35:1Then God said to Jacob, "Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau."
2So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone." 4So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. 5Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no-one pursued them.
6Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. 7There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed Himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.
8Now Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died and was buried under the oak below Bethel. So it was named Allon Bacuth.
9After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10God said to him, "Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel." So He named him Israel.
11And God said to him, "I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. 12The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you." 13Then God went up from him at the place where He had talked with him.
14Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.
16Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, "Don't be afraid, for you have another son." 18As she breathed her last--for she was dying--she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.
19So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel's tomb.
21Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. 22While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father's concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.
Jacob had twelve sons: 23The sons of Leah: Reuben the firstborn of Jacob, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
24The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin.
25The sons of Rachel's maidservant Bilhah: Dan and Naphtali.
26The sons of Leah's maidservant Zilpah: Gad and Asher.
These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.
27Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
Jacob has just lived through the most lamentable episode of his life (up to that point). In the previous chapter, his daughter Dinah was seduced by the son of the king of Shechem. This son offered to do the honorable thing and marry Dinah. Dinah's brothers, however, chose to take revenge. They took revenge, not just on the son of the king, but on the whole town of Shechem, as they slaughtered all of the inhabitants and looted the town. We suggested in the previous issue that at the root of this episode was the fact that Jacob did not completely obey God as to where he should dwell. Before he left Paddan-Aram, God had commanded him: "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you." (Gen. 31:3). Jacob did return to the "land of [his] fathers", but he did not go back "to [his] relatives". Instead, "he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city" (33:18). By living "within sight of the city", Jacob was living on the border of the promised land. He was trying (as it were) to keep one foot in the promised land and one foot in the world. This led to his family coming under the evil influences of Shechem, which in turn led to the problems the family experienced in Shechem.
As things stand here in Genesis 35, Jacob must move away from Shechem, but where to go? He can't go back to Paddan-Aram. He (effectively) vowed to Laban that he would not return. He has chosen to avoid Esau, so he can't go to Seir. Well, I guess Jacob has little choice but to, ahem, finally obey the Lord. God helps him with his decision: "Then God said to Jacob: `Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau'" (vs. 1). Why do we only obey God as a last resort? Our lives would be much easier if we obeyed the Lord as the first choice. He knows what is best for us! Why do we make our lives difficult by ignoring Him?
But God is gracious. Despite Jacob's disobedience, and despite the godless events of Genesis 34, God seeks Jacob out, and guides him where he should go, just at the time when Jacob most needed guidance. Jacob was ready now to listen to God, because Jacob was at the end of his rope. So many times, it takes severe affliction before we will listen to God. God allows such affliction so that we will return to Him. If we would listen to Him and stay close to Him in the first place, we could avoid much affliction.
God is gracious to Jacob, not just in reappearing to Jacob, but also in modifying His original command to Jacob. As mentioned above, when Jacob was in Paddan-Aram, God commanded him: "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you" (Gen. 31:3). For some unexplained reason, Jacob did not want to live near his relatives. Jacob purposely chose to avoid living near Esau, and, up to this point, there is no recorded evidence that Jacob even visited his father Isaac since he returned from Paddan-Aram. So God this time, out of love for Jacob, does not force Jacob to go back "to [his] relatives", but commands him instead to "go up to Bethel and settle there."
Jacob immediately demonstrates his willingness to obey God: "So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, `Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.' So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem" (vs. 2-3). Jacob used this opportunity to turn his whole family and household back to God. Apparently, Jacob's household had slipped into idolatry. Recall that Rachel had stolen her father's household idols and brought them to Canaan (see Gen. 31:19). Though she originally hid these idols from Jacob (see Gen. 31:32), he undoubtedly found out about them later. Quite probably, Jacob's great love for Rachel led to tolerance of her idolatry. This tolerance for idolatry led to tolerance of the idolatry of others. Jacob was lazy. Jacob was spiritually apathetic. He let things slide, rather than taking charge. The idolatry spread throughout the household. Unfortunately, the falsehood of idols spreads much more quickly than the truth of God, and so, the godliness of Jacob was no match for the lure of idolatry. The idolatry in the family was certainly at the heart of the ungodly events in Genesis 34. All sin has dire consequences. We parents must be careful that we do not tolerate the sin in the lives of our beloved family members. Toleration of sin (without exception) leads to further toleration. We must have the courage to confront the sin in our household and, as Jacob finally did, "bur[y] them under the oak at Shechem." We must also, periodically, examine our lives and see if there's anything that we need to "bury under the oak of Shechem." Have you during your journey picked up any evil baggage that is polluting your life?
