Genesis 35:5
And they journeyed: and the terror of God was on the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) The terror . . . —Heb., a terror of God, that is, a very great terror (see Genesis 23:6; Genesis 30:8). But to the deeply religious mind of the Hebrew everything that was great and wonderful was the result of the direct working of the Deity. (But see Note on Genesis 48:22.)

Genesis 35:5. The terror of God — A great terror from God; was upon the cities — Especially the cities nearest to Shechem, so that, although, humanly speaking, they were able, they were restrained from pursuing or destroying Jacob and his family. Nothing less could have secured them, considering the number, power, and rage of their enemies. God governs the world more by secret terrors on men’s minds than we are aware of.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.

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. The terror of God, i.e. a great terror sent from God, as Exodus 23:27 Joshua 2:9,11 2 Chronicles 14:14 17:10. So we read of a sleep of God, 1 Samuel 26:12. Nothing less could have secured Jacob, considering the great number, power, and rage of his enemies. 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.

And they journeyed: and the (d) terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.

(d) Thus, despite the inconvenience that came before, God delivered Jacob.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. a great terror] Heb. a terror of God. The inhabitants were under the influence of a mysterious dread or panic, inspired by God. Cf. Exodus 15:16; Exodus 23:27; Deuteronomy 2:25; Joshua 2:9; 2 Chronicles 14:14.

did not pursue] These words which imply that “the sons of Jacob” had by their violence given just cause of provocation, presuppose ch. 34.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. Jacob reproved the originators of this act most severely for their wickedness: "Ye have brought me into trouble (conturbare), to make me stink (an abomination) among the inhabitants of the land;...and yet I((with my attendants