Genesis 35:3
And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Who answered me . . . —The narrative of Jacob’s life, and the detail of God’s providential care of him, would doubtless affect strongly the minds of his followers, and make them ready to abandon their idols, “and worship the God that was Israel’s God” (Genesis 33:20).

Genesis 35:3. Who answered me in the day of my distress — He considers God’s gracious promise then made to him, and the assurance of his favour toward him, and care of him, impressed by God upon his mind, as an answer to his prayers, although he had then seen no success, nor any accomplishment of God’s word to him.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.

2. Then Jacob said unto his household … Put away the strange gods that are among you—Hebrew, "gods of the stranger," of foreign nations. Jacob had brought, in his service, a number of Mesopotamian retainers, who were addicted to superstitious practices; and there is some reason to fear that the same high testimony as to the religious superintendence of his household could not have been borne of him as was done of Abraham (Ge 18:19). He might have been too negligent hitherto in winking at these evils in his servants; or, perhaps, it was not till his arrival in Canaan, that he had learnt, for the first time, that one nearer and dearer to him was secretly infected with the same corruption (Ge 31:34). Be that as it may, he resolved on an immediate and thorough reformation of his household; and in commanding them to put away the strange gods, he added,

be clean, and change your garments—as if some defilement, from contact with idolatry, should still remain about them. In the law of Moses, many ceremonial purifications were ordained and observed by persons who had contracted certain defilements, and without the observance of which, they were reckoned unclean and unfit to join in the social worship of God. These bodily purifications were purely figurative; and as sacrifices were offered before the law, so also were external purifications, as appears from the words of Jacob; hence it would seem that types and symbols were used from the fall of man, representing and teaching the two great doctrines of revealed truth—namely, the atonement of Christ and the sanctification of our nature.

He takes God’s gracious promise, and the comfortable hope and assurance of God’s favour to him, and care of him, impressed by God upon his mind and heart, for an answer to his prayers, though he had then seen no success nor accomplishment of God’s word to him. And let us arise and go up to Bethel,.... Thus prepared and purged, their tents clear of idols, their bodies washed with pure water, and their garments new, neat, and clean; all symbolical of inward purity, and of freedom from idolatry and evil works, as became those who go to the house of God, and are his worshippers, see Hebrews 10:22.

I will make there an altar unto God; as he has directed, and sacrifice to him, and worship him, and give the tenth unto him, and so make it a Bethel, an house of God indeed, as he had vowed, Genesis 28:22,

who answered me in the day of my distress; on account of his brother Esau, from whose wrath he fled:

and was with me in the way which I went; from his father's house to Padanaram; in which journey he was alone and destitute, and exposed to many difficulties and dangers, but God was with him, and preserved him, and directed and brought him to Laban's house in safety.

And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. who answered me] Jacob here refers to his flight from Esau (chap. 28), not, as some have supposed, to his flight from Laban (chap. 31).

in the day of my distress] Cf. Psalm 20:1, “The Lord answer thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob set thee up on high.”

was with me] Cf. Genesis 28:20, Genesis 31:3.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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