PLENTY HAS MANY ADVANTAGES. In communities which are abundantly supplied with the necessities and comforts of life, there is opportunity and leisure for the cultivation of arts and learning, there is stimulus for commerce and manufactures, there is capacity for benevolence and for evangelization. If it is well used, plenty is a blessing. Only let all things be received as immediately from God's hand, and be regarded as a sacred trust to be used for his glory and in his service.
III. PLENTY IS NOT WITHOUT ITS DANGERS. It was foreseen that when Israel quitted the wilderness, and entered upon possession of the land flowing with milk and honey, there would be a temptation to forget God, and to take credit for national prosperity and wealth. Against the perils of plenty and prosperity, let the fortunate and happy be ever on their guard.—T.
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
1 Chronicles 4:9, 1 Chronicles 4:10. -A model prayer.
Of the man Jabez we have only this brief record. He is only known by his prayer. Yet the prayer is a sufficient revelation of the man. His character is revealed in it, as is the character of every man to him who is able to read man's prayers aright. His name means "He causes pain," and it was attached to him on account of his mother's sufferings at his birth; but it is designed to seal a certain gentleness, lack of vigour and self assertion, and almost melancholy tone, which characterized his whole life. From the occurrence of the same name in 1 Chronicles 2:55, it has been assumed that this Jabez was the founder of the schools of colleges of the scribes. The date at which he lived cannot be fixed with certainty. Possibly the sorrow of Jabez's birth was, that his mother lost her husband when she gained her son. If so, she might well name her fatherless boy "Sorrowful." Yet he rose above the sadness of his birth; he belied his very name by becoming more honourable than his brethren. The shadow which had fallen upon his birth was dispelled by the uprightness, the nobility, the God-fearing, the prayerful spirit of his life. And God made to rest on him gracious signs of his acceptance. Regarding the prayer as giving indications of the character of Jabez, we may see —
I. THAT JABEZ WAS HUMBLE. Estimate the tone of the prayer. He has such a sense of personal helplessness, and such a trembling fear of responsibility, that he asks for guidance and keeping, and the true enrichment of the Divine blessing. He prays for strength, preservation, success, and blessing, as though a very deep sense of his own weakness and insufficiency rested upon him. Such "humility" is the marked feature of every truly good and great and wise man; and it is sure to find its fullest expression when, for purposes of prayer, he goes into the presence of God. Illustrate from Abraham's intercession for Sodom, Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple, and Daniel's and Nehemiah's prayers for their nation. And, combined with other characteristics, the same "humility" is found in our Lord's great intercessory prayer; and we know that it was a marked and striking feature of his beautiful life. Such "humility" is a first and essential characteristic of acceptable prayer; and the attitude of kneeling is the bodily expression of it.
II. THAT JABEZ WAS INTELLIGENT AND THOUGHTFUL. The prayer shows that he had formed a sensible estimate of life. To him it was a scene of toil and struggle and evil; it seemed to be full of work, duties, responsibilities, cares, and trusts; and for it all he recognized the need of a guiding and upholding hand. Illustrate by our Lord's figure of the man who proposed to build, sitting down first and counting the cost. The man may discover no need for prayer who rushes heedlessly into life, only intending to do the best he can under the various circumstances that may arise. But he who looks thoughtfully out over life, and intelligently anticipates its duties and cares, will be sure to feel the importance and helpfulness of prayer, and, with Jabez, will turn to God, saying, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!" Compare Moses praying, "If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence;" and Joshua's resolve, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
III. THAT JABEZ WAS, IN A GOOD SENSE, AMBITIOUS. His piety did not crush down the high imaginations and glowing hopes of his young heart. He prays God to help him "enlarge his coast," or landed estate; to extend his possessions, to increase his wealth, and to advance his influence. Religion seeks to sanctify our ambitions, but not to crush them. We may pray to God about our plans and schemes for worldly advancement, if only we keep the spirit of full loyalty to God and submission to his will; and to pray freely and constantly about our common human affairs is the best way to ensure our winning and keeping the right spirit whatever we may attain.
IV. THAT JABEZ WAS HAPPY. In spite of the melancholy tone that was on him; in spite of the sorrow clinging to him from his birth. This ensures our happiness—the accomplishment of our life-aims, when those aims are right ones. "God granted Jabez that which he requested." He had:
1. Success in life given him, so that he might add field to field, and become "more honourable than his brethren."
2. Evil warded off from him. In "going out and coming in," the preserving hand of God kept him safe.
3. God's blessing sanctifying his successes; by that term meaning the satisfying and comforting sense of the Divine approval and acceptance. It may be impressed that such a prayer indicates the personal piety of Jabez, and suggests that he made a full consecration of himself to the God of his fathers in early life. Plead for such a wholehearted decision, and such a spirit of prayerfulness, on the very threshold of life. It is well if, before the foot falls on the first step of life, the heart goes up to God, saying, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed!"—R.T.
