The Prayer of JabezBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
After diverging to discuss the descendants of David in the previous chapter, the narrative now resumes with the rest of the descendants of Judah.
In verses 9-10, we are told about Yavetz (Jabez), whom the Talmud in Temura (16a) identifies with the Judge Osniel (from the Book of Judges, natch!). Yavetz was the most honored of his family and he made a famous prayer. He vowed something if G-d would bless him and grant him a pleasant life. We’re not told what Yavetz promised, but we are told that G-d granted his request.
Verse 15 introduces Kalev the son of Yefuneh to the Book of Chronicles. (Again, there are those who identify him with the previously mentioned Kalev the son of Chetzron and others who assume them to be different individuals.)
Did you ever hear that Pharaoh’s daughter, who had rescued and raised Moses, converted and was named Batya (or Basya or Bisya)? That can be found here, in verse 18. Bisya, the daughter of Pharaoh, married a man named Mered and she is referred to by the verse as a “Jewish wife.”
Verse 22 discusses the conquest of Moab, an event not discussed elsewhere in Scripture. The text (which, you may recall from the introduction, was compiled by Ezra from a variety of sources) says that this information is based on “ancient traditions.” The Radak discusses the reliability of such sources, faithfully transmitted.
Yoash and Saraf, who became prominent in Moab, are identified with Machlon and Chilyon, the husbands of Ruth and Orpah in the Book of Ruth. There is a Talmudic dispute (Baba Basra 91a) over which names are their given names and which names are applied homiletically in order to impart wisdom to the student. The conclusion is that their given names were Machlon and Chilyon and that the names Yoash and Saraf mean that they despaired of redemption and deserved to consumed (based on the Hebrew roots of those names).
Having finished accounting for the descendants of Judah, the text continues with the line of Simeon. The cities occupied by Simeon were scattered throughout the territory of Judah. The population of Judah grew much more quickly than that of Simeon, so by the time David became king the people of Simeon had been crowded out of some of their cities. The text also notes that the Tribe of Simeon retained their genealogical records, from which Ezra could gather information. (This was probably because they lived among Judah; most of the ten Tribes lost their records when they were exiled by the Assyrians.)
When they lost some of their Judean cities, the people of Simeon expanded into territory previously occupied by descendants of Noah’s son Ham. They also conquered Mt. Seir, which was the refuge of Amalekites that had not been eradicated by King Saul or David. The people of Simeon occupied Mt. Seir until they were exiled. (The text says “until this day,” but Ezra is quoting the pre-exile documents.)