Jacob buried the idols at Shechem (so as to leave them behind) as he followed the command of God to go to Bethel: "Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that noone pursued them" (vs. 5). Recall that, after the events in Shechem, Jacob was afraid that the people of the surrounding areas would seek revenge upon Jacob's family (see Gen. 34:30). God rewarded Jacob's obedience in setting out for Bethel by supernaturally putting fear in the hearts of the people of the surrounding areas so that the inhabitants would not pursue Jacob's household. The hearts of men are in the hands of God, "He who forms the hearts of all" (Ps. 33:15).
"Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed Himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother" (vss. 6-7). God undoubtedly brought Jacob back to Bethel because "it was there that God revealed Himself to [Jacob]." Recall that in Bethel, Jacob had his dream that showed angels ascending and descending on a ladder to heaven (see Gen. 28:12). At the top of the ladder was the Lord, who gave Jacob the covenant promises. When Jacob woke up, he said: "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it" (Gen. 28:16). God brought Jacob back to Bethel to remind him of the closeness he felt to God at that time. It is good to remember a past time of closeness to God when making an attempt to return to God.
In Bethel, God renewed His covenant with Jacob: "God said to him, `Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.' So He named him Israel. And God said to him, `I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.' Then God went up from him at the place where He had talked with him" (vs. 10-13). It was like God started all over with Jacob. First, He reminded Jacob that He had changed his name to Israel. Then He restated the covenant promises to Jacob, the same promises that God had given Jacob's father Isaac (see Gen. 26:2ff) and his grandfather Abraham (see Gen. 17:6).
Despite Jacob's renewed relationship with God, his life was not a bed of roses. Jesus promised us: "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). Jacob continued to have trouble. First, his mother Rebekah's nurse Deborah died (see vs. 8). This must have saddened Jacob because, given that culture, Deborah was most likely almost like a mother to Jacob. Second, and even more saddening to Jacob: "Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, `Don't be afraid, for you have another son.' As she breathed her last--for she was dying--she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin" (vss. 16-18). Perhaps now we know why God did not give Rachel any more children. Recall that in Genesis 30, Rachel prayed and schemed to get more children, but God did not give her any except one son Joseph. She named her first son Joseph (which means "may he add"), because she wanted God to give her more sons (see Gen. 30:24). God had not consented to that request until many years later, here in Genesis 35. This delay on God's part quite possibly allowed Rachel to live many more years. If she had had another son earlier, she may have died in childbirth earlier in her life. When God does not seem to answer a prayer of ours, we get so frustrated and angry with God. "Why doesn't He just do it?!" We must realize that God loves us, and works out everything according to His will, and also works out everything "for the good of those who love Him" (Rom. 8:28).
In her sorrow, Rachel named her new son "Ben-Oni" (which means "son of sorrow"). Jacob wisely changed the name, so as not to dwell on the death of Rachel. Jacob gave his new son the name "Benjamin", which means "son of my right hand." Then he buried Rachel near what was later known as Bethlehem (vs. 19).
