I am indebted to a fellow patriarch in Germany (Die Gnade unsers Herrn Jesus Christus sei mit eurem Geist, Brüder!) who today pointed out a scripture I had never before seen, perhaps because it is tucked inbetween some rather boring genealogical records, a practice which is, incidentally, attested in non-biblical genealogical texts from the Near East (not that they probably thought such records were boring ... it's only we Westerners who have lost our cherishing of family, clan and tribe who seem to think such things are of little or no importance). My message today to the international patriarchal community is based on this scripture:
Now what a wonderful prayer that was from a true patriarch - a sensitive man filled with the honour of Yahweh! And what a prophetic Messiah-centred man also!
"Now Jabez was more honorable (noble) than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, 'Because I bore him in pain.' And Jabez called on the Elohim (God) of Israel saying, 'Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause (be free from -- NIV) pain!' So Elohim (God) granted him what he requested" (1 Chronicles 4:9-10, NKJV).
The pain he brought to his mother was similar to that Rachel experienced with the birth of Benjamin - labour pains. The birth killed Jacob's plural wife and her son's descendants were to bring Israel mixed blessings. But I suppose the chief Benjamite we remember and honour was the illustrious Apostle Paul. But who has heard of Jabez? Maybe it's time that the name of this Judahite clan leader was spread a little more widely.
What is nobility? What kinds of people does Yahweh consider noble or honourable?
The word "honourable" derives from the Hebrew kabhedh meaning 'weighty' - someone who is sober and serious-minded, not light-headed, frivolous, flippant, superficial or shallow. It is related to the word hodh meaning 'beauty' and 'majesty', appropriate amplifications of the quality.
"Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11, NIV)
Because Jabez was of this disposition, as were the Bereans, Yahweh answered his prayer, and we must presume that his clan territory was enlarged, that he was protected from harm, and spared from causing pain to others (or, as a variant translation puts it, spared from pain himself).
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the Elohim (God) of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus), after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 5:8-11, NKJV).
The key word here is "pain", something in this life that is pretty well inescapable in one form or another. Polygamy, as I have discussed many times elsewhere, potentially brings with it much pain especially if the patriarch himself does not possess a degree of maturity such as is manifested in sobriety and weightiness. He knows, if he is a true patriarch, that his calling is a "weighty" one, for he carries much responsibility on his shoulders.
WHY ISAAC WAS NOT A POLYGAMIST
I know many patriarchs wonder why Isaac was never a polygamist. We look up to his wife as our example in following Yahweh's will in the selection of a mate, but what do we look up to in Isaac himself?
The reason Isaac was never a polygamist was because he was a 'mommy's boy'. He was spoiled and pandered. According to the pseudepigraphical Book of Jasher (Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel1:18), which (if it is authentic) was first published in English in 1887, the boy was mollycoddled by his mother, Sarah, and not actually weaned until he was an adult! My own impression is that he was quite an effeminite man and I would guess that Rebekah (which in Hebrew means 'flattery') ran circles round him. Effeminate men do not make good patriarchs or polygamists. (By the same token maccho men who are bursting to the brim with testosterone are unlikely to make good patriarchs either). We read:
My own view is that Isaac's relationship to his mother was 'too close' (no doubt she was over-protective of him because of her advanced age and for fear that the Messiah's seed might be cut off) and that Rebekah, in a way, became a substitute mother-figure - hence he found comfort in his new wife. Men cannot grow up naturally to be what Yahweh ordained them to be if they are tied too closely to their mothers' apron strings and this is the main reason, I believe, that Isaac was unqualified to be a polygamist. I believe Isaac's favouritism towards the wilder, more maccho-masculine Esau was in part a subconscious yearning to be the man he ought to have been. Rebekah, by contrast, preferred Jacob (Genesis 25:28). Isaac's weakness is further revealed in his incident with Abimelech in deceiving the Philistine king into believing his wife was his sister (Genesis 26) ... you see how the sins of the fathers are repeated through us? Abraham had the same weakness - not only with Pharaoh, but with the father or grandfather of the very Abimelech who lusted after Rebekah. Both Abraham and Isaac picked or obtained ravishing beauties and it wasn't long before lusty pagan monarchs fixed their eyes on them ... another good reason, ladies, why you should dress modestly and not imitate the dress and make-up habits of the hedonists.
"So [Rebekah] became [Isaac's] wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death" (Genesis 24:66, NIV).
Like his father, Isaac grew rich, and excited the envy of his neighbours, forcing him to move. His eldest son, whom he favoured so highly, then went and married a heathen Hittite called Judith, which was a source of much grief to him and his wife (Genesis 26:27).
That Isaac was favoured of Yahweh is not in doubt, but that he was not suitable polygamous material seems probable. He was too much interested in food and favoured his elder son because he was a good hunter and answered to his stomach. He was not suitable material for polygamy.
Isaac and his mother Sarah
I would love to have known more about Jabez's family. Noble men and women interest me because there is so much we can learn from them. "... that I might not cause pain" tells me volumes about the man. He was a true Judahite (Jew). He did not ride roughshod over people but treated them with consideration and respect. His name reminded him of how his mother had suffered to bring him into the world and created a sensitivity within him not to wish the same on any man. A patriarch must therefore be both firm as well as mild. Pity the wife who has a firm but hard-hearted man, or the children who have a weakling of a father, or their mother who, through their father's lack of maleness, may in some respects be forced into a Jezebel rôle.
So, to you patriarchs who may be reading this, may the blessing of Jabez be yours - to enlarge your ministries, to have the hand of Yahweh guide you to keep you from evil and from doing evil to others. Amen.