Genesis 35 (NRSV)
Jacob Returns to Bethel
God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel, and settle there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”
After the horrible episode in Shechem, God calls Jacob to return to Him. God tells Jacob to build an altar, to turn away from his own way (or his children’s ways) to God’s way.
2So 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 clothes; 3then come, let us go up to Bethel, that I may make an altar there to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”
After Jacob makes the decision to purify himself and return to God’s will, he tells his family to do the same. We remember that Rachel had stolen Laban’s gods; did the poor example of the mother influence the household for wrong-doing?
4So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak that was near Shechem. 5As they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities all around them, so that no one pursued them.
Oh, the joy and the freedom of knowing that, by the gift of grace, you are right with God!
6Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because it was there that God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.
8And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So it was called Allon-bacuth.
Deborah must have been dearly loved. The name means “Oak of Weeping.”
9God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. 10God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he was called Israel. 11God 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 spring from you. 12The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” 13Then God went up from him at the place where he had spoken with him.
14Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured out a drink offering on it, and poured oil on it. 15So Jacob called the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.
So Jacob returns to God. He repents and worships God. God blesses him, reminding him of the promise given to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham and repeated to Jacob’s father Isaac. The offering shows Jacob’s gratitude for God’s lovingkindness.
Where have you been when God has spoken to you?
What have you done to commemorate it, and to worship?
Sometimes I get happy just thinking about worshiping with all the saints in heaven — with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! And my mother and father! And Jesus there! HERE is “Here I Am to Worship.”
The Birth of Benjamin and the Death of Rachel
16Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel was in childbirth, and she had hard labor. 17When she was in her hard labor, the midwife said to her, “Do not be afraid; for now you will have another son.” 18As her soul was departing (for she died), she named him Ben-oni (“son of my sorrow); but his father called him Benjamin (“son of my right hand”).
The right side was associated with greater strength and honor, because most people are right handed. Benjamin therefore has the idea of “son of my strength” or “son of my honor.”
The idea is expressed in passages like Exodus 15:6: Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces.
The Lord is our strength and honor, as in Psalm 16:8: I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
God’s strength and honor are for us: My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:8) Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me (Psalm 138:7).
Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, the position of strength and honor, and we sit there with Him! If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1).
19So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), 20and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (King James Version)
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die.
21Israel journeyed on, and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. 22While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard of it.
Reuben commits adultery with Bilhah. This is not just an act of passion, but is an attempt by Reuben to gain power over Jacob or to take his father’s place as head of the family. Through their sin, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi have “disqualified” themselves from the high calling of Abraham’s blessing. It will be up to the fourth son, Judah, to bring forth the Messiah.
Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.23The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.
24The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin.
25The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali.
26The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.
The Death of Isaac
27Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had resided as aliens. 28Now the days of Isaac were one hundred eighty years. 29And Isaac breathed his last; he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
The reconciliation earlier had long-lasting and positive effects. Here the two sons do the right thing together for their father.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.