Genesis 35




1 “And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make

there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the

face of Esau thy brother.”  And God - Elohim. The employment of this name for

the Deity throughout the present chapter has been deemed conclusive evidence that,

with some Jehovistic alterations, it belongs to the fundamental document (Tuch,

Bleek, Delitzsch, Kalisch, et alii); but the frequent allusions to ch. 28:13-16, which

by partitionists is almost universally assigned to the Jehovist, prove that both sections

have proceeded from the same author, and that, "though the mention of the name

is avoided, this chapter, there is no doubt, substantially relates to Jehovah"

(Hengstenberg), while the name Elohim may simply indicate that Jacob s journey

from Shechem was undertaken in obedience to a Divine intimation (Quarry) –

said unto Jacob (shortly after the incidents recorded in the preceding chapter),

Arise, go up to Bethel, - about thirty miles distant (ch. 12:8; 13:3; 28:19),

to which, some thirty years previous, he had solemnly vowed to return (ch. 28:22) –

a vow which he appeared somewhat dilatory in performing, although its conditions

had been exactly fulfilled (Keil, Kurtz, Kalisch, &c.) - and dwell there (the massacre

of the Shechemites had obviously rendered longer residence in that neighborhood

unsafe): and make there an altar - this Jacob had substantially promised to do in

his vow (see ibid.) - unto God, that appeared unto thee - i.e. unto Jehovah (see

 ibid. v. 13) - when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. The words

contained an assurance that the same Divine arm which had shielded him against

the enmity of Esau and the oppression of Laban would extend to him protection

on his future way.


2 “Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away

the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 

3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God,

who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which

I went.”  Then Jacob said unto his household (i.e. those more immediately belonging

to his family), and to all that were with him (referring probably to the captured

Shechemites), Put away the strange gods - literally, the gods of the stranger,

including most likely the teraphim of Laban, which Rachel still retained, and

other objects of idolatrous worship, either brought by Jacob's servants from

Mesopotamia, or adopted in Canaan, or perhaps possessed by the captives

that are among you, and be clean, - literally, cleanse yourselves. The word is

that which afterwards describes the purifications of the law (Numbers 19:11-12;

Leviticus 14:4; 15:13). Aben Ezra interprets it as meaning that they washed their

bodies; and Michaelis views the rite as a kind of baptism, signifying their adoption

of the true religion of Jehovah - a quasi baptism of repentance, like that afterwards

preached by John - and change your garments. The directions here given are very

similar to those which were subsequently issued at Sinai (Exodus 19:10), and were

meant to symbolize a moral and spiritual purification of the mind and heart. And

let us arise, and go to Bethel. "This is obviously not the first time Jacob acquainted

his family with the vision at Bethel (Inglis). And I will make there an altar unto

God, - El is probably employed because of its proximity to and connection with

Bethel, or house of El, and the intended contrast between the El of Bethel and

the strange Elohim which Jacob's household were commanded to put away –

who answered me in the day of my distress, - this seems to imply that Jacob

prayed at Bethel before he slept, if it does not refer to his supplication before

meeting, Esau (ch. 32:9) - and was with me in the way which I went. This

language clearly looks back to Bethel (see ch. 28:20).




Spiritual Renovation (vs. 1-2)


Spiritual life is a thing of growth; never finished here (Philippians 3:13-14;

Hebrews 6:1). No doubt the all-important question is, Art thou in

Christ? And in every Christian life there is a point, known to God, when

the soul passes from death to life (I John 5:12). We are by nature children

of wrath. Still there is a life’s work. The spirit may have chosen Christ; but

the flesh is weak, and the law of sin still works. Most commonly in such a

life certain times will stand out, connected with special lessons and special

dealings, when some window of the soul has been opened to heavenly

light, some line of action pressed upon the mind.



his spiritual life began. Probably before he left home; for with all his faults

he desired a spiritual blessing. But at Bethel and Penuel great steps were

made. He learned the presence of God, and the protecting care of God, as

he had never known them before. Yet the lessons were chiefly subjective;

they regarded his own attitude towards God. And this generally comes

first, but it is not all. Arise, go up to Bethel.” Take up again the lesson

book. Is there not more to be learned from it? Those angels ascending and

descending, were they charged with thy good only? The Lord who stood

above, did He care only for thee? With all thy possessions thou art in “a

solitary way” (Psalm 107:4). Here Jacob seems first to realize his

responsibility for the spiritual state of others (compare Psalm 119:136). The

Christian character is not thoroughly formed till it is felt that the possession

of truth binds us to use-it for the good of others. Being “bought with a

price,” we are debtors to all (Romans 1:14); and chiefly to those with

whom we are connected (I Timothy 5:8).


