Genesis 35:1
And God said to Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar to God, that appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXXV.

JACOB RETURNS TO BETH-EL AND HEBRON.—DEATH OF ISAAC.

(1) Arise, go up to Beth-el.—The position of Jacob at Shechem had become dangerous; for though the first result of the high-handed proceeding of Simeon and Levi was to strike the natives with terror (Genesis 35:5), yet reprisals might follow if they had time to learn the comparatively small number of Jacob’s followers. It was necessary, therefore, to remove; but besides this, Beth-el was the goal of the patriarch’s jonrneyings. He had made a solemn vow there on his journey to Padanaram, and though forty-two years had elapsed, it had not been forgotten (see Genesis 31:13); and the Divine command to go thither Was the outward authorisation of what his own conscience dictated. On this account we cannot believe that he had remained long at Shechem. Nomads are singularly leisurely in their movements. There is nothing of the rush and hurry of city life in their doings or purposes. They are capable of a great effort occasionally, but then relapse into their usual slowness. And so, when Jacob found good pasture and plenty of room for his cattle at Shechem, he remained there for awhile; but he did not abandon his purpose of going first to Beth-el, and finally to Hebron.

Genesis

A FORGOTTEN VOW

Genesis 35:1
.

Thirty years at least had passed since Jacob’s vow; ten or twenty since his return. He is in no haste to fulfil it, but has settled down at Shechem and bought land there, and seems to have forgotten all about Bethel.

1. The lesson of possible negligence.

{a} We are apt to forget vows when God has fulfilled His side of them. Resolutions made in time of trouble are soon forgotten. We pray and think about God more then than when things go well with us. Religion is in many men’s judgment for stormy weather only.

{b} We are often more resolved to make sacrifices in the beginning of our Christian course than afterwards.

Many a brilliant morning is followed by cloudy day.

Youth is often full of enthusiasms which after-days forget.

2. The reasons for the negligence.

Jacob felt a gradual fading away of impressions of need. He was comfortably settled at Shechem. He was surrounded by a wild, godless household who cherished their idols, and he knew that if he went to Bethel idolatry must be given up.

3. The essentials to communion and service.

Surrender. Purity. Must bury idols under oak.

4. The reward of sacrifice and of duty discharged.

The renewed appearance of God. The confirmation of name Israel. Enlarged promises. So the old man’s vision may be better than the youth’s, if he lives up to his youthful vows.Genesis 35:1. God said, Arise, go up to Beth-el — This was a word in season to comfort his disquieted mind, and direct him to a safer place. Make there an altar — Consider and pay thy vows there, made in the time of thy distress. Jacob had said in the day of his distress, If I come again in peace, this stone shall be God’s house, Genesis 28:22. God had performed his part, and given Jacob more than he then desired, namely, “bread to eat, and raiment to put on;” but it seems, if he had not forgotten his vow, he had at least deferred the performance of it, waiting, probably, for a fit time for that purpose; or an admonition from God concerning the proper season of paying it. And dwell there — That is, he was not only to go himself, but to take his family with him, that they might join with him in his devotions.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.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.

CHAPTER 35

Ge 35:1-15. Removal to Bethel.

1. God said unto Jacob, Arise, &c.—This command was given seasonably in point of time and tenderly in respect of language. The disgraceful and perilous events that had recently taken place in the patriarch's family must have produced in him a strong desire to remove without delay from the vicinity of Shechem. Borne down by an overwhelming sense of the criminality of his two sons—of the offense they had given to God and the dishonor they had brought on the true faith; distracted, too, with anxiety about the probable consequences which their outrage might bring upon himself and family, should the Canaanite people combine to extirpate such a band of robbers and murderers; he must have felt this call as affording a great relief to his afflicted feelings. At the same time it conveyed a tender rebuke.

go up to Beth-el—Beth-el was about thirty miles south of Shechem and was an ascent from a low to a highland country. There, he would not only be released from the painful associations of the latter place but be established on a spot that would revive the most delightful and sublime recollections. The pleasure of revisiting it, however, was not altogether unalloyed.

make there an altar unto God, that appeared—It too frequently happens that early impressions are effaced through lapse of time, that promises made in seasons of distress, are forgotten; or, if remembered on the return of health and prosperity, there is not the same alacrity and sense of obligation felt to fulfil them. Jacob was lying under that charge. He had fallen into spiritual indolence. It was now eight or ten years since his return to Canaan. He had effected a comfortable settlement and had acknowledged the divine mercies, by which that return and settlement had been signally distinguished (compare Ge 33:19). But for some unrecorded reason, his early vow at Beth-el [Ge 28:20-22], in a great crisis of his life, remained unperformed. The Lord appeared now to remind him of his neglected duty, in terms, however, so mild, as awakened less the memory of his fault, than of the kindness of his heavenly Guardian; and how much Jacob felt the touching nature of the appeal to that memorable scene at Beth-el, appears in the immediate preparations he made to arise and go up thither (Ps 66:13).God commands Jacob to dwell at Beth-el, and build an altar there, Genesis 35:1. He commands his family to purge themselves from idols, and go to Beth-el, Genesis 35:2,3. They obey, Genesis 35:4. He and they go thither, none pursuing them; the reason thereof, Genesis 35:5,6. There he builds an altar, Genesis 35:7. The death and burial of Rebekah’s nurse, Genesis 35:8. God appears to Jacob, confirms his name of Israel, renews the promises, Genesis 35:9-13. For which he sets up a pillar, pours oil thereon, and calls the place Beth-el, Genesis 35:14,15. Going thence Rachel dies in labour of Benjamin, and is buried there, Genesis 35:16-20. Reuben commits incest in his father’s house, Genesis 35:22. Jacob’s sons’ names, Genesis 35:23-26. Jacob visits his father Isaac, Genesis 35:27. His age, death, and burial, Genesis 35:28,29.

