Genesis 35:8
But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Deborah.—As she was at Hebron with Rebekah when Jacob journeyed to Haran, he must have somehow gone thither before this, have seen his father, and told him of his fortunes. Apparently Rebekah was then dead, and Jacob brought back Deborah with him. (See Note on Genesis 33:18.) How dear she was to them is shown by their calling the tree under which she was buried the oak of weeping. This oak was “beneath Beth-el,” that is, in the valley below it. Deborah must have died at a great age, for she gave Rebekah suck, and must therefore have been grown up at her birth. Now Jacob, when he returned from Padan-aram, was ninety-seven years of age; and as he was born twenty years after his mother’s marriage—if we allow the shortest possible space for the interval spent at Succoth and Shechem—Deborah must have been nearly one hundred and sixty years of age. This again confirms the conclusion that Dinah’s dishonour occurred very soon after the arrival of Jacob at Shechem. (See Note on Genesis 34:1.)

Genesis 35:8. Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died — It appears, on computation, that this event took place not less than a hundred and twenty-five years after Rebekah’s marriage with Isaac. No doubt Rebekah was now dead, and this old nurse, who had come with her into Canaan, (Genesis 24:59,) and had tarried with her while she lived, was, after her death, taken into Jacob’s family, in which, as she was a person of great prudence and piety, her presence and advice must have been very useful. Hence her death is recorded in Jacob’s history, rather than in Isaac’s. Now, while they were at Beth-el, she died, and died so much lamented, that the oak, under which she was buried was called Allon-bachuth, the oak of weeping.35:6-15 The comfort the saints have in holy ordinances, is not so much from Beth-el, the house of God, as from El-beth-el, the God of the house. The ordinances are empty things, if we do not meet with God in them. There Jacob buried Deborah, Rebekah's nurse. She died much lamented. Old servants in a family, that have in their time been faithful and useful, ought to be respected. God appeared to Jacob. He renewed the covenant with him. I am God Almighty, God all-sufficient, able to make good the promise in due time, and to support thee and provide for thee in the mean time. Two things are promised; that he should be the father of a great nation, and that he should be the master of a good land. These two promises had a spiritual signification, which Jacob had some notion of, though not so clear and distinct as we now have. Christ is the promised Seed, and heaven is the promised land; the former is the foundation, and the latter the top-stone, of all God's favours.Jacob returns to Bethel. "And God said unto Jacob." He receives the direction from God. He had now been six years lingering in Sukkoth and Sleekem. There may have been some contact between him and his father's house during this interval. The presence of Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, in his family, is a plain intimation of this. But Jacob seems to have turned aside to Shekem, either to visit the spot where Abraham first erected an altar to the Lord, or to seek pasture for his numerous flocks. "Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there." In his perplexity and terror the Lord comes to his aid. He reminds him of his former appearance to him at that place, and directs him to erect an altar there. This was Abraham's second resting-place in the land. He who had there appeared to Jacob as the Yahweh, the God of Abraham and Isaac, is now described as (house of El), the Mighty One, probably in allusion to Bethel (house of El), which contains this name, and was at that time applied by Jacob himself to the place. "His house;" his wives and children. "All that were with him;" his men-servants and maid-servants.

The strange gods, belonging to the stranger or the strange land. These include the teraphim, which Rachel had secreted, and the rings which were worn as amulets or charms. Be clean; cleanse the body, in token of the cleaning of your souls. Change your garments; put on your best attire, befitting the holy occasion. The God, in contradistinction to the strange gods already mentioned. Hid them; buried them. "The oak which was by Shekem." This may have been the oak of Moreh, under which Abraham pitched his tent Genesis 12:6. The terror of God; a dread awakened in their breast by some indication of the divine presence being with Jacob. The patriarch seems to have retained possession of the land he had purchased and gained by conquest, in this place. His flocks are found there very shortly after this time Genesis 37:12, he alludes to it, and disposes of it in his interview with Joseph and his sons Genesis 48:22, and his well is there to this day.