1 Chronicles 4:13 -Othniel's adventure; or, the impulse of promised rewards
For the story, see Joshua 15:16, Joshua 15:17; Judges 1:12, Judges 1:13; Judges 3:9. The point of the narrative, for the sake of which it is preserved, appears to be this: Othniel acted, vigorously and successfully, under the impulse of offered reward. The daughter of one so honoured as Caleb was a prize indeed worth winning, and she was to be given to the man who, by his valour and skill, could take the city of Kirjath-sepher. Compare the offer of reward which David made on the occasion of the siege of Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 11:6). Some interest attaches to Kirjath-sepher as meaning the "Book-town,' and suggesting the existence of a literature at that time among the Canaanites. Its earlier name (Debir, oracle) may indicate that it was a national sanctuary where the national records were preserved; and, if so, we may be sure that it was securely walled and stoutly defended. The incident may be used to introduce the consideration of the appropriateness of offering rewards, as an incentive to the doing of duty, and in the higher spheres of morals and religion, where all the quality of actions must depend on the motives for which they find expression. In relation to the education and training of the young, the subject of rewards is frequently discussed; some urging that childhood needs the help to effort and perseverance which may be found in the promise of reward; while others contend that a child is deteriorated, and led to adopt false sentiments for life, who is impelled to exertion by the hope of what is to be gained by it, and not to act or to abstain from acting because the thing required is right. It may, however, be fairly contended that, besides the proper and high motives of duty and right, we may thankfully accept the aid of auxiliary motives, and that among these may be set in a first place the promise and the hope of reward. But it would seem to settle the question, that we can show so fully how God has been pleased—in lesser spheres and in greater, in temporal affairs and in spiritual, throughout all the long ages—to use the impulse of rewards. This may be fully and impressively illustrated in the Bible story; and of the character of the illustrations we give a few suggestive instances.
1. In the first trial of humanity it was distinctly understood that the maintenance of all that was gathered up in Paradise was the reward of obedience.
2. To Abraham God offered himself, in his personal favour, and in his power to guide and bless, as "his exceeding great Reward," and even Abraham's faith and loyalty were upheld by the promise that in his "seed all nations of the earth should be blessed."
3. Israel was helped to endure the rigours of Egypt, and to make a great stand for liberty, under the assurance of a great reward, even the heritage of the land that flowed with milk and honey. And it has often been pointed out that temporal prosperity in Canaan was distinctly offered as the reward of obedience to the Law.
4. The prophets—as may be most impressively seen in Isaiah—held before the people most glowing visions of coming days as the sure reward of a full and hearty national return to Jehovah.
5. Our Lord himself fitted the impulse of reward into his most gracious invitation, "Come unto me… and I will give you rest."
6. The apostles urge the disciples to all earnestness in the Christian life and labour, by the assurance that we run for an "incorruptible crown," and may hope to receive a "crown of glory, that fadeth not away." Our last sight of Christ in the Word presents him as saying," Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me." We may, then, use the promise of rewards; they appeal to sentiments and feelings in us that are good and useful. We may magnify the grace of God in even thus helping us to win "the holy." And we may reasonably expect present, and certainly look for future, gracious rewards of obedience and faithfulness.—R.T.
1 Chronicles 4:21-23 -The dignity of all work.
These verses set before us the interesting fact that God recognizes a man's occupation, and knows precisely his sphere and his work. Another striking illustration of the precision of the Divine knowledge, and the observation even of a man's handicraft, is found in Acts 10:5, Acts 10:6, where God gives these minute directions: "Send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter; he lodgeth with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside." In these verses different occupations are honourably mentioned; some wrought fine linen; others were potters and gardeners and hedgers; and so is suggested to us the honourableness and usefulness of all kinds of work. There was no such sentiment among the Jews as unhappily prevails in all so-called highly civilized countries, that there is a kind of degradation in having to work for your own living. Every Jewish boy was required to learn a trade, and the greatest rabbis preserved their dignity and learning along with service to the community in some humble occupation. Consider —
I. WORK AS A CONDITION OF HUMAN LIFE ON THE EARTH. If there is one law more absolute for mankind than another, it is that they shall work. They are set in this earth-garden, as Adam was in Paradise, to win it, to use its forces, to dress it, to keep it. For "work' man is endowed. He has muscles with the needed physical strength, and hands with the needed physical skill, and brains with the needed guidance and control. And he is in the midst of conditions that demand work; the earth will only yield her stores and her increase in response to man's work. If a man "will not work," then the law God has put into the very creation of the earth is, that, "he shall not eat." And this work-condition is designed by God to bear directly on man's moral training. Only by and through work can character grow and unfold. Toil is testing and trial, out of which alone can virtue be born. So all work is noble and holy.
II. WORK AS A CONDITION OF CIVILIZED LIFE. Here its simplicity is lost. It becomes a diversified and complicated thing. As men live together in cities a thousand fresh wants, real and fancied, become created, and trades are multiplied for the supply of the thousand wants. Work is divided and subdivided; sometimes it seems a higher kind, and sometimes a lower. While some must work by hand, others are called forth to work by voice, and pen, and brush, and chisel, and brain. Thousands must toil in various ways to supply the necessaries of life, and tens of thousands must toil to supply the ever-increasing demand for luxuries. And so, in civilized times, work seems too often to grow into man's curse; and he toils at sweat of brain as well as of face; and spends strength and health and life in winning bread from those who "fare sumptuously every day, and are clothed in purple and fine linen;" and we cannot greatly wonder that men should grow hard, and lose the high and inspiring thought of the "dignity of work."
III. THE ONE CONDITION THAT LIFTS ALL HUMAN TOIL INTO DIGNITY. Its usefulness to others. It must be done "not unto selL" And so God has "set the solitary in families," and put fathers and mothers under the pressure of family responsibility, that in toiling for others they may win the joy of work. Illustrate from the artist, the poet, etc; and see how the condition may apply to all workers.
