Genesis 35 (ESV)
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.” 2 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. 3 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.” 4 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.
5 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. 6 And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7 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. 8 And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So he called its name Allon-bacuth . . . Continue Reading
When God tells 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” (Genesis 35:1), he listens. In preparation for their journey to Bethel, Jacob tells everyone who was with him to put away their foreign gods, to purify themselves and to change their garments (Genesis 35:3). Jacob collected all their foreign gods and buried them under a tree.
Foreign gods – While this must have included the Shechemites who were captured by Simeon and Levi in the previous chapter, it also could have been the “household gods” Rachel stole from her father, Laban (Genesis 31:19) and possible others idols.
Purify themselves – Literally meaning to “cleanse themselves.” Not only can this mean to physically wash themselves but it also shows Jacob’s commitment to not bringing “baggage” with them as they leave for Bethel.
Change their garments – This could tie into “purify yourselves” (washing) and putting on clean clothes . . . leaving behind everything so that they were prepared to follow God (through Jacob’s obedience).
It’s interesting that as they journeyed, a “terror from God fell up on the cities that were around them” but not the sons of Jacob. What a clear sign of protection. Terror was surrounding them but they were protected from it. There’s no better place to be than protected by the hand of God in the midst of terror. And right on cue, when they arise to their destination, Jacob continues to follow God by building an altar. What does God do? What did God tell Jacob to return to where he fled Esau? He makes a covenant with Jacob and changes his name to Israel. Jacob responds by setting up a pillar of stone where God spoke to him.
As they left Bethel, Rachel died during childbirth but not before giving birth to Benjamin. As the chapter closes, Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn from Leah) lays with Bilhah who was his father’s concubine (huge offense), a list of the twelve sons of Jacob and then is reunited with his brother Esau as they buried their father Isaac.
Thank you for reading my daily online journal today. Far from commentaries these are just my initial thoughts after reflecting on what I’ve read from a chapter in God’s Word each morning. This not only helps me apply what I’ve read because I’m reflecting and sharing instead of only reading but it also allows me to encourage others to prayerfully consider doing the same.
In His Care,