  • THE WORK HE TOOK IN HAND. To press upon his household:


Ø      Single-hearted service of God. “Put away the strange gods.” Sincerity

lies at the root of all real renovation. Hitherto the semi-idolatry of teraphim

seems to have been tacitly allowed. Jacob’s fondness for Rachel may have

kept him from forbidding it. Hence a divided service (II Kings 17:33;

Mark 7:7). Putting away does not refer only to formal worship. It is

putting away service of the gods of this world:


o        covetousness (Colossians 3:5),

o        worldly aims (John 5:44),

o        gratification of self (Luke 12:19; 14:11),

o        traditional maxims of conduct and judgment (Mark 3:21;

I Peter 4:4).


It is seeking first the kingdom of God, and resting in him

(Psalm 37:5; Matthew 6:33).


Ø      “Be clean.” No toleration of evil (Matthew 5:48). Christians are to

be a holy people (I Peter 2:9). This is much more than a mere upright

and honorable life. The Levitical rules, strict and minute as they were,

faintly shadowed the extent of the law of righteousness. See the Sermon on

the Mount.  (Matthew chapters 5-7)  There is a vast difference between an

upright life and a holy life. The one is a following of rules, the other a walk

with God.


Ø      “Change your garments.” Under the law this was a necessary part of

purification. Contrast the garments, Psalm 109:18 and Isaiah 61:10.

The explanation, Zechariah 3:4. In New Testament language, it is put on

Christ. The root is atonement, the covering of sins (Psalm 32:1), the

forgiveness of the sinful (Romans 3:26). There is no real renovation without

this change — casting away self-righteousness, and clinging to the work

of Christ (Jeremiah 23:6; Romans 10:4). Many have said trust in free

grace points to sin. God’s word from end to end declares it is the only way

of holiness.



Jacob’s Preparation for Acceptable Worship (v. 2)


“Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be ye clean, and

change your garments: and let us arise, and go up to Bethel.” When thou

vowest a vow, defer not to pay it,” says Ecclesiastes 5:45: but

Jacob had deferred. He made a vow at Bethel, and he seems afterwards to

have ignored it. If he thought of it, a number of things had been ever ready

to present themselves as excuses for delay. His faithful services given

constantly to Laban, his efforts to make good his position in the land, and

then to avert the anger of Esau, had apparently absorbed so much of his

attention that he had forgotten his vows. These solemn promises had been

made at a very critical period of his life, and God had not forgotten them.

He reminds Jacob of them in a very emphatic manner. Jacob had failed to

see in the circumstances in which he was placed with respect to the people

among whom he dwelt that there was a hint of neglected duty. God

permitted Jacob to be made uncomfortable that he might be made

considerate. The way in which his sons had treated the Shechemites had

brought him into great danger. He and all his were likely to be cut off by

these enraged inhabitants of the land. He is reminded of the danger in

which he was once placed from the vengeance of Esau. The similarity of

the circumstances forcibly and very naturally turn his thoughts to THE ONE

who alone can be his defense. Thus circumstances and Divine

communications impel to the performance of duty. How merciful is God in

His treatment of souls! How He leads the wanderer back to duty! Jacob,

when about to strike his tents and remove to Bethel, wishes that his sons

and servants should go up with him, and that they should go up in the right

spirit. He therefore says to them, “Put away the strange gods!”



ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP. That Jacob should have been obliged to give

such an injunction to his household shows that he had not sufficiently kept

before his sons and servants the duty they owed to God. He had allowed

himself to strive for worldly success until they might have even imagined

that he was no better than the rest of them or their neighbors; but deep

down in the heart of this man was a reverence for God and a desire to do

His will. His neglect to carefully instruct his sons had borne bitter fruit. Had

he instilled into his sons ideas more in accordance with the character of the

God he served, they would not have taken such mean methods as are

mentioned of revenging themselves on those they had come to dislike. His

neglect necessitates the sudden and difficult effort now put forth to induce

his sons to seek with him to serve God. He feels that he cannot rightly

worship God unless his children and household are with him in spirit. He

wishes to foster in them a belief in his own sincerity. To have one in a

family looking on indifferently or sneeringly is death to successful worship.

Jacob’s neglect had led to carelessness by his sons of the Divine service.

He could not himself enter heartily on the service until he had discharged,

in a measure, his duty as guide and instructor to his family.



WRONGLY HELD IN REVERENCE. The sons of Jacob had admitted

false gods into their affections. Idolatry was rife among them. Even his

wife Rachel had so much faith in her father’s idols that she stole them when

she left home. The sons caught the spirit of the mother, and indulged in the

worship of strange gods. Perhaps they worshipped secretly the gods which

Rachel cherished, or they may have given adoration to the idols they found

among the spoils of the Shechemites. They may have had little images

which they carried about with them, as many superstitious Christians carry

the crucifix. Amulets and charms they seem to have worn on their hands

and in their ears, all indicating superstition, false worship, and wrong ideas.