IV. THE YET HIGHER CONDITION WHICH SETS WORK IN ITS TRUE PLACE. It must be done as service to God. Then work bears upon the culture of religious character, and becomes a stepping-stone upward to the heavenly. Character is both exhibited and cultured by it; and no kind of occupation can be regarded as mean into which character can be put, and by which others may be served, and God may be glorified. Potters, gardeners, hedgers, and workers in fine linen may all win the "Well done, good and faithful."—R.T.
1 Chronicles 4:39-41 -Might and right
The place named Gedor is not otherwise mentioned in Scripture. Ewald and Bertheau think Gerar is the true reading; and this is given in the Septuagint Version. Reference, then, is to a portion of the Philistine country, which was remarkable for its fertility (Genesis 26:6-12; 2 Chronicles 14:14,2 Chronicles 14:15). We cannot tell whether these princes had any justifiable ground for their aggression. But we may dwell on this as an instance of "might" overmastering "right;" for the earlier occupiers may be fairly considered to have had the "right," and the point of the story is that these princes grew strong, and when they had "might" they used it to drive out, and possess the lands of, those who had only "right." The Eastern mode of keeping flocks by moving them to different parts of wide pasture-grounds should be explained, and the rivalry and the quarrelling which this too often entails may be illustrated in the relations of Abraham and Lot. And the way in which weakening and decaying tribes have to yield before strong and rising tribes and nations, may illustrate the modern doctrine of the "survival of the fittest;" and instances may be found in the story of the great nations, such as Persia, Greece, Rome, etc.
I. MAN'S MIGHT IS OFTEN THOUGHT RIGHT. The two things are perfectly distinct. What we can do is not necessarily what we ought to do. And man's power must ever be held down under the mastery of a will guided by good judgment, right principles, sweet charity, and tender consideration for the claims and rights of others. The Nasmyth steam-hammer affords a good illustration of splendid power held in full control. Yet in the commoner spheres of life, as well as by kings and great men, might is often mistaken for right. It is often one of the easiest pieces of self-deception. One of the master principles swaying men is the love of power. Therefore do men get large numbers of servants, retainers, and workmen; they increase wealth and possessions; push into places of position and influence; and in every possible way seek to gain sway over their fellow-men. And this becomes a peril, and, for many men, the severest test of virtue and charity. Every true-hearted man will feel the peril of confusing might with right; and will accept the fact that these two will often be in conflict, and that, for such conflict, the issue must always be the triumph of the right. Man's might is a fatal force for the liberty of his fellow-man, unless it not only seems to be to him, but it actually is, the same as the right. So the practical question ever and again recurring in life is this: "I can, but may I? Will it be right?" Man's nobility is full loyalty to the right.
II. GOD'S RIGHT ALWAYS PROVES TO BE MIGHT. Always "in the long run," We make many mistakes by only seeing pieces and parts of things; so we sometimes say, "The way of the Lord is not equal." Yet right does always triumph, if we can properly discern the "right," and properly appraise "triumph," Right is invincible. Nature, all the good there is in the earth, all the long ages, and God himself, are on the side of the right. This is true for the individual man when, in all simplicity and loyalty, he does God's right, whatever of seeming disabilities it may involve. He may have the most perfect confidence that God will make it might, and in the due time "bring forth his righteousness as the light, and his judgment as the noonday." It may be practically enforced that man's violence overreaches itself, as did Haman's.
And that all forcings of his way and will by man imply a failing of trust in God's living love and lead. It is a spirit in striking contrast with that expressed in Jabez's prayer (1 Chronicles 4:10).—R.T.
1 Chronicles 4:43 -God's ways with Amulet
The reference of the verse is to the remnant that had escaped the great slaughter under King Saul (1 Samuel 15:7, 1 Samuel 15:8). Indications of the existence of scattered portions of this people may be found in 1 Samuel 27:8; 1Sa 30:1; 2 Samuel 8:12. The Amalekites are first mentioned in connection with the aggressive expedition of Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:7). They occupied the country between Palestine, Idumaea, and Mount Sinai, on the elevated plateau now called Er-Rakhmah. They were a nomad people, and their towns were but collections of tents; they were rich in flocks and herds, and seem to have acquired a vast power by their bold predatory habits. They were consequently most dangerous neighbours for Israel to have so close upon their borders. For the Scripture references to the Amalekites, see Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19; Numbers 14:40-45; Numbers 24:20; Judges 3:13; Judges 6:3-5; Judges 12:15.
I. THE SIN OF AMALEK. This is distinctly stated in 1 Samuel 15:2 : "I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt." The expressions used appear to indicate some peculiar treachery in the conduct of this tribe. Probably they regarded themselves as having the sole right to the pasture-grounds in the valleys and plains of the higher ranges of Sinai, and so thought to cut off the advancing hosts of Israel, by taking them in detail as they toiled through the several passes. It may also be urged that the knowledge of the deliverance through the Red Sea had spread among the tribes of the desert; it declared this people to be under Jehovah's lead, and increased the responsibility of all who attempted to hinder their progress. Amalek added to its sin by incursions in the time of the judges, and by constant annoyance, which in part may explain the severe manner in which it was dealt with. The principle of the treatment of Amalek's sin may be illustrated by our Lord's words, "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea."
II. THE DIVINE JUDGMENT ON AMALEK. Remarkable for its severity. Explain that the form and degree of Divine judgments must fit into the customs and sentiments of each age, if they are to exert the proper moral influence upon the age. The extermination of a race was not regarded in Saul's time as, with our Christian sentiments, we should regard it now. Human life is less valued in the East, and tribal, dynastic, and national changes have always been more sudden, frequent, and violent. Still, this would be, even in those days, so severe a judgment as to prove a solemn warning to the wilful who would try to force their own will against God.