"Luz, which is in the land of Kenaan." This seems at first sight to intimate that there was a Luz elsewhere, and to have been added by the revising prophet to determine the place here intended. Luz means an almond tree, and may have designated many a place. But the reader of Genesis could have needed no such intimation, as Jacob is clearly in the land of Kenaan, going from Shekem to Hebron. It seems rather to call attention again Genesis 33:18 to the fact that Jacob has returned from Padan-aram to the land of promise. The name Luz still recurs, as the almond tree may still be flourishing. "And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el." Thus has Jacob obeyed the command of God, and begun the payment of the vow he made twenty-six years before at this place Genesis 38:20-22. "There God revealed himself unto him." The verb here נגלוּ nı̂glû is plural in the Masoretic Hebrew, and so it was in the copy of Onkelos. The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint have the singular. The reading is therefore, various. The original was probably singular, and may have been so even with its present letters. If not, this is one of the few instances in which Elohim is construed grammatically with a plural verb. Deborah dies in the family in which she began life. She is buried under "the well-known oak" at Bethel. Jacob drops a natural tear of sorrow over the grave of this faithful servant, and hence, the oak is called the oak of weeping. It is probable that Rebekah was already dead, since otherwise we should not expect to find Deborah transferred to Jacob's household. She may not have lived to see her favorite son on his return.

8. Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died—This event seems to have taken place before the solemnities were commenced. Deborah (Hebrew, a "bee"), supposing her to have been fifty years on coming to Canaan, had attained the great age of a hundred eighty. When she was removed from Isaac's household to Jacob's, is unknown. But it probably was on his return from Mesopotamia; and she would have been of invaluable service to his young family. Old nurses, like her, were not only honored, but loved as mothers; and, accordingly, her death was the occasion of great lamentation. She was buried under the oak—hence called "the terebinth of tears" (compare 1Ki 13:14). God was pleased to make a new appearance to him after the solemn rites of devotion were over. By this manifestation of His presence, God testified His acceptance of Jacob's sacrifice and renewed the promise of the blessings guaranteed to Abraham and Isaac [Ge 35:11, 12]; and the patriarch observed the ceremony with which he had formerly consecrated the place, comprising a sacramental cup, along with the oil that he poured on the pillar, and reimposing the memorable name [Ge 35:14]. The whole scene was in accordance with the character of the patriarchal dispensation, in which the great truths of religion were exhibited to the senses, and "the world's grey fathers" taught in a manner suited to the weakness of an infantile condition. She came with Rebekah into Canaan, Genesis 24:59, and probably tarried with her whilst she lived, and after her death, as it seems; and, upon Jacob’s desire, after his return from Haran, came into his family; where, being a person of great prudence and piety, her presence and advice was very useful in his numerous and divided family.

Allon-bachuth, from the great lamentation which they made there for the loss of a person of such singular worth. But Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died,.... That is, when, and quickly after they were come to Bethel; a nurse of Rebekah's came with her to Canaan, when she married Isaac, and is generally thought to be this Deborah, which is not improbable, Genesis 24:59, though she might have more nurses than one, as great personages sometimes have, and then it will not be so difficult to answer the objection made here; that Rebekah's nurse, whom Jacob is supposed to leave in Canaan when he went to Padanaram, should now be in his family when he returned from hence; since the reply would be, that that nurse and this Deborah were not the same; but supposing them to be the same, which is most likely, this is accounted for several ways: according to Jarchi, who had it from an ancient writer of theirs (u), Rebekah sent her to fetch Jacob home, according to her promise, Genesis 27:45; but it is not very probable that she should send a woman, and one so ancient, on such an errand: rather, this nurse of hers, after she had accompanied her to Canaan, and stayed awhile with her there, returned to Haran again, and being very useful in Jacob's large family, and having a great respect for them, returned again with them, and which she might choose in hopes of seeing Rebekah once more, whom she had a strong affection for; or, when Jacob was come into the land of Canaan to Shechem, he might send for her from Hebron to be assisting in his family; or going to visit his parents, which he might do before he went with his whole family to them, might bring her with him to Shechem, who travelling with him to Bethel died there: her name signifies a bee, as Josephus (w) observes:

and she was buried beneath Bethel; at the bottom of the hill or mountain on which Bethel stood:

under an oak; of which there were many about Bethel, 1 Kings 13:14 2 Kings 2:23; and it was not unusual to bury the dead under trees, see 1 Samuel 31:13,

and the name of it was called Allonbachuth; the oak of weeping, because of the weeping and mourning of Jacob's family at her death, she being a good woman, an ancient servant, and in great esteem with them. The Jews have a tradition that the occasion of this weeping, or at least of the increase of it, was, that Jacob at this time had the news of the death of Rebekah his mother; so the Targum of Jonathan,"there tidings were brought to Jacob of the death of Rebekah his mother, and he called the name of it another weeping;''and so Jarchi.

(u) R. Moses Hadarsan. (w) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 5. sect. 2.

But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. Deborah] The mention of Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, is surprising. She is mentioned, though not by name, in Genesis 24:59. Probably her name was well known in other Israelite traditions which have not survived. If we relied on the chronology of P, we should have to call attention to the fact that, according to its statements (Genesis 25:20, Genesis 35:28), Deborah had left Haran with Rebekah 140 years before.

below Beth-el] On lower ground, probably to the south; cf. 1 Samuel 7:11, “under Beth-car”; 1 Kings 4:12, “beneath Jezreel.”

Allon-bacuth] That is, the oak of weeping. It is a coincidence, but nothing more, that Deborah, the prophetess, dwelt between Ramah and Bethel, under a palm tree, Jdg 4:5. Is this the “oak of Tabor” (1 Samuel 10:3)?

9–15 (P). This passage contains the account of (1) an appearance of God to Jacob, (2) the change of his name to Israel, and (3) the renewal of the Divine promises granted at Bethel. All this is parallel to the narrative in Genesis 28:10-22; it presents P’s explanation of the names Israel and Bethel, both of which have already been accounted for in J and E.Verse 8. - But Deborah - Bee (Gesenius, Furst) Rebekah's nurse (vide Genesis 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 Genesis 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 (ver. 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 1 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). Journey to Bethel. - Jacob had allowed ten years to pass since his return from Mesopotamia, without performing the vow which he made at Bethel when fleeing from Esau (Genesis 28:20.), although he had recalled it to mind when resolving to return (Genesis 31:13), and had also erected an altar in Shechem to the "God of Israel" (Genesis 33:20). He was now directed by God (Genesis 35:1) to go to Bethel, and there build an altar to the God who had appeared to him on his flight from Esau. This command stirred him up to perform what had been neglected, viz., to put away from his house the strange gods, which he had tolerated in weak consideration for his wives, and which had no doubt occasioned the long neglect, and to pay to God the vow that he had made in the day of his trouble. He therefore commanded his house (Genesis 35:2, Genesis 35:3), i.e., his wives and children, and "all that were with him," i.e., his men and maid-servants, to put away the strange gods, to purify themselves, and wash their clothes. He also buried "all the strange gods," i.e., Rachel's teraphim (Genesis 31:19), and whatever other idols there were, with the earrings which were worn as amulets and charms, "under the terebinth at Shechem," probably the very tree under which Abraham once pitched his tent (Genesis 12:6), and which was regarded as a sacred place in Joshua's time (vid., Joshua 24:26, though the pointing is אלּה there). The burial of the idols was followed by purification through the washing of the body, as a sign of the purification of the heart from the defilement of idolatry, and by the putting on of clean and festal clothes, as a symbol of the sanctification and elevation of the heart to the Lord (Joshua 24:23). This decided turning to the Lord was immediately followed by the blessing of God. When they left Shechem a "terror of God," i.e., a supernatural terror, "came upon the cities round about," so that they did not venture to pursue the sons of Jacob on account of the cruelty of Simeon and Levi (Genesis 35:5). Having safely arrived in Bethel, Jacob built an altar, which he called El Bethel (God of Bethel) in remembrance of the manifestation of God on His flight from Esau.
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