God is spoken of in the Bible as “jealous.” This is with respect to worship

given to representations of gods having no existence. The jealousy is right,

because it would be an evil thing for man himself to think there were many

gods, or to select his own god. When, in after ages, the descendants of

these sons of Jacob yielded to the sin of worshipping other gods, ten of the

tribes were SWEPT AWAY, and have never been rediscovered. Indeed the

stream was tainted in source, and “grew no purer as it rolled along.” When

Achan brought the Babylonish garment into the camp of Israel, the chosen

of God could not stand before their enemies, but when it was removed they

were again victorious. (Joshua 7)  So strange gods must be removed from

our homes and from our hearts, or we can never be successful in the conflict

against sin, or in the acceptability of the worship we offer. It is for each

Christian to search his soul, and to see whether there is any desire, habit,

or practice which in the least militates against the worship of God. Many

who were incorporated with Jacob’s household were Syrians, who brought

their evil practices with them. When any enter God’s Church they must

leave behind them the practices of the world; nor possessions nor potation

must be the gods then worshipped, “If any man love the world, the love

of the Father is not in him.”  (I John 2:15)



HINDRANCE. The sons of Jacob had not only outward false objects of

reverence, but inward evil propensities. They were treacherous, cruel,

lustful, envious, murderous. See how they treated the Shechemites, and in

after years their own brother Joseph. What scandalizing, jealousy, and even

opposition, are found in some homes! How hard it is to alienate sinful

habits from the heart and the home!  How hard to get the right tone for

devout service in the home! Certain habits of temper, ridicule, sarcasm will

chill and check all worship. Jacob urged his sons to be clean,— pure,

to change their garments.” They had need to do the latter, for they had

been spotted with the blood of the men they had murdered. Jacob meant

that they were to put on the garments kept for the worship of God.

Rebekah had garments by her in which Esau as eldest son worshipped God,

and which she put on Jacob. It is probable that it was the practice under the

patriarchal dispensation to perform certain ceremonial ablutions prior to

entering on the solemn worship. “Cleaniness is next to godliness.”

It leads to it. The need of purity in the worship or God is thus indicated by

ablutions and change of garments. But how easily we may have the

outward without the inward. We need cleansing in the holy fountain

opened by Christ, and to be clothed by His righteousness.





appear great to us. He is “high and lifted up.” He made not only these

frames of ours, but this vast universe. He is worshipped by worlds of

intelligent spirits, and has been WORSHIPED FROM THE DEPTHS

OF ETERNITY!   He is holy and full of majesty. Shall we be indifferent

as to the duty or the mode of worship? What a marvel that we should be

permitted to have fellowship with OUR CREATOR! If we have it,


it was at Bethel, for the Jews at Jerusalem, for Christians at the cross.

To Jacob and the Jews it was by annual sacrifices, to us it is by the offering

of Christ “ONCE FOR ALL!”


4 “And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand,

and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under

the oak which was by Shechem.”  And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods

Rosenmüller thinks these must have been many, since the historian would not

otherwise have used the term כֹּל - which were in their hand (i.e. which they

possessed), and all their earrings which were in their ears; - i.e. those employed

for purposes of idolatrous worship, which were often covered with allegorical

figures and mysterious sentences, and supposed to be endowed with a talismanic

virtue (Judges 8:21; Isaiah 3:20; Hosea 2:13) - and Jacob hid them - having

probably first destroyed them, since they do not appear to have been ever after

sought for or resumed by the parties who gave them up (Hughes) - under the oak

which was by Shechem. Whether the oak, or terebinth, under which Abraham once

pitched his tent (ch. 12:6), that beneath whose shade Joshua afterwards erected his

memorial pillar (Joshua 24:26), the oak of the sorcerers (Judges 9:37), and the oak

of the pillar at Shechem (Judges 9:6) were all the tree under which Jacob buried

the images and earrings cannot with certainty be determined, though the

probability is that they were.


5 “And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were

round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.”

And they journeyed (from Shechem, after the work of reformation just described):

and the terror of God - meaning not simply a great terror, as in ch. 23:6;

(Dathe, Bush), but either a supernatural dread inspired by Elohim (Ainsworth,

Clericus, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, and others), or a fear of Elohim, under

whose care Jacob manifestly had been taken (Murphy, Quarry) - was upon the

cities that were round about them, - literally, in their circuits, i.e. wherever they

went - and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob - as might have been



6 “So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel,

he and all the people that were with him.”  So (literally, and) Jacob came to Luz

(see ch. 28:19), which is in the land of Canaan (this clause is added to draw

attention to the fact that Jacob had now accomplished his return to Canaan), that is,

Bethel, he and all the people that were with him - i.e. his household and the

captured Shechemites.


7 “And he built there an altar, and called the place El-bethel: because there

God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.”

