Genesis 35

Genesis 35

God Blesses and Renames Jacob

35 God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.

And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So he called its name Allon-bacuth.

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him. And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone. He poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it. So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.

The Deaths of Rachel and Isaac

Then they journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day. Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder.

While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it.

Now the sons of Jacob were twelve. The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant: Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.

And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned. Now the days of Isaac were 180 years. And Isaac breathed his last, and he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.


Genesis 35 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

Which is more dangerous, heading to Bethel or disobeying God?

We often justify disobedience with fear. We often convince ourselves that safety is more important than a total commitment to Jesus. But the truth is, either way, fear is present. Going all-in with Jesus can be scary, but going our own way and attempting to escape fear is even worse.

I think we would agree that being on a difficult road with Jesus is far better than being in a safe place without Him. This was an issue for Jacob. Two sentences sum up Jacob’s fearless decision and God’s mighty response.

Then they gave Jacob all their foreign gods and their earrings, and Jacob hid them under the oak near Shechem.  5  When they set out, a terror from God came over the cities around them, and they did not pursue Jacob’s sons.

Genesis 35:4-5 HCSB

Jacob eradicated the gods he clung to and God eradicated the threat to Jacob’s journey. There is so much depth to these two sentences.

I think we love the idea of this story, but not necessarily the practice of it. We all hold onto the gods of our past. We all go back to them for comfort, peace, and safety. We justify our decision to stay in a foreign land rather than journey through the valley of our enemies. The struggle is real.

So Jacob and all who were with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan.

Genesis 35:6 HCSB

The very next verse sums up the results of this decision for Jacob. He came safely and securely into the land God had called him to. In the end, there was nothing to fear. There was no good reason to stay in Shechem.

Imagine if Jacob would have stayed. Imagine the disappointment and turmoil of such a decision. Imagine the depressing cycle of failure that would overcome him day after day as his family clung to their false gods of security. Imagine the conviction upon his soul knowing that God had called him elsewhere but not trusting he could make it there safely. Maybe you are there right now? What is your Bethel? What is your false god?

Which is more dangerous, heading to Bethel or disobeying God? When will you decide to gather up your foreign gods and earrings and bury them for good?

“It was well that he should get back to Bethel, and consider the whole story of his life, as you may trace a river from source to mouth from an overlooking hill. The divine summons is always bidding us be clean and change our garments, and be rid of idols. There God gave him the great new name of Israel; and took to himself the reassuring name of El-Shaddai. It was as though, as the Almighty, he pledged himself to realize the highest and best. Let us take heart!”

F.B. Meyer

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