III. MAN'S EXECUTION OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT. It is of the utmost importance, for the due understanding of Old Testament Scripture, that God may use any of his creatures as agents in carrying out his judicial sentences; and man may be his executioner as well as plague, famine, or tempest. In such case what the man has to do for God is right, and the man only comes under the judgments of God for the spirit and the way in which he does it. Saul is not judged for slaying the Amalekites, but for not executing his commission fully and faithfully.
IV. MAN'S FAILURE IN EXECUTING THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS. Distinguish between man the agent, and man the individual God looks upon the man, and treats with him in both ways. Man's trusts from God become tests of man for God. And it may be that the more complicated and difficult the trust is, the more satisfactory it may prove as a moral test. Man is honoured in being permitted to carry out God's plans and purposes. He may even, from the gospel standpoint, be a "co-worker together with God." But God will not fail to carry out his plans to perfection, even when men may seem to fail him.—R.T.
HOMILIES BY R. GLOVER
1 Chronicles 4:9, 1 Chronicles 4:10 -The prayer of Jabez.
"Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called him 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." But little is known of this man; known in his generation as a man of prayer; famous for the directness and simplicity of his appeal to God and for the success attending it. Probably he gave his name to Jabez, the town mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2:55, as Bethlehem, Ephratah, Tekoa, and many named in these genealogies did. If so—and the identity of several names in the respective genealogies, and the singular eminence and honour of the man, give great weight to supposition—then we know something of his ancestry and something of his descendants. Of his ancestry; for then 1 Chronicles 2:55 makes him a Kenite, and a descendant of Jonadab the son of Rechab, one of the early sect described in Jeremiah 35:1-19; who, probably called into existence by the testimony of Elijah, cultivated simplicity of creed, rejecting all idolatry; simplicity of life, dwelling in tents; simplicity of food, drinking neither wine nor strong drink. A sect ready to help Jehu in his reformation (2 Kings 12:15,2 Kings 12:16); respected by those who could not copy them; blessed and honoured by God. And we know something of his descendants; for he was in that case the founder of the school of scribes, who did so much in the later centuries of Jewish national history to revive and maintain the purer worship of God. A sect of married monks, whose only vow was simplicity of life, they seemed to exemplify all the advantages derivable from special callings, consecration, and brotherhood, while free from all their defects. Their earnest faith turned them to the Bible as the best preservative of a people from error. And their simple tent-life gave them leisure. Probably Jabez was a sort of William Tyndale of his generation, bent on giving his people the Bible in their homes. Tyndale by translation, Jabez merely by transcription, both gave the priceless treasure to multitudes who before had lacked it. Assuming these things, there are some lessons from his character and from his prayer that are worth observing.
I. FIRST, A GOOD SOIL HELPS TO MAKE A GOOD PLANT. In all self-denial there is advantage. Power of will, energy of purpose, security against temptation, are all furthered by it. These early total abstainers had some of the vigour marking the class in all ages. The poet had not in their case to lament that "the days of simple living and high thinking were no more." But there they were. The John the Baptists of their time in simplicity of life and profundity of thought and faith. The home moulds the child. Let your children find in their parents' life purity, brightness, love, and they will more easily copy it. Like as Milton and Cromwell rose among the Puritans, so Jabez rose among the Rechabites. Observe —
II. SOME LIVES BEGIN IN GREAT SORROW THAT LEAVE BEHIND THEM GREAT JOY. What the mother's grief was we do not know. It may have been unusual pain and danger at his birth. It may have been (the father is not mentioned) that she lost her husband before she bore her child. And the melancholy of her heart made her despair of any brightness, and give her boy (an unfair thing to do) a depressing name. It is possible, too, that some sorrow may have arisen out of this prayer. If it did, we may observe that a dull morning often opens into a bright day. The early life may be obscure, pressed with disadvantages, all uphill, and yet we may reach a stately usefulness and comfort.
"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars,
But in ourselves."
III. LOOK AT HIS PRAYER. There are many points about it worthy of remark.
1. That whatever touched his life he took it to his God.
2. That he blends in his prayer the requests for moral and the outward mercies which make up well-being. "That thou wouldest bless me indeed," is probably a prayer for highest spiritual mercies; for God's smile, God's grace, forgiveness, peace. "And enlarge my coast." This was prayer for outward advantage. Large lands not needed for their simple living; probably they were needed only for the increasing number of disciples. "That thy hand may be with me" seems again a spiritual petition; a prayer for guidance pre-eminently, and for God's aid. The worldly don't want God's hand with them; it is apt to stop the flow of their purposes and schemes. But the devout want God to be a partner in all their business. "And to keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." Here is an illusion to his name. And probably the prayer means, "Disappoint a mother's fears, and let not harm overtake me." In estimating aright the worth of this prayer, the following suggestion may be of value:—Only those prayers are vital and real which, like this, combine requests for outward and inward good. When you pray, say," Give us daily bread, and forgive us our debts." If you omit to ask for the bread, you may be pretty sure it is not the greatness of your spirituality that omits the request, but only the littleness of your faith, which makes you imagine God can do nothing so substantial as bless you in your common needs. What is wanted by all of us is goodness rather than spirituality, and a religion of common life rather than a strained, unnatural pietism. Jabez had grand faith that God ruled in common life, was lowly enough to bless him, and to help him in his work. Observe, lastly —
IV. THE LORD'S ANSWER. It came to him. Came so palpably that all could see it, that it was a matter of history, that it taught others that they had a Friend above, and led them to the throne of grace. Blessed is the circle in which somebody prays! Pray on. You will not need to proclaim the answers you receive; your neighbours will see it for themselves. And your prayer will thus be doubly blessed. It will secure for you the good you desire, and will guide many another to the throne of the heavenly grace, to get there the blessings which they require.—G.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
1 Chronicles 4:9, 1 Chronicles 4:10 -A life and its lessons
Two verses only relate the life of Jabez, but they suffice to give us some idea of its nature and character; also to convey some lessons for our guidance as we pass through our own.