And he built there an altar, - thus redeeming his vow (compare Ecclesiastes 5:4) –

and called the place El-beth-el: - i.e. God of Bethel. Not he called the place of God,

or the place sacred to God, Bethel (Michaelis, 'Suppl.,' p. 2174), nor he called the

altar (Keil, Kalisch, Gerlach, &c.), but he called the place where the altar was

El-beth-el; i.e. either he devoted the place as sacred to the El of Bethel

(Rosenmüller), or he gave to the place the name of (so. the place of) the

El of Bethel, reading the first El as a genitive (Lange); or he called it El-Beth-el

metaphorically, as Jerusalem afterwards was styled Jehovah Tsidkenu

(Jeremiah 33:16) and Jehovah Shammah (Ezekiel 48:35; see #’s 283 and 809

from the book Names of God by Nathan Stone - this website – CY – 2018).

It has been proposed, after the Septuagint, to avoid the seeming incongruity

of assigning such a name to a place, to read, he invoked upon the place

the El of Bethel (Quarry, p. 513) - because there God appeared

unto him, - the El of Bethel was Jehovah (see ch. 28:13; 31:13) - when

he fled from the face of his brother.


8 “But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel

under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.”  But Deborah

Rebekah's nurse (see ch. 24:59) died - at a very advanced age, having left

Padan-aram for Canaan along with Rebekah, upwards of 150 years ago. That

she is now found in Jacob's household may be accounted for by supposing that

Rebekah had sent her, in accordance with the promise of ch. 27:45 (Delitzsch);

or that Jacob had paid a visit to his father at Hebron, and brought her back with

him to Shechem, probably because of Rebekah's death (Lange); or that on

Rebekah's death she had been transferred to Jacob's household (Keil, Murphy,

Alford); or that Isaac, "who had during the twenty years of his son's absence

wandered in different parts of the land" (?), had "at this period of his migrations

come into the neighborhood of Bethel" (Kalisch). And she was buried beneath

Bethel - which was situated in the hill country, whence Jacob is instructed to

"go up" to Bethel (v. 1) under an oak. More correctly, the oak or terebinth,

i.e. the well-known tree, which long after served to mark her last resting-place,

which some have without reason identified with the palm tree of Deborah the

prophetess (Judges 4:5), and the oak of Tabor mentioned in I Samuel 10:3

(Delitzsch, Kurtz, &c.). And the name of it was called - not "he," i.e. Jacob,

"called it" (Ainsworth), but "one called its name," i.e. its name was called

(Kalisch) - Allon-bachuth (i.e. the oak of weeping).


9  “And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and

blessed him.  10 And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not

be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name

Israel.”  And God appeared unto Jacob again, - this was a visible manifestation,

m contrast to the audible one in Shechem (v. 1), and in a state of wakefulness

(v. 13), as distinguished from the dream vision formerly beheld at Bethel (ch. 28:12) –

when he came (or had come) out of Padan-aram (as previously he had appeared to

the patriarch on going into Padan-aram), and blessed him - i.e. renewed the promises

of the covenant, of which he was the heir. And God said unto him, Thy name is

Jacob: - or Supplanter (see ch. 25:26). Lange reads, Is thy name Jacob? - thy name

shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel (see ch. 32:28) shall be thy name:

and He called his name Israel. The renewal of the name given at Peniel may

possibly indicate a revival in the spiritual life of Jacob, which had been declining

in the interval between the former interview with God and the present (Murphy),

but was probably designed as a confirmation of the former interview with God,

and of the experience through which he then passed. Compare the twice-given

name of Peter (John 1:42; Matthew 16:16-19).


11 “And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply;

a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come

out of thy loins;  12 And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee

I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.”

And God said unto him (repeating substantially the promises made to Abraham),

I am God Almighty: - El Shaddai (compare ch. 17:1 – as above I recommend

# 320 – El Shaddai from the book Names of God by Nathan Stone – this website –

CY – 2018) - be fruitful and multiply; - "Abraham and Isaac had each only one

son of promise; but now the time of increase was come" (Murphy; see ch. 1:28) –

a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee (compare ch. 17:5; 28:3),

and kings shall come out of thy loins (compare ch. 17:6, 16); and the land

which I gave Abraham and Isaac (see ch. 12:7;  13:15;  26:3-4), to thee I will

give it (compare ch. 28:13), and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.

The time of their entering on possession was specified to Abraham (ch. 15:16).


13 “And God went up from him in the place where He talked with him.”

And God went up from him - showing this to have been a visible manifestation

(compare ch. 17:22) - in the place where He talked with him.


14 “And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him,

even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he

poured oil thereon.”  And Jacob set up a pillar - the former pillar (ch. 28:18)

having probably fallen down and disappeared - in the place where He (God)

talked with him (to commemorate the interview), even a pillar of stone. The

setting up of pillars, according to Tuch a peculiarity of the Elohist, appears to

have been a favorite practice of Jacob's: witness the first pillar at Bethel

(ibid.), the pillar on Galeed (ch. 31:45), the second pillar at Bethel (v.14, here),

the pillar over Rachel's grave (v. 20). And he poured a drink offering thereon.

