Genesis
1-5 Jacob Must Go to Bethel 6-7 Jacob Comes in Bethel 8 Debora Dies 9-15 God Appears to Jacob Again 16-20 Benjamin Born; Rachel Dies 21-22 Scandal of Reuben 23-26 The Sons of Jacob 27-29 Death and Burial of Isaac
Jacob Must Go to Bethel

1Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; 3and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem. 5As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.

After the humbling events of Genesis 34, God reminds Jacob of his promise (Gen 28:21-2221and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the LORD will be my God.22This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”) and tells him to go to Bethel. God intends to bless Jacob. He wants to do this in Bethel, which means ‘house of God’. There is the house of God, there He dwells, and wants to have His own with him. Today the church is the house of God (1Tim 3:1515but in case I am delayed, [I write] so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.).

When Jacob thinks of meeting God in His house, he realizes that he has to bring his own house into conformity with God’s house. In his family there must be cleansing, the idols must be removed, and the garments – which speaks of behavior, which the people perceive of us – must be adapted to what is appropriate for God’s holiness.

It may be that Jacob, through everything his family has entered that is not in harmony with God’s thoughts, has lost sight of what he promised God. Wrong things in the life of a believer make him blind to what is due to God. “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay” (Ecc 5:55It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.). However, God can recall it.

God’s house means that God wants to live with people and that people want to live with Him. He wants to bless them. The man who lives with Him may serve Him. But where He dwells, He determines the house rules. In His house reigns His authority and everything must be to His glory (Psa 29:9b9The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everything says, “Glory!”
). The recognition thereof gives blessing.

God has not told Jacob to cleanse his own house, but Jacob feels it well. He orders his house to do so, he takes his responsibility. Only then there can be a going up. Apparently a lot more has entered Jacob’s family than just the idols of Rachel (Gen 31:30-3430Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house; [but] why did you steal my gods?”31Then Jacob replied to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force.32The one with whom you find your gods shall not live; in the presence of our kinsmen point out what is yours among my belongings and take [it] for yourself.” For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.33So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two maids, but he did not find [them]. Then he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s tent.34Now Rachel had taken the household idols and put them in the camel’s saddle, and she sat on them. And Laban felt through all the tent but did not find [them].). All the idols and also the earrings – in this case this speaks of listening to things we like to hear – are brought to Jacob and he buries them. This is the first burial of this chapter. Three more will follow (verses 8,19,298Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth.19So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).29Isaac breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.).

Here we can see the oak as a picture of the cross. That is where we should bury our idols. For us this means that we confess before God what in our lives has been given a place next to or instead of Him and see that the Lord Jesus has borne the judgment for it. Then it is gone (1Jn 1:99If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.). The result for Jacob is that God protects him (verse 55As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.; 2Chr 17:9-109They taught in Judah, [having] the book of the law of the LORD with them; and they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.10Now the dread of the LORD was on all the kingdoms of the lands which [were] around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat.; Jos 2:99and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.).


Jacob Comes in Bethel

6So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. 7He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother.

During his first stay in Bethel, Jacob called Bethel an “awesome” place (Gen 28:1717He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”). Now he is there again, but without fear. He builds an altar, that is, he worships God for Whom He is. Jacob made an altar at Shechem (Gen 33:18-2018Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city.19He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money.20Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.), but without a command from God to build an altar there. God does not appear to him there either.

God Himself indicates where and how He wants to be worshipped: “Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”” (Jn 4:21-2421Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.23But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.24God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”). When Jacob is ready, he calls this place “El Bethel” (verse 77He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother.), which is the “God of the house of God” (cf. Gen 33:2020Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.).


Debora Dies

8Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth.

Then, just in between it seems, we read about a second burial in this chapter, that of Deborah. Deborah must have been an old woman. Before God can reappear to Jacob, she must first die. Is the meaning perhaps that first old traditions must disappear, the stories of the past, as if God of today can no longer show Who He is? Only when there is a personal relationship, a daily relationship with the Lord, He will reveal Himself to us. We cannot prey on the stories of father and grandfather, however stimulating these stories may be in themselves.


God Appears to Jacob Again

9Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. 10God said to him,
“Your name is Jacob;
You shall no longer be called Jacob,
But Israel shall be your name.”
Thus He called him Israel. 11God also said to him,
“I am God Almighty;
Be fruitful and multiply;
A nation and a company of nations shall come from you,
And kings shall come forth from you.
12“The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac,
I will give it to you,
And I will give the land to your descendants after you.”
13Then God went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him. 14Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He had spoken with him, a pillar of stone, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15So Jacob named the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel.

