|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
35:16-20 Rachel had passionately said, Give me children, or else I die; and now that she had children, she died! The death of the body is but the departure of the soul to the world of spirits. When shall we learn that it is God alone who really knows what is best for his people, and that in all worldly affairs the safest path for the Christian is to say from the heart, It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. Here alone is our safety and our comfort, to know no will but his. Her dying lips called her newborn son Ben-oni, the son of my sorrow; and many a son proves to be the heaviness of her that bare him. Children are enough the sorrow of their mothers; they should, therefore, when they grow up, study to be their joy, and so, if possible, to make them some amends. But Jacob, because he would not renew the sorrowful remembrance of the mother's death every time he called his son, changed his name to Benjamin, the son of my right hand: that is, very dear to me; the support of my age, like the staff in my right hand.
Verse 16. - And they journeyed - not in opposition to the Divine commandment (ver. 1), which did not enjoin a permanent settlement at Bethel, but in accordance probably with his own desire, if not also Heaven's counsel, to proceed to Mamre to visit Isaac - from Bethel (southwards in the direction of Hebron); and there was but a little way (literally, there was yet a space of land; probably a few furlongs (Murphy), about four English miles (Gerlach). The Vulgate translates, "in the spring-time," and the LXX. render, ἐγένετο δὲ ἡνίκα ἤγγισεν εἰς χαβραθὰ, both of which are misunderstandings of the original - to come to Ephrath: - Fruitful; the ancient name of Bethlehem (vide infra ver. 19) - and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labor - literally, she had hard labor in her parturition, which was perhaps all the more severe that sixteen or seventeen years had elapsed since her first son, Joseph, was born.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they journeyed from Bethel,.... Jacob and his family; how long they stayed there is not certain, some say four months (z); hence they removed towards Bethlehem, which was twelve miles from Bethel (a), in their way to Hebron:
and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath; or Bethlehem, as it was also called, Genesis 35:19; a mile off of it, according to the Targums of Onkelos and Jerusalem; or about a mile, as Saadiah Gaon; for it was not a precise exact mile, but something less than a mile, as Ben Melech observes; and so Benjamin of Tudela, who was on the spot, says (b), that Rachel's grave is about half a mile from Bethlehem. Ben Gersom thinks the word here used signifies cultivated land, and that the sense is, that there were only fields, vineyards, and gardens to go through to the city, see Genesis 48:7,
and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour; the time of childbirth was come, and which came suddenly upon her, as travail does, even while journeying, which obliged them to stop; and her pains came upon her, and these very sharp and severe, so that she had a difficult time of it: pains and sorrow in childbearing are the fruit of sin, and more or less attend all in such a circumstance; but, in some, labour is more painful than in others, and more at one time than at another, and is the most painful in women than in other creatures.
(z) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 1.((a) Bunting's Travels, p. 72. (b) Itinerar. p. 47.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ge 35:16-27. Birth of Benjamin—Death of Rachel, &c.
16. And they journeyed from Beth-el—There can be no doubt that much enjoyment was experienced at Beth-el, and that in the religious observances solemnized, as well as in the vivid recollections of the glorious vision seen there, the affections of the patriarch were powerfully animated and that he left the place a better and more devoted servant of God. When the solemnities were over, Jacob, with his family, pursued a route directly southward, and they reached Ephrath, when they were plunged into mourning by the death of Rachel, who sank in childbirth, leaving a posthumous son [Ge 35:18]. A very affecting death, considering how ardently the mind of Rachel had been set on offspring (compare Ge 30:1).
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