This is the first mention of those sacrificial libations which afterwards became

so prominent in connection with the Mosaic ritual (Exodus 29:40-41;

Leviticus 23:13, 18, 37; Numbers 6:15; and elsewhere). Under the law the

נֶסֶך - σπονδεῖον σπονδή - spondeion spondae -  (Septuagint) libamentum,

libamen (Vulgate); frankopfer (Luther) - consisted of a fourth part of a hin

of wine, which was equal to about a third of a gallon. And he poured oil

thereon - as he did on the previous occasion (ch. 28:18, q.v.).


15 “And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.”

This name was first given after the dream vision of the ladder (ch. 28:19); already

on this occasion it had been changed into El-beth-el (v. 7); now its old name is





Bethel Revisited (vs. 1-15)




Ø      The occasion of the journey. The crime of his sons had made it

necessary that Jacob should leave Shechem and its neighborhood; but it is

doubtful if in the circumstances Jacob would have thought of going to

Bethel without an express invitation from Heaven, which, however, he got.


Ø      The object of the journey. This was stated by the Divine communication

which Jacob received to be the fulfillment of the vow which twenty years

before he had made to erect an altar on the spot where he enjoyed the

vision of the ladder and the angels. Vows do not lose their obligatory

character by lapse of years. Men may, but God never does, forget the

promises which are made to Him. Hence the counsel of the Preacher

“When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for He hath

no pleasure in fools:  pay that which thou has vowed.  Better is it

that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not

pay it.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5).


Ø      The preparation for the journey. The removal of the strange gods —


o        Was needful if God was to be sincerely worshipped by Jacob and

his household. The necessity of having no other gods but Jehovah was

afterwards enjoined upon Israel as a nation. In the gospel the law is

equally imperative. God and Christ demand the undivided homage

of the human heart.


o        Was counseled by Jacob to his household. It is well when heads of

families have the ability as well as inclination to direct their children

and dependents in the duties of religion.


o        Was cheerfully assented to by Jacob’s household. The silver and

wooden images (the teraphim) that Rachel had abstracted from her

father’s tent, the idolatrous objects that the Shechemites may have

brought with them, and the earrings that were in their ears, were at

once and completely given up, and by Jacob’s own hand buried

beneath the oak of Shechem.


o        Was symbolized in Jacob’s household by the acts of washing and

putting on of clean apparel. Under the law corporeal ablutions and

beautified habiliments were typical of spiritual renovation and the

putting on of the righteousness of the saints (compare Ezekiel 36:25;

Hebrews 10:22; Jude 1:23; Revelation 19:2).


Ø      The experience of the journey. Wherever the travelers went they found

themselves unmolested, and the cities round about them alarmed, and

afraid to pursue. The terror of Elohim was upon the people of the land,

and thus the care of Jehovah was around His saints.


Ø      The completion of the journey. Jacob and all the people that were with

him came to Luz in the land of Canaan, which is Bethel. Many journeys are

begun that never end. Some that promise well at the outset are

overwhelmed in disaster before they terminate. It is only He who keeps

Israel that can preserve a good man’s going out and coming in.

“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself:  it is not in

man that walketh to direct his steps.”  (Jeremiah 10:23)





Ø      The building of an altar. This was on the part of Jacob


o        an act of obedience, since it was done in accordance with Divine

instructions (v. 1);

o        an act of justice, inasmuch as it was executed in fulfillment of a vow,

(ch. 28:22);

o        an act of gratitude, being designed to give expression to Jacob’s

thankfulness for God s mercies (vs. 3, 7).


Ø      The death of Deborah.


o        Her life-work: Rebekah’s nurse.

o        Her death: this must have taken place at an advanced age.

o        Her burial: the place of sepulture was on the slope of Bethel

hill, beneath the shadow of a wide-spreading oak.

o        Her memorial: the tree was named Allon-bachuth, oak of



Ø      The appearance of Elohim.


o       The blessing renewed (v. 9;)

o       the new name confirmed (v. 10);

o       the promises repeated (v. 11).


Ø      The erection of a pillar. The old column having probably been thrown

down, this was:


o        set up as a memorial of the interview with God which had just been


o        employed as an altar for the worship of Elohim“he poured a drink

offering thereon;” and

o       consecrated as an object of reverential regard by pouring oil thereon.


Ø      The renaming of the place. The name given twenty years previously is

renewed, Bethel (v. 15), with a slight modification, El-Bethel (v. 7), to

connect it with the altar just erected.


  • LEARN:


1. That good men sometimes require to be reminded by God of their duty.

2. That acts of Divine worship should be preceded by heart purification and

life reformation.

3. That God is perfectly able to protect His people when they are walking in

His appointed paths.

4. That good men when serving God are not exempt from the afflictions of


5. That faithful servants should be tenderly cherished by their masters when

old, decently buried when dead, and lovingly remembered when entombed.