The third sad event in Jacob's life after he had turned back to God was Reuben's sin of incest: "While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father's concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it" (vs. 22). In this passage, we are not told what Jacob's reaction to this was. He might well have done nothing, just as he did nothing when he heard about the seduction of Dinah (see Gen. 34:5). Unfortunately, this seems to have been Jacob's parenting style. His sons seemed to be pretty much "out of control". Later, however, we do learn that Reuben lost his birthright because of this sin of incest (see Gen. 49:4). In fact, in Genesis 49, where Jacob gives all of his sons their blessing, the first three sons (Reuben, Simeon and Levi) do not receive good blessings, but rather curses. As stated, Reuben does not receive a blessing because of his sin of incest. Simeon and Levi do not receive blessings (see Gen. 49:5-7) because of their violence as demonstrated by their murder of the townspeople of Shechem in Genesis 34. This leaves Judah as first in line for the birthright, which is significant because Jesus Christ was a descendant of Judah.
The chapter ends with Jacob finally returning to live with his father. This is what, many years earlier, God commanded Jacob to do (see Gen. 31:3). We are also at this time told about Isaac's death: "Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him" (vss. 28-29). Esau and Jacob are reunited for the burial of Isaac. All of their animosity toward each other by this time seems to be buried also. The blessings of God throughout their lives, together with their own rich and varied experiences of life, seem to have caused them to forget all of their past quarrels.
36:1This is the account of Esau (that is, Edom).
2Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite-- 3also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.
4Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, 5and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan.
6Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. 7Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. 8So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.
9This is the account of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.
10These are the names of Esau's sons: Eliphaz, the son of Esau's wife Adah, and Reuel, the son of Esau's wife Basemath.
11The sons of Eliphaz: Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz. 12Esau's son Eliphaz also had a concubine named Timna, who bore him Amalek. These were grandsons of Esau's wife Adah.
13The sons of Reuel: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were grandsons of Esau's wife Basemath.
14The sons of Esau's wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon, whom she bore to Esau: Jeush, Jalam and Korah.
15These were the chiefs among Esau's descendants: The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau: Chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, 16Korah, Gatam and Amalek. These were the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in Edom; they were grandsons of Adah.
17The sons of Esau's son Reuel: Chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the chiefs descended from Reuel in Edom; they were grandsons of Esau's wife Basemath.
18The sons of Esau's wife Oholibamah: Chiefs Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the chiefs descended from Esau's wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah.
19These were the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these were their chiefs.
20These were the sons of Seir the Horite, who were living in the region: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 21Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These sons of Seir in Edom were Horite chiefs.
22The sons of Lotan: Hori and Homam. Timna was Lotan's sister.
23The sons of Shobal: Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho and Onam.
24The sons of Zibeon: Aiah and Anah. This is the Anah who discovered the hot springs in the desert while he was grazing the donkeys of his father Zibeon.
25The children of Anah: Dishon and Oholibamah daughter of Anah.
26The sons of Dishon: Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and Keran. 27The sons of Ezer: Bilhan, Zaavan and Akan.
28The sons of Dishan: Uz and Aran.
29These were the Horite chiefs: Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 30Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These were the Horite chiefs, according to their divisions, in the land of Seir.
31These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned:
32Bela son of Beor became king of Edom. His city was named Dinhabah.
33When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah succeeded him as king.
34When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites succeeded him as king.
35When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him as king. His city was named Avith.
36When Hadad died, Samlah from Masrekah succeeded him as king.
37When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the river succeeded him as king.
38When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan son of Acbor succeeded him as king.
39When Baal-Hanan son of Acbor died, Hadad succeeded him as king. His city was named Pau, and his wife's name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-Zahab.
40These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions: Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied.
This was Esau the father of the Edomites.
We see here, Esau's family becomes (as prophesied in Gen. 27:39-40) the violent nation of Edom. Before we depart Esau for good, Moses gives us a listing of many of his descendants. This is often done in the Bible. The story of the Old Testament primarily concentrates on the family line of our Savior Jesus Christ. As the various authors of the Bible prune the family tree of Israel (so to speak) so as to focus on the royal line, we are often given a genealogy of the branch of the family that we are leaving. This was done for Ishmael (see Gen. 25:12ff), Japheth and Ham (see Gen. 10:1ff), and Cain (Gen. 4:18).