Genesis 35:16
And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labor.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) But a little way.—Heb., and there was still a “chibrath” of land to come to Ephrath. This word occurs four times in the Old Testament: here, in Genesis 48:7, in 2Kings 5:19, and in Amos 9:9, where it is used in the sense of a sieve. Many of the Rabbins, therefore, translate “in the spring-time,” because the earth is then riddled by the plough like a sieve; and the Targum and Vulgate adopt this rendering. The real meaning of the word is lost, but probably it was a measure of distance; and the Jewish interpreters generally think that it meant a mile, because Rachel’s traditional tomb was about that distance from Bethlehem.

Ephrath (the fruitful) and Beth-lehem (the house of bread) have virtually the same meaning, but the latter name would be given to the town only when its pastures had given place to arable lands, where corn was sown for bread.

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.God appears to Jacob again at Bethel, and renews the promise made to him there Genesis 28:13-14. Again. The writer here refers to the former meeting of God with Jacob at Bethel, and thereby proves himself cognizant of the fact, and of the record already made of it. "When he went out of Padan-aram." This corroborates the explanation of the clause, Genesis 35:6, "which is in the land of Kenaan." Bethel was the last point in this land that was noticed in his flight from Esau. His arrival at the same point indicates that he has now returned from Padan-aram to the land of Kenaan. "He called his name Israel." At Bethel he renews the change of name, to indicate that the meetings here were of equal moment in Jacob's spiritual life with that at Penuel. It implies also that this life had been declining in the interval between Penuel and Bethel, and had now been revived by the call of God to go to Bethel, and by the interview.

The renewal of the naming aptly expresses this renewal of spiritual life. "I am God Almighty." So he proclaimed himself before to Abraham Genesis 17:1. "Be fruitful, and multiply." Abraham and Isaac had each only one son of promise. But now the time of increase is come. Jacob has been blessed with eleven sons, and at least one daughter. And now he receives the long-promised blessing, "be fruitful and multiply." From this time forth the multiplication of Israel is rapid. In twenty-six years after this time he goes down into Egypt with seventy souls, besides the wives of his married descendants, and two hundred and ten years after that Israel goes out of Egypt numbering about one million eight hundred thousand. "A nation and a congregation of nations," such as were then known in the world, had at the last date come of him, and "kings" were to follow in due time. The land, as well as the seed, is again promised.

Jacob now, according to his wont, perpetuates the scene of divine manifestation with a monumental stone. "God went up;" as he went up from Abraham Genesis 17:22 after a similar conferencc with him. He had now spoken to Jacob face to face, as he communed with Abraham. "A pillar" in the place where he talked with him, a consecrated monument of this second interview, not in a dream as before, but in a waking vision. On this he pours a drink-offering of wine, and then anoints it with oil. Here, for the first time, we meet with the libation. It is possible there was such an offering when Melkizedec brought forth bread and wine, though it is not recorded. The drink-offering is the complement of the meat-offering, and both are accompaniments of the sacrifice which is offered on the altar. They are in themselves expressive of gratitude and devotion. Wine and oil are used to denote the quickening and sanctifying power of the Spirit of God. "Bethel." We are now familiar with the repetition of the naming of persons and places. This place was already called Bethel by Jacob himself; it is most likely that Abraham applied this name to it: and for aught we know, some servant of the true God, under the Noachic covenant, may have originated the name.

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).

No text from Poole on this verse. 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.

And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a {f} little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.

(f) The Hebrew word signifies as much ground as one can cover from resting point to resting point, which is taken for half a days journey.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. some way] The word in the Heb. denotes a measure of distance. What it was, however, cannot be determined. It is found in Genesis 48:7 and 2 Kings 5:19. LXX renders as a proper name Chabratha.

to Ephrath] The name of a place otherwise unknown, in Benjamite territory, south of Bethel: not Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); see Genesis 35:19.

16–22a (J). Birth of Benjamin and Death of Rachel

“The meaning of the statement that Rachel died when Benjamin was born is that the formation of the new tribe Benjamin broke up the old tribe Rachel” (Bennett). But it would be a mistake to attempt to distinguish too closely the personal and tribal elements in the narrative. Events in personal life may be recorded for their symbolical significance. The story of Jacob, as distinct from that of Joseph, closes with Rachel’s death.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. The Fresh Revelation at Bethel. - After Jacob had performed his vow by erecting the altar at Bethel, God appeared to him again there ("again," referring to Genesis 28), "on his coming out of Padan-Aram," as He had appeared to him 30 years before on his journey thither, - though it was then in a dream, now by daylight in a visible form (cf. Genesis 35:13, "God went up from him"). The gloom of that day of fear had now brightened into the clear daylight of salvation. This appearance was the answer, which God gave to Jacob on his acknowledgement of Him; and its reality is thereby established, in opposition to the conjecture that it is merely a legendary repetition of the previous vision.

(Note: This conjecture derives no support from the fact that the manifestations of God are ascribed to Elohim in Genesis 35:1 and Genesis 35:9., although the whole chapter treats of the display of mercy by the covenant God, i.e., Jehovah. For the occurrence of Elohim instead of Jehovah in Genesis 35:1 may be explained, partly from the antithesis of God and man (because Jacob, the man, had neglected to redeem his vow, it was necessary that he should be reminded of it by God), and partly from the fact that there is no allusion to any appearance of God, but the words "God said" are to be understood, no doubt, as relating to an inward communication. The use of Elohim in Genesis 35:9. follows naturally from the injunction of Elohim in Genesis 35:1; and there was the less necessity for an express designation of the God appearing as Jehovah, because, on the one hand, the object of this appearance was simply to renew and confirm the former appearance of Jehovah (Genesis 28:12.), and on the other hand, the title assumed in Genesis 35:11, El Shaddai, refers to Genesis 27:1, where Jehovah announces Himself to Abram as El Shaddai.)

The former theophany had promised to Jacob divine protection in a foreign land and restoration to his home, on the ground of his call to be the bearer of the blessings of salvation. This promise God had fulfilled, and Jacob therefore performed his vow. On the strength of this, God now confirmed to him the name of Israel, which He had already given him in Genesis 32:28, and with it the promised of a numerous seed and the possession of Canaan, which, so far as the form and substance are concerned, points back rather to Genesis 17:6 and Genesis 17:8 than to Genesis 28:13-14, and for the fulfilment of which, commencing with the birth of his sons and his return to Canaan, and stretching forward to the most remote future, the name of Israel was to furnish him with a pledge. - Jacob alluded to this second manifestation of God at Bethel towards the close of his life (Genesis 48:3-4); and Hosea (Hosea 12:4) represents it as the result of his wrestling with God. The remembrance of this appearance Jacob transmitted to his descendants by erecting a memorial stone, which he not only anointed with oil like the former one in Genesis 28:17, but consecrated by a drink-offering and by the renewal of the name Bethel.

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