6. That God never forgets either His promises or His people.

7. That God should not be forgotten by those whom He remembers.



God with Us (vs. 1-15)


Jacob’s settlement with his family at Bethel. This was a solemn renewal of

the covenant to the patriarch at the end of his pilgrimage. It was the

occasion for a new dedication of himself and his household by vows and

offerings, and by separation of themselves from all heathen things and

thoughts around the newly-erected altar El-Bethel.


  • REVELATION THE BASIS OF FAITH. God went up from him after He

had spoken with him, and there he set up a pillar of stone, and poured a drink

offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.


  • PERSONAL EXPERIENCE the background of a consecrated life. We

should make the memory of God’s goodness the foundation on which we

build up the monuments of our life. Mark the places by offerings. Let the

Bethel of our worship be the Bethel of His praise.


16 “And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to

Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labor.”  And they journeyed

not in opposition to the Divine commandment (v. 1), which did not enjoin a

permanent settlement at Bethel, but in accordance probably with his own desire,

if not also Heaven's counsel, to proceed to Mamre to visit Isaac - from Bethel

(southwards in the direction of Hebron); and there was but a little way (literally,

there was yet a space of land; probably a few furlongs (Murphy), about four

English miles (Gerlach). The Vulgate translates, "in the spring-time," and the

Septuagint render, ἐγένετο δὲ ἡνίκα ἤγγισεν εἰς χαβραθὰ - egeneto de haenika

aeggisen eis chabratha - , both of which are misunderstandings of the original –

to come to Ephrath: - Fruitful; the ancient name of Bethlehem (see below v. 19) –

and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labor - literally, she had hard labor in

her parturition, which was perhaps all the more severe that sixteen or seventeen

years had elapsed since her first son, Joseph, was born.


17 “And it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said

unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also.”  And it came to pass, when

she was in hard labor (literally, in her laboring hard in her parturition), that the

midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also - literally, for also

this to thee a son; meaning either that she would certainly have strength to bring

forth another son, or, what is more probable, that the child was already born, and

that it was a son.


18 “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she

called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.”  And it came to

pass, as her soul was in departing, - literally, in the departing of her soul; not into

annihilation, but into another (a disembodied) state of existence (see ch. 25:8) –

for she died (a pathetic commentary on Genesis 30:1), that she called his name

Ben-oni ("son of my sorrow," as a memorial of her anguish in bearing him, and

of her death because of him): but his father called him Benjamin - "son of my

right hand;" either "the son of my strength" (Clericus, Rosenmüller,. Murphy),

or "the son of my happiness or good fortune" (Gesenius, Keil, Kalisch), with

allusion to Jacob's now possessing twelve sons; or as expressive of Jacob's

unwillingness to see a bad omen in the birth of Rachel's child (Candlish);

or "the son of my days," i.e. of my old age (Samaritan), an interpretation

which Lunge pasaes with a mere allusion, but which Kalisch justly pronounces

not so absurd as is often asserted (compare ch. 44:20); or "the son of my affection"



19 “And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.”

Or House of Bread, about seven miles south of Jerusalem. It afterwards became the

birthplace of David (I Samuel 16:18) and of Christ (Matthew 2:1).


20 “And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave

unto this day.”  And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave (see on v. 14): that is the

pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day i.e. unto the times of Moses; but the site of

Rachel's sepulcher was known so late as the age of Samuel (I Samuel 10:2); and

there seems no reason to question the tradition which from the fourth century

has placed it within the Turkish chapel Kubbet Rachil, about half-an-hour's

journey north of Bethlehem (Robinson, vol. L p. 322; Tristram, 'Land of Israel,'

p. 404; Thomson, 'Land and Book,' p. 644; Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 149).


21 “And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.”

And Israel (or Jacob) journeyed (from Ephrath, after the funeral of Rachel),

and spread - i.e. unfolded (ch. 12:8; 26:25) - his tent beyond the tower of Edar

literally, to, i.e. not trans (Vulgate), ultra (Dathe), but ad, usque (Rosenmüller),

as far as Migdol Edar, the Tower of the Flock - probably a turret, or watch-tower,

erected for the convenience of shepherds in guarding their flocks (II Kings 18:8;

II Chronicles 26:10;  27:4), - the site of which is uncertain, but which is commonly

supposed to have Been a mile (Jerome) or more south of Bethlehem." The

Septuagint omit this verse.


22 “And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went

and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the

sons of Jacob were twelve:”  And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that

land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: - an act of

incest (Leviticus 18:8) for which he was afterwards disinherited (I wonder if

it was worth it?  CY  - 2018 - ch. 49:4; I Chronicles 5:1) - and Israel heard it.

The hiatus in the text and the break in the MS. at this point may both have

been designed to express Jacob's grief at the tidings. The Septuagint add feebly

καὶ πονηρὸν ἐφάνη ἐναντίον αὐτοῦ - kai ponaeron ephanae enantion autou

, which surely fails to represent the mingled shame and sorrow, indignation

and horror, with which his eldest son's wickedness must have filled him.

