1 “And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to
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
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
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
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
his family with the vision at
God, - El is probably employed because of its proximity to and connection with
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
meeting, Esau (ch. 32:9) - and was with me in the way which I went. This
language clearly looks back to
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
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
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).
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).
seeking first the
(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
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
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
vowest a vow, defer not to pay it,” says Ecclesiastes 5:45: but
Jacob had deferred. He made a vow at
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
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
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.
LOW IDEAS OF THE DIGNITY OF THE ACT, AND THE MAJESTY
AND HOLINESS OF HIM WHOM WE WORSHIP. God must be made to
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 MUST BE IN THE WAY AND PLACE HE APPOINTS! For Jacob
it was at
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
he and all the people that were with him.” So (literally, and) Jacob came to Luz
(see ch. 28:19), which
is in the
attention to the fact that Jacob had now accomplished his
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
or the place sacred to God,
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
(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
he fled from the face of his brother.
8 “But Deborah Rebekah's
nurse died, and she was buried beneath
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
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
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
"go up" to
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
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
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
and He called his name
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 on Galeed (ch.
31:45), the second pillar at
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,
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
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
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
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
to Luz in the
begun that never end. Some that promise well at the outset are
overwhelmed in disaster before they terminate. It is only He who keeps
“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,
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.
burial: the place of sepulture was on the slope of
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
connect it with the altar just erected.
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
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)
settlement with his family at
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.
had spoken with him, and there he set up a pillar of stone, and poured a drink
offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.
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
16 “And they journeyed from
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
if not also Heaven's counsel, to proceed to Mamre to visit Isaac - from
(southwards in the direction of
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
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
Or House of Bread, about seven miles south of
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
p. 404; Thomson, 'Land and Book,' p. 644;
and spread - i.e. unfolded (ch. 12:8;
26:25) - his tent beyond the
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
Septuagint omit this verse.
22 “And it came to pass, when
and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and
sons of Jacob were
twelve:” And it came to pass, when
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
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
27 Jacob came
unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of
unto Isaac his father, unto Mamre (on the probability of Jacob s having
previously visited his father, see v. 8), unto
the city of
23:2, 19; Joshua 14:15; 15:13), which is
28 “And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years.”
At this time Jacob was 120; but at 130 he stood before
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
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
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-oni — the 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
Ø The enormity of Reuben’s 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. “
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 Mamre” at 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
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
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.
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
3. That the sick and dying should be ministered to with sympathy and
4. That good men should love their wives when living, and remember them
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.
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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