When Jacob has put his personal relationship with God in order, God appears to him again in Bethel. That is thirty years after his appearance to him in Bethel, when he fled from Esau (verse 11Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”; Gen 28:1313And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants.). Here He confirms Jacob’s new name. In connection with this He blesses him.

Jacob responds by setting up a sign. He also had set up a memorial stone at the previous apparition. Then he only poured oil over it. Now he first pours a libation of wine over it and then pours oil over it. He thus connects –in picture – to this sign both joy (wine) and the power of the Holy Spirit (oil).

The prophet Hosea reminds the people of this speaking of God. Hosea wants to point out the relationship between God and His people. This is reflected in the words “there He spoke with us”, which shows fellowship (Hos 12:44Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed;
He wept and sought His favor.
He found Him at Bethel
And there He spoke with us,
). It says “with us” and not ‘with him’. Jacob represents the whole people. Hosea says, as it were, to the people: "’There He spoke to us through Jacob; what He said to Jacob there also applies to us.’

With this Hosea tells the people that a people who long for fellowship with God must discard the idols. That is what happened at Bethel. After Jacob had cleansed his house, he met God in Bethel. What Jacob did – throwing away the foreign gods – Ephraim and Judah should have done, but they did not. This event must also appeal to us if we desire to live in fellowship with God.


Benjamin Born; Rachel Dies

16Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor. 17When she was in severe labor the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for now you have another son.” 18It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 19So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20Jacob set up a pillar over her grave; that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day.

When the house of God (Bethel) has got its true place in our lives, “Benjamin” can be born. That is to say that the Lord Jesus as the Son of God’s right hand – Benjamin means ‘son of my right hand’ – gets his true place in our lives. Benjamin is a type of the Lord Jesus who rules in strength.

Rachel calls him “Ben-oni”, which means ‘son of my sorrow’. The two names of this son belong together. They concern the same person. They remind of the suffering (Ben-oni) and the glory (Benjamin) of the Lord Jesus which also cannot be separated from each other (1Pet 1:1111seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.).

Rachel dies in Bethlehem. That name is also reminiscent of the Lord Jesus. It is the place where He was born (Mt 2:11Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,). Rachel is a picture of Israel. She gave birth to a son, but had no connection with him, as the Lord Jesus was born from Israel as a nation, but without Israel accepting Him.


Scandal of Reuben

21Then Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. 22It came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine, and Israel heard [of it]. Now there were twelve sons of Jacob—

Israel – not: Jacob – goes up. He continues in faith. It is also mentioned that he puts up his tent. He, the prince of God, dwells in a tent, while the city is reserved for him in the other world, that of faith.

When he dwells in the land, Reuben commits a terrible sin (cf. 1Cor 5:11It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.). The consequences of this have effects in later generations (Gen 49:44“Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence,
Because you went up to your father’s bed;
Then you defiled [it]—he went up to my couch.
; 1Chr 5:11Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (for he was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright.). Reuben is the firstborn of Jacob, he is Jacob’s power. He will now be about nineteen years old and have longed for a woman. His desire was not wrong, but it was the way he satisfied it.

When Dinah is raped, we read that “Jacob” hears of it and keeps silent. The sequel shows that he is the passive father. When Reuben has committed his sin, we read that “Israel” hears of it. Again we do not read of a reaction. However, because there is talk of “Israel” he seems to face this sin in the right way and not as a passive father. Jacob has grown in his spiritual life and spiritual feeling in his getting along with God.

After Benjamin was born – he was the only one born in the promised land - Jacob’s family is complete.


The Sons of Jacob

23the sons of Leah: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, then Simeon and Levi and Judah and Issachar and Zebulun; 24the sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin; 25and the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali; 26and the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher. These are the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.

Jacob left as a loner for Paddan-aram and now returns with a large family. For the first time the complete list of Jacob’s sons is mentioned. They are the ancestors of the people of Israel who will become a great people.


Death and Burial of Isaac

27Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre of Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned. 28Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. 29Isaac breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Isaac dies. Esau and Jacob bury him. Just like at the burial of Abraham there are two children at the grave of their father whose path and purpose of life are so completely different. Faith in God makes all the difference. Because of its absence one can only look into the grave, because of its presence the other can look over it.


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