Now the sons of Jacob were twelve - a separate verse in the Septuagint, which

is certainly more in accordance with the sense than the division in the text.


23 “The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi,

and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun:”  (compare ch. 29:32-35;

30:18-20; 46:8-15; Exodus 1:2-3).


24 The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin:”  (Compare ch. 30:22-24;

v. 18, here; 46:19). 


25 And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali:”

(compare ch. 30:4-8).


26 And the sons of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid; Gad, and Asher: (compare

ch.30:9-13): these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in

Padanaram.”   All except Benjamin were born there. Either this is an

instance of the summary style of Scripture in which minute verbal accuracy

is not always preserved (Inglis), or the whole period of Jacob s pilgrimage

to Mesopotamia and back is intended by his residence in Padan-aram (Kalisch).


27  Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah,

which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned.”  And Jacob came

unto Isaac his father, unto Mamre (on the probability of Jacob s having

previously visited his father, see v. 8), unto the city of Arbah (ch.13:18;

23:2, 19; Joshua 14:15; 15:13), which is Hebron, where Abraham and

Isaac sojourned.


28 “And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years.”

At this time Jacob was 120; but at 130 he stood before Pharaoh in Egypt,

at which date Joseph had been 10 years governor. He was therefore 120

when Joseph was promoted at the age of 30, and 107 when Joseph was sold;

consequently Isaac was 167 years of age when Joseph was sold, so that he

must have survived that event and sympathized with Jacob his son for a period

of 13 years.


29 “And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his

people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.”

And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, -

compare the account of Abraham's death (ch. 25:8) - being old and full of days

(literally, satisfied with days. In ch. 25:8 the shorter expression satisfied

is used): and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him - Esau arriving from

Mount Seir to pay the last service due to his deceased parent, and Jacob

according to him that precedence which had once belonged to him as

Isaac's firstborn.




From Bethel to Mamre (vs. 16-29)




Ø      The travailing woman. Rachel, overtaken by the pains of childbirth, had

hard labor. In every instance an inheritance derived from mother Eve

(ch. 3:16), the sorrow of maternity was in her case providentially

intensified; perhaps by her advanced age, or by the discomforts of travel, or

by feebleness of health, or possibly by special appointment of God as a

rebuke for her inordinate desire for children (ch. 30:1), or as a

means of shortening her life.


Ø      The comforting midwife. Though her name is not recorded, wherever

this pathetic story is recited, there shall her kindly offices to the dying

Rachel be remembered. Chosen to assist Rachel in her bodily struggle, she

was likewise helpful to Rachel in her soul’s conflict. Sympathizing with the

sufferer in her-pain, she sought to minister comfort to the drooping heart in

its despondency. They who tend the sick and dying should be tender in

their feelings and hopeful in their words, as well as skilful and gentle in

their acts.


Ø      The departing mother. Though Rachel’s child was born, Rachel herself

died; in which were some circumstances of sadness, as


o        that it happened on a journey, — “in the way to Ephrath,” — and near

its end — “there was but a little way to come to Ephrath,” where it is

likely Jacob had intended to rest a while for Rachel’s convenience;


o        that it occurred on the occasion of her confinement, death in child-bed

being a comparatively rare experience in the history of mothers, though,

considering the severity of the ordeal, it is a special mercy that any

mothers survive; and


o        that it removed her from her newly-born son, than which no greater

grief can agitate a dying mother’s heart, and the thought of which

perhaps gave added poignancy to the bitter anguish with which she

named her child Ben-onithe son of my sorrow.


Yet in Rachel’s death were certain elements of gladness, as:


o        that she died in the presence of her husband, Jacob being by her

couch to catch her latest breath;


o        that she died not before she gave him another son, to be to him whom

she loved a Benjamin, though to herself Ben-oni; and


o        that she died in the hope of a glorious immortality, her soul departing

to the better country, even an heavenly.


Ø      The bereaved husband.


o        Cheering the drooping heart of his dying wife. This is probably the

correct view to be taken of what otherwise interpreted cannot fail to

seem strangely inconsistent — Jacob’s naming Rachel’s child

Benjamin, the son of my right hand, the son of my affection, of my

prosperity, a token of good hope and happy fortune, while Rachel

called him Ben-oni. “In vain the broken-hearted father — refusing

to take in the terrible fact passing under his eye — determined to be

sanguine (optomistic) to the last, and let no evil omen touch either

mother or child — whispers hope in the dull ear of death, and

welcomes the last pledge of an undying love as no “son of sorrow,”

but “the son of the right hand” (Candlish).


o        Burying the lifeless body of his beloved spouse, which doubtless he

would do with reverent affection and with heart-felt mourning.


o        Erecting a pillar above her lonely grave — to demonstrate his affection

for her who slept beneath, to show that though she lay not in the family

tomb, she was not forgotten, and to mark the last resting-place of an

ancestress of Israel.