This was a word in season to comfort his disquieted mind, and convey him to a safer place. Understand, and pay thy vows there made in the time of thy distress, but not yet paid; whether it was Jacob’s error to forget and neglect his former vows and promises; or whether he waited for a fit time, or an admonition from God concerning the season of paying them.

And God said unto Jacob,.... When he was in great distress, on account of the slaughter of the Shechemites by his sons, not knowing what step to take, or course to steer for the safety of him and his family; then God, for his comfort and direction, appeared and spoke to him, either in a dream or vision, or by an impulse on his mind, or by an articulate voice: perhaps this was the Son of God, the second Person, who might appear in an human form, as he often did; since he afterwards speaks of God as of another divine Person, distinct from him, even his divine Father:

arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there; which is said to be twenty eight miles from Shechem (r); hither he is bid to go in haste, and where, it is suggested, he would be safe, and where it would be right and proper for him to dwell awhile:

and make there an altar to God; and offer sacrifice to him, praise him for salvation and deliverance wrought, pray to him for present and future mercies that were needful, and pay the vows he had there made, even to that God:

that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother; who, resenting his getting the birthright and blessing from him, threatened to kill him; which obliged him to flee from his father's house, and go into Mesopotamia, and in his way thither God appeared to him, at the place called by him from thence Bethel, and gave him many precious promises; and Jacob there made a solemn vow, that if God would be with him, and keep him, and give him food and raiment, and return him to his father's house, the pillar that was then and there set up should be God's house, as well as he should be his God. Jacob had now been nine or ten years in the land of Canaan, and had all done for him he desired, and much more abundantly, and yet had not been at Bethel to make good his vow, either through forgetfulness or neglect; and therefore, as Jarchi thinks, was chastised for it in the affair of Dinah; or rather, for one can hardly think so good a man could forget, or would wilfully neglect such a vow as this, that he wanted opportunity of going thither, or waited for a divine order, and now he had both, which he readily embraced.

(r) Bunting's Travels, p. 72.

And {a} God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.

(a) God is ever at hand to comfort his people in their troubles.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. go up to Beth-el] From Shechem to Bethel is an ascent of 1000 feet. Bethel is 2890 feet above the sea.

LXX εἰς τὸν τόπον Βαιθήλ = “unto the place Bethel,” cf. Genesis 12:6-8, Genesis 13:4, Genesis 28:11.

an altar] Jacob is commanded to worship at Bethel in fulfilment of his vow, Genesis 28:22.Verse 1. - And God - Elohim. The employment of this name for the Deity throughout the present chapter has been deemed conclusive evidence that, with Rome Jehovistic alterations, it belongs to the fundamental document (Tuch, Bleek, Delitzsch, Kalisch, et alii); but the frequent allusions to Genesis 28:13-16, which by partitionists is almost universally assigned to the Jehovist, prove that both sections have proceeded from the same author, and that, "though the mention of the name is avoided, this chapter, there is no doubt, substantially relates to Jehovah" (Hengstenberg), while the name Elohim may simply indicate that Jacob s journey from Shechem was undertaken in obedience to a Divine intimation (Quarry) - said unto Jacob (shortly after the incidents recorded in the preceding chapter), Arise, go up to Bethel, - about thirty miles distant (Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:3; Genesis 28:19), to which, some thirty years previous, he had solemnly vowed to return (Genesis 28:22) - a vow which he appeared somewhat dilatory in performing, although its conditions had been exactly fulfilled (Keil, Kurtz, Kalisch, &c.) - and dwell there (the massacre of the Shechemites had obviously rendered longer residence in that neighborhood unsafe): and make there an altar - this Jacob had substantially promised to do in his vow (vide Genesis 28:22) - unto God, that appeared unto thee - i.e. unto Jehovah (vide Genesis 28:13) - when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. The words contained an assurance that the same Divine arm which had shielded him against the enmity of Esau and the oppression of Laban would extend to him protection on his future way. But on the third day, when the Shechemites were thoroughly prostrated by the painful effects of the operation, Simeon and Levi (with their servants of course) fell upon the town בּטח (i.e., while the people were off their guard, as in Ezekiel 30:9), slew all the males, including Hamor and Shechem, with the edge of the sword, i.e., without quarter (Numbers 21:24; Joshua 10:28, etc.), and brought back their sister. The sons of Jacob then plundered the town, and carried off all the cattle in the town and in the fields, and all their possessions, including the women and the children in their houses. By the sons of Jacob (Genesis 34:27) we are not to understand the rest of his sons to the exclusion of Simeon, Levi, and even Reuben, as Delitzsch supposes, but all his sons. For the supposition, that Simeon and Levi were content with taking their murderous revenge, and had no share in the plunder, is neither probable in itself nor reconcilable with what Jacob said on his death-bed (Genesis 49:5-7, observe שׁור עקּרוּ) about this very crime; nor can it be inferred from ויּצאוּ in Genesis 34:26, for this relates merely to their going away from the house of the two princes, not to their leaving Shechem altogether. The abrupt way in which the plundering is linked on to the slaughter of all the males, without any copulative Vav, gives to the account the character of indignation at so revolting a crime; and this is also shown in the verbosity of the description. The absence of the copula is not to be accounted for by the hypothesis that Genesis 34:27-29 are interpolated; for an interpolator might have supplied the missing link by a vav, just as well as the lxx and other ancient translators.
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