Eponym of a clan of the Kenite family of the Rechabites, which clan was merged into the tribe of Judah. I Chron. ii. 55 refers to "families of scribes" ("soferim") dwelling at Jabez; while in another passage (ib. iv. 9-10) Jabez is described as "more honorable than his brethren." His name (Ya'beẓ) is derived from his mother's saying: "I bare him with sorrow" ("'oẓeb"). Another explanation is (ib. iv. 10, Hebr.): "Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, 'If Thou wilt bless me and enlarge my boundary, and Thine hand be with me, and Thou wilt give me friendships that will not grieve me [an allusion to "'eẓeb"] then' [the concluding words are omitted in the text; see the commentaries to iv. 10]. And God granted him that which he requested."
Jabez was prominent, particularly after the Exile, among those Kenite clans that embraced Judaism, becoming scribes and teachers of the Law. Rabbinical tradition identifies Jabez with Othniel the Kenezite, the head of the bet ha-midrash after the death of Moses (Tem. 16a; Targ. to I Chron. ii. 55, iv. 9). Hence the vow of Jabez was understood to refer to his schoolhouse: "If Thou wilt bless me with children, and give me many disciples and associates," etc. (Tem. l.c.; Sanh. 106a). "The whole tribe ofJethro, the Kenites as well as the Rechabites, left their habitations near Jericho and went to Jabez to learn the Torah from him" (Mek., Yitro, 'Amaleḳ, ii.; Sifre, Num. 78).
In the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch (v. 5) Jabez is mentioned together with Jeremiah and Gedaliah among the saintly leaders of the people at the destruction of the Temple, being one of the deathless frequently mentioned in rabbinical tradition (Massek. Derek Ereẓ i.; see "J. Q. R." v. 417 et seq.).