I. THREE FEATURES OF HIS LIFE. We learn that:
1. It was begun in special sorrow. His mother called him Jabez because she "bare him with sorrow." Possibly his father had died before his birth, or their estate may have been so reduced as to make another child seem a burden rather than a blessing.
2. It was characterized by special piety. He made his future the subject of earnest prayer to God; he earnestly desired that God would bless him in all his doings, that the Divine hand might be upon him; he evidently believed and felt that all things were ruled and overruled by the Lord himself. He "committed his way unto the Lord."
3. It was crowned with special peace and honour. "God granted him that which he requested" (1 Chronicles 4:10). He was "more honourable than his brethren"—had a larger estate, was held in higher esteem, attained to greater eminence. God did "keep him from the evil" from which he sought Divine deliverance, and it did "not grieve him." He did "enlarge his coast." Peace and honour were his portion in an unusual degree. His life must have had its shadow as well as its sunshine, but it was brighter with earthly honour and less clouded with worldly troubles than are the lives of most men.
II. THE LESSONS WE MAY GLEAN THEREFROM. We learn:
1. That that which has an unpromising beginning may stand among the best. How little did the mother of Jabez imagine that the child of her sorrow would have so honourable a career! The most successful and even glorious enterprise may be begun in weakness and in trembling of heart. That which was once only a small gathering in a back slum has grown into a magnificent and beneficent institution. They that sow in tears may reap in joy. If God prosper a human life or a good cause, its early insignificance will prove of small account. Many a time the widow's child, for whom it has been hard to find food and education, has grown to be a man of weight and honour, filling a large space and doing a great work in the world.
2. That it is right to ask God for material blessings in the hope of obtaining them. These were earthly favours which Jabez asked for, and which he received of God—enlargement of his estate, immunity from trouble and loss, etc. We have no authority for asking God for wealth or immunity from sorrow with a positive assurance that we shall have those things. We do not know that they will suit us; it is quite possible, or even probable, that they would prove the very worst things we could have. But we may ask God for temporal blessings, in the hope of receiving them, if we ask in a subject spirit, desiring him to withhold from us what he knows it would be best to keep back. We are to pray for daily bread; that "his hand may be with us;" that he will be with us in our going out and our coming in.
3. That God is never served in vain. God granted Jabez that which he requested. He may not give us our heart's desires in the form in which we cherish them. The "cup" did not "pass from" the Saviour, but he "was heard in that he feared" (Hebrews 5:7). God has ways of blessing us of which we have little thought when we are on our knees. But if we ask we shall have—if not sooner, later; if not in our way, in his better way.—C.
1 Chronicles 4:11-43-General truths from genealogical tables.
Reading lessons from this list of names, we gather —
I. THAT OBSCURITY IS BETTER THAN PROMINENCE FOR MOST OF US. In this long table we have one or two celebrated men, such as Caleb (1 Chronicles 4:15) and Othniei (1 Chronicles 4:13), but most of them are men of no repute. We only know their names and their relationship to those that preceded and followed them. It is a mere truism to say that the generality of men must spend their lives in obscurity, that it is only a few who can be conspicuous. But it is a truth worth treasuring, that lowliness of position is far better for most of us than elevation would he. But few men can bear distinction without spiritual deterioration. The graces which the Master most loves to see (and those which are most acceptable to man also) flourish in the quiet valley far better than on the lofty mountain. If God ordain prominence, "Be not high-minded, but fear." If obscurity be our portion, let us say with the psalmist, "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty," etc. (Psalms 131:1). Let us not be envious of the exalted, but rather be thankful that we are not exposed to their peculiar perils.
"He that is down need fear no fall,
He that is low no pride."
II. THAT GOD PUTS HONOUR ON THE USEFUL ARTS. It is specially mentioned of some "that they were craftsmen;" of others that they were members of the "house of them that wrought fine linen" (1 Chronicles 4:21). It is significant enough that, in this brief recital, these two industries should have honourable mention. We should feel that when we cut and carve, when we spin and weave, when we are occupied in manufactures, when we are turning, by industry and knowledge, the materials around us into objects of service and of beauty, we are not only "making money," enriching our nation, gratifying human tastes, we are also fulfilling the will of God concerning us, we are doing that for which he placed us here; and we should engage in all useful arts as in his sight, serving him in all our labour.
III. THAT CONTENTED INDUSTRY IS BETTER THAN SUCCESSFUL VIOLENCE. Two instances are given at the close of the chapter (1Ch 4:39-41, 1 Chronicles 4:42, 1 Chronicles 4:43) of appropriation by violence. The sons of Simeon took forcible possession of" fat pasture and good," where "the land was wide, and quiet, and peaceable;" they established themselves there by "utterly destroying" the inhabitants. Others of them (1 Chronicles 4:42) repeated the same deed of violence. Possibly they may have been justified in their act by commands which were binding, or by a permission which was sufficient. Probably they satisfied their own conscience, and wrought their work without compunction. But we read with far greater pleasure of the craftsmen who gave their name to the valley by their industry (1 Chronicles 4:14) and of those who "wrought fine linen" and of those engaged in simple agriculture (1 Chronicles 4:23), and thus gained a peaceful, houourable livelihood. Feats of arms are brilliant things in their way, but beneath the surface are heartrending injuries, and long after they are performed comes a series of sorrows. The industry and energy which work no injury to the conscience, and which carry benefit and comfort in their train, are immeasurably to be preferred to "the pomp and circumstance of war."