Ø      The enormity of Reubens wickedness. The act which he committed was

that of incest, since Bilhah had been the wife of Jacob. It was a sin

punishable by death under Moses’ law (Leviticus 18:8), and such a sin

as should not be named among Christians (I Corinthians 5:1). It is not

likely that Bilhah was innocent in this matter, but it is certain that Reuben

was guilty of heinous transgression.


Ø      The impression it produced on Jacob. Israel heard.” We may supply

the hiatus by saying,


o        with inexpressible grief — grief that a son and wife of his should have

committed such a horrible iniquity;


o        with bitter shame — was this to be the end of all God’s mercies to his

house, and of all his efforts to piously direct his household?


o        with silent submission, as recognizing God’s hand in the dispensation.

More bitter and crushing was this last stroke than the death of Rachel

or even the ravishment of Dinah; and Jacob’s silence under it may be

interpreted as the silence of devout resignation: — “I was dumb,

because thou didst it.”  (Psalm 39:9)




Ø      He was spared to see his sons return. “Jacob came unto Isaac his father

unto Mamreat least a considerable period before his death. According to

calculations (see Exposition), Isaac survived the sale of Joseph thirteen

years. Hence Jacob’s coming home must have taken place while Isaac had

yet many years to live. It is a mercy which God does not grant to all, to see

their children and their children’s children around them before they die.


Ø      He was privileged to reach a good old age. “The days of Isaac were an

hundred and fourscore years.” Piety has a special tendency to prolong life

(Psalm 34:12), while the wicked live not half their days (Psalm 55:23).


Ø      He was favored with a peaceful and a blessed end.And Isaac gave up the

ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people.” See Homily on the

death of Abraham below (ch. 25:8):


Ø      He was honored with a decent and respectful funeral. “Esau and Jacob

buried him.” They laid him beside his ancestral dust in the family burying

place of Machpelah, where already slept the lifeless bodies of Abraham and

Sarah, awaiting the resurrection, while his spirit went to company with

theirs in the better country, even an heavenly.  (Hebrews 11:8-16)






A.  Before death. The age to which the patriarch had attained was:

1.  Numerically great, viz., 175 years. Mark the tendency of

     piety to prolong life (Psalm 34:12).

2. Morally good. Neither beautiful nor desirable in itself, when

    associated with corresponding ripeness in grace old age is

    both delightful to look upon and pleasant to enjoy

    (Proverbs 16:31).

3. Completely satisfying. He had:

a.        experienced the Divine goodness and mercy for 175 years,

b.        God’s covenant established with himself and family,

c.        beheld Isaac born, married, and, the father of two promising

 sons, and

d.        seen Sarah away before him to the better land;


                                                                    now he had no desireleft unfulfilled but one, viz., to depart.

                                                                    which is far better – (Philippians 1:23)


B.  At death. His end was peaceful; he “breathed out his spirit” into the

hands of Jehovah. So did:

1.       Isaac (here, v. 29),

2.       Jacob (ch. 49:33),

3.       David (Psalm 31:5),

4.       Christ (Luke 23:46).


“Mark the perfect, and behold the upright:  for the end of that man

is peace.” (Psalm 37:37).


C.  After death. He was gathered to his people — a significant intimation of:

1.   the immateriality of the soul;

2.   the conscious existence of the soul after death;

3.   the gathering of pious souls into one society beyond the grave;

4.   the mutual recognition of the glorified;

5.   the complete separation of the righteous from the wicked.



  • LEARN:


1. That bereavements, like the rest of life’s afflictions, are of God’s

ordering, both as to time, place, and manner.

2. That in human families they who are most beloved are frequently

removed first.

3. That the sick and dying should be ministered to with sympathy and

tender attention.

4. That good men should love their wives when living, and remember them

when dead.

5. That faith should always try to see the bright light of blessing in the

cloud of earth’s afflictions.

6. That worse calamities may overtake a saint than bereavements.

7. That pious children do not cast off their parents in old age.



                                    (vs. 16-29)


These family records mingle well with the story of God’s

grace. The mothers “Ben-oni” is the father’s “Benjamin.” Out of the pain

and the bereavement sometimes comes the consolation. A strange blending

of joy and sorrow is the tale of human love. But there is a higher love

which may draw out the pure stream of peace and calm delight from that

impure fountain. Jacob and Esau were separated in their lives, but they met

at their father’s grave. Death is a terrible divider, but a uniter too. Under

the shadow of the great mystery, on the borders of an eternal world, in the

presence of those tears which human eyes weep for the dead, even when

they can weep no other tears, the evil things of envy, hatred, revenge,

alienation do often hide themselves, and the better things of love, peace,

brotherhood, amity (friendly relationships) come forth. Jacob was with

Isaac when he died, and Esau came to the grave.



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