|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
35:1-5 Beth-el was forgotten. But as many as God loves, he will remind of neglected duties, one way or other, by conscience or by providences. When we have vowed a vow to God, it is best not to defer the payment of it; yet better late than never. Jacob commanded his household to prepare, not only for the journey and removal, but for religious services. Masters of families should use their authority to keep up religion in their families, Jos 24:15. They must put away strange gods. In families where there is a face of religion, and an altar to God, yet many times there is much amiss, and more strange gods than one would suppose. They must be clean, and change their garments. These were but outward ceremonies, signifying the purifying and change of the heart. What are clean clothes, and new clothes, without a clean heart, and a new heart? If Jacob had called for these idols sooner, they had parted with them sooner. Sometimes attempts for reformation succeed better than we could have thought. Jacob buried their images. We must be wholly separated from our sins, as we are from those that are dead and buried out of sight. He removed from Shechem to Beth-el. Though the Canaanites were very angry against the sons of Jacob for their barbarous usage of the Shechemites, yet they were so kept back by Divine power, that they could not take the opportunity now offered to avenge them. The way of duty is the way of safety. When we are about God's work, we are under special protection; God is with us, while we are with him; and if He be for us, who can be against us? God governs the world more by secret terrors on men's minds than we are aware of.
Verse 5. - 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 Genesis 23:6; Genesis 30:8 (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 bad 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 expected.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they journeyed,.... Jacob and his family, with all that were with them, from Shechem to Bethel:
and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them; an exceeding great panic seized the inhabitants of the cities of the land of Canaan, all about Shechem, which was from God himself impressing it on their minds, through what the sons of Jacob had done to that city:
and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob; as it might have been thought they would, and take revenge on them for their ill usage of the inhabitants of a neighbouring city; but instead of this, they were afraid they should be used in the same manner; wherefore Jacob and his family journeyed in safety, and came to Bethel in peace.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5. the terror of God was upon the cities—There was every reason to apprehend that a storm of indignation would burst from all quarters upon Jacob's family, and that the Canaanite tribes would have formed one united plan of revenge. But a supernatural panic seized them; and thus, for the sake of the "heir of the promise," the protecting shield of Providence was specially held over his family.
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