IV. THAT IT IS WISE TO CONSIDER OURSELVES IN THE LIGHT IN WHICH WE LOOK AT OTHERS. The chronicler remarks, shortly but significantly, "These are ancient things" (1 Chronicles 4:22). The events of his "modern" time are now very much more "ancient" to us than those old times of which he was writing were to his generation. We stand in the graveyard, and the sloping, timeworn tombstones speak to our hearts of the distant days in which once lived the generation beneath our feet. The day will come when we shall be separated by the same breadth of time from the living men that will then be walking where we sleep. We shall soon be nothing to the world but the people of a day that is passed.
1. How great is the folly of men who own no treasure but that of this transient time!
2. How true the wisdom of those whose portion no graveyard will hold, who in the far hereafter will live with God, and be rich with the wealth of Heaven (Revelation 2:15-17)!—C.
HOMILIES BY F. WHITFIELD
1 Chronicles 4:9-Jabez: his history.
Supposed to be the son of Kenaz, and an eminent doctor of the law, whose reputation drew around him so many scribes and learned men that a town was called by his name (see 1 Chronicles 2:55). We have seen the pre-eminence given to the tribe of Judah on account of its connection with the promised Christ. Before tracing further the genealogy of the sons of Israel, an entire chapter is devoted to the family of David. This is just as it should be—still further prominence being given to every one and everything that foreshadowed the true David, the Lord Jesus Christ. The line of David is drawn all through the third chapter, through a succession of good and bad monarchs. The Lord's eye is on his beloved Son; and the stream that leads to him winds its way through wastes and stagnant pools and dark morasses lying on either side—everything marked which in any way stands connected with it, but beyond this as unworthy of notice. We can now devote attention to one of God's children in particular, and recorded in this chapter—Jabez. In the midst of a genealogy of some extent, the Spirit of God singles one out for notice, and lingers over it with delight. It is a bright gem on an apparently hard and uninteresting surface shining with brilliancy. It is a name, however, fully confirming all we have hitherto referred to. It would have no notice in the inspired Word but for what there is of God in it. We know much of God in Jabez, very little of who or what he was. Of what he was in relation to the world, in relation to his fellow-men, or to society, or to business, we know little. Of what he was to God there is much said and much known. What matters the rest? We may be sure that was all right. For if men are right towards Christ we may take the rest for granted. It is this that gave Jabez a name in heaven. This made him worthy of a record in the Book of God. But for this he would have been unnoticed and unknown. And what is said of him? "Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow." God's sorrowing ones are generally God's more honourable ones. It is through sorrow we reach our joys. "Ye now therefore have sorrow, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy." It is God's order—sorrow the portal to joy. The darkness first, then the light; tribulation here, then the kingdom; discipline here, then the glory. God's secret place is darkness. The pavilion round about him are "dark waters and thick clouds"—the dark waters of sorrow, the thick clouds of baffling enigma and unfathomable mystery. But inside this pavilion of darkness and cloud there is always a brightness (Psalms 18:11, Psalms 18:12). This brightness is the unchanging love of him who is "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person." Under his shadow the dark waters and thick clouds will all in due time disperse. Yes, every thick cloud and every dark waterflood will melt before his love, who is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." Before the air can be cleared and the calm stillness of nature be felt, the thunder-clouds must gather and the lightning-flash be seen. The stillness of nature comes heralded by tokens of terror. It is the order of God, both in nature and grace. We see the darkness first, and call it "Jabez." We meet with bereavement and write "Jabez" upon it, though God makes it a blessed means of drawing us to fix our affections on a world that can never pass away. We meet with disappointment and vexation and worry, and write "Jabez" upon one thing after another. Yet all these things come out, in the wonder-working of God's providence, in the deep riches of his grace, as dealings "more honourable," as blessings in disguise. They are the discipline of his hand, bringing glory to him and blessing to our own souls.
"Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face."
And what is the prominent feature in the character of this man of God noticed by the Holy Spirit? It is prayer. "And Jabez called upon the God of Israel." Jabez was a man of prayer. In this aspect he is first presented to us. Oh that this was the marked feature in us all! A man of prayer means a man blessed of God. A man of prayer means, in its truest sense, a man of God. It means a marked man—one distinguished from others by communion with God, and carrying that mark about him in all his least and greatest acts. This is the man on whom the Holy Spirit loves to linger, and singles him out from a mere mass of genealogies that have nothing worthy of notice, and holds him before us for a moment as the one "whom the King delighteth to honour." But on whom did Jabez call? 1%t on God; not on abstract deity; not on some "unknown God"—some almighty abstraction whom we are for ever groping after, but whom we can never know. No; this is the atheist's god, the Socinian's god, the rationalist's god, the god of all men who know not God in Christ. Jabez knew better. He "called on the God of Israel"—the covenant God, the God of his .fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The saints of the Old Testament had one expression with regard to God which corresponded exactly with the expression used by the saints of the New Testament. The latter knew God as "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ;" the former knew God as the "God of Israel," the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." And these two meant exactly the same. The God in covenant, and keeping that covenant for ever; the God who called his people out of the idolatry of heathenism; who" accounts" them righteous before him; who separates them from the world to be his people; who loves them, and keeps them, and causes them to inherit the land; and who does all this, not because of their deservings, but because of his own rich mercy. This is the "God of Israel," the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." And Jabez knew this God. He addresses him as One with whom he is .familiar; he values his blessing above all others; he feels the need of his "hand," his presence, continually; he feels the need of being "kept," and feels that God only can keep him; he feels his own liability to evil, and casts himself, in the conviction of his weakness, upon him. Oh, surely Jabez was no ordinary child of God!—W.
1 Chronicles 4:10-Jabez's prayer.
I. Mark the first line of his prayer: "Oh that thou wouldest BLESS ME INDEED!" He needs the blessing of his covenant God. He pleads for it. He pleads earnestly. It is real prayer. It is such prayer God bears, such prayer he loves to hear and to answer. But oh] there is many a blessing which may not be a blessing "indeed." Of this Jabez is aware. He asks not for a blessing, but a blessing indeed—for that which will be a real blessing. He asks not for that which may come in the form of a blessing and in the end prove a curse. He asks for that to come which will be a real, permanent, abiding blessing. "Let it come in what shape it may. That, Lord, I leave to thee. Let it come in darkness or in light, in suffering and sorrow or in health and gladness, in the abundance of wealth or the desolation of poverty—any way as best may seem to thee, Lord; only let it be a blessing to me, a blessing 'indeed.'" Ah, this is prayer, and the right sort of prayer. There was something like it, only in an infinitely higher degree, in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, thy will be done." There was just this difference between the Son of God in the bosom of the Father and those who are sons of God only by adoption. He did not need the strengthening angel from heaven to give him that submission of will. It was not till after that submission the angel appeared to strengthen him. The angel was sent, not to produce submission of spirit, but for the weakness of the body, and to carry out the work of redemption. His holy soul was always submissive. It was his nature to be so. With us, however, it is different. We need the strengthening angel to help us to submission to the Father's will as well as to do the work of God. Our nature is essentially rebellious. We require the discipline of God's hand to bring us to submit. His holy soul was submission itself. There is a passage in the New Testament which corresponds exactly with this distinction I have drawn in the prayer of Jabez between a blessing and a blessing "indeed." Our Lord said to the Jews (John 8:31, John 8:32), "If ye continue in my Word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." It is one thing to be a "disciple," it is another to be a "disciple indeed." Many were "disciples" in our Lord's time; how few were the "disciples indeed"! Many followed him, but from what motives? How few "continued in the Word," "knew the truth" with that deeper knowledge of the heart, and were "made free" by that knowledge—" free" from the bondage of guilt and sin, "free" from the power of sin over their lives, "free" from all that which they felt was contrary to the glory of God! Ah, how little of this freedom there may be with all our discipleship! This is what it is to be a "disciple indeed." This is what it is to be "blessed indeed." Reader, are you a "disciple indeed"?
II. Mark the next petition: "And wouldest ENLARGE MY COAST." Probably the coast which he prays may be enlarged was some earthly possession. He speaks as one who had to recover from the hand of the enemy his portion of the promised land. For the recovery of this he was about to engage in war. And what a spiritual lesson we learn from it! It is by conflict the child of God obtains more and more of the blessings laid up for him in Christ. The Word of the Lord is to him what it was to Israel of old: "Go ye up and possess the land;" "There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed." Oh, what blessings are laid up for us in Christ! Why do we not enter into our inheritance? God has indeed "blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ," but have we possessed them? Have we drunk deep of these wells of living waters? Are our souls living upon the riches that are hid in Christ for us? Why do we not possess the land which Jesus has won for us? Because, dear reader, there is no conflict. We must fight to enjoy. We must know what it is, hour after hour, to engage in conflict—yes, in a bloody conflict—with the world, the flesh, and the devil. We must grapple hour after hour with flesh and blood—with "the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." We must know keenly what it is to pluck out a right eye, and cut off a right hand or a right foot. We must know the struggle with sloth and indulgence, with natural inclinations and desires, with unholy dispositions, and harsh tempers, and unkind words, and a fault-finding spirit. Have we entered into, are we daily engaged in, a conflict like this? Ah, you will never be a "disciple indeed" unless you know something of this agony. It is through conflict, through warring a good warfare, that God opens the floodgates of the soul for all the treasures of his grace to flow in. You may know them and talk about them; but have you possessed the good land? Is it not true that "there remaineth yet"—yes, yet after all these years of Christian discipleship—"very much land to be possessed"? Oh I no warfare, no conflict, no struggle; then no deep joy, no sweet peace, no uplifting communion with God, no realized sweetness of the Word, no real growth in grace, no likeness to Christ. Jabez's coast would never have been enlarged without a deadly struggle with the foe. There will be no enlargement of coast with you, Christian, without this. It is thus we see it in the Lord's address to the seven Churches. Every promise is made there not to the Christian as such, not to the disciple, but "to him that overcometh." They are made to the "disciple indeed"—to the one who knows something not only of what it is to fight, but to win. Yes, Christian, your soul has been saved by Christ's finished work; but every inch of the ground beyond must be fought for. You will pass into God's presence a naked soul—just saved. Where are the laurels you have won? Where is the ground around you bedewed with your tears from struggling in prayer? Where is the inward struggle against indolence and sloth, against yielding to natural inclination, against a censorious spirit, against some unkind word at your fireside, against some light or frivolous thought? Where is the holy anxiety to redeem time for God? Where is the agony and bloody sweat against temptation and sin? Where is the soul's inward yearning after God? Where is the surrender to him hour after hour—the full consecration of self and all things to his glory? Oh, this is the warfare with the foe; and the man who knows something of this alone knows what it is to have "enlargement of coast." Precious prayer! Lord, "enlarge my coast"! Make more room in my heart, in my life, for thee! I am so narrow, so cramped, so straitened, so wretchedly little! Oh, enlarge this straitened soul of mine! Make more room for thyself in me and in everything about reel Yes, in my time, my pleasures, my duties, my cares, my aims, my household, my children, my servants,—in all make more room for thyself! Come, Lord Jesus, "enlarge my coast." And do it now! Let me not wait another day, another hour. Reader, are you ready for this? Will you to-day make this your prayer? Believe it, you will not be a stranger to the joy of the Lord any longer if you will. Oh, make this your prayer and your aim! "Go ye up and possess the land," for "there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed."
III. What is the next petition? "That THINE HAND MIGHT BE WITH ME." The band of God is the presence of God. But it is more. It is God in activity. It is God in life and power. It is the psalmist's holy longing: "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God." The hand of God is God in power on our behalf. What was the hand of Jesus? What mighty works were done by it! It touched the leper, and all disease fled. It touched the dead, and made it start into life again. It was laid on a sinking disciple, and held him amid the boiling water-floods. It was laid on a loving disciple who had fallen prostrate before the glory of the Son of man, and it raised him to his feet again, and enabled him to stand in the midst of all the unveiled glories of the Apocalypse. Oh, the hand of the God-man Jesus, what power there was in it!
Thus Jabez prays, "That thine hand may be with me." Thus the child of God may ever pray. It is just what we need—him with us in all his glorious power; him to put away our leprous sin; him to raise our dead souls to life; him to uphold our sinking souls amid the storms and tempests of life; him to raise us out of the dust of grovelling earthliness, and make us look into the glory before us; him to bless us; him to do all. "That thine hand may be with me." Reader, it is just what you need—a living Jesus at your side from day to day, and hour to hour.
IV. Mark the concluding petition: "That thou wouldest KEEP ME FROM EVIL, that it may not grieve me." Observe, reader, it is not a prayer to be kept from evil. It is a prayer to be kept from the effects of evil. "That it may not grieve me." "Have we received good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?" "Shall there be evil in a city, and I have not done it?" The Christian cannot pray to be delivered from evil. He will have sorrow and suffering and trial here. The eye must often weep over sin; the heart must often mourn over its depravity. Temptation must be constantly endured. But this the soul may pray for—that the sin within us and the temptations around us may not grieve or hurt the soul. This he may pray for—that his evil heart may not draw him from God; that an evil nature may not be yielded to; that an evil spirit may not deaden his soul, and leave him cold and heartless to the Saviour and his glory. There is no exemption from evil here. It is in us and around us on every side. But, blessed be God, we have One dwelling within us, even the Holy Spirit, and through his mighty working evil may be turned into a blessing. It is for this we may pray, we must pray. Your danger is not in possessing an evil heart, but in yielding to it. Your danger is not being on the verge of a precipice, but in being unwatchful there. Oh, pray this prayer, Christian reader!—W.
1 Chronicles 4:31-43 -The Simeonites.
This tribe is classed with that of Judah, as their possessions were partly taken out of their extensive territory (see Joshua 19:1). As Simeon had only a limited portion of the land of Judah, they were forced to seek accommodation elsewhere. In consequence of their sloth or cowardice, some of the cities within their allotted territory were only nominally theirs, and were never taken from the Philistines till David's time, when, the Simeonites having forfeited all claim to them, he transferred them to the tribe of Judah (see 1 Samuel 27:6). Let us learn two lessons from this tribe—first, with reference to this transfer, and second, with reference to the sad results that followed the supineness or cowardice which characterized it.
1. We learn from Genesis 49:5-7 that cruelty characterized this son of Jacob, and that righteous retribution followed. Also we see how one sin begets another. Cruelty has in its train cowardice. True bravery and magnanimity is the result of a nature ennobled by Divine grace. Wherever we find cruelty, there we may be certain to find cowardice and supineness. One strengthened grace strengthens every other in the man. One indulged sin weakens every grace, and begets sins which bear that sin's "image and superscription" at every turn and throughout many generations. Simeon's descendants, though not personally guilty of their father's sin, have the brand upon them. Their sins are but the outward ripple on the stream where their father cast in the first stone of crime. Thus Simeon's sin lived in his generations. Thus men live long after they are dead. All true living influence begins to be potent after we have disappeared from the scene. How solemn, then, how awfully responsible, is each one's life!
2. Now look at the sad results of their supineness. Inasmuch as they did not fight the Philistines and gain possession of their cities, David took them from them and allotted them to Judah. What a remarkable confirmation of our Lord's words, "To him that hath [Judah] shall more be given; and from him that hath not [Simeon] even that he hath shall be taken away"! See another consequence of this supineness. They sought larger territory, and found it in the pastures of Gederah. For a time all seemed bright and prosperous. But soon they were attacked by foes, and had to fly to Mount Seir. This would have been unnecessary had they been valiant, fought the Philistines, and become possessed in reality of what they had only nominal possession before. Reader, learn the solemn warning. "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life;" "Make your calling and election sure." Make that nominal possession of Christ—that profession of religion you wear—a reality, a true and living possession. Thus will you, too, save yourself from similar results, and will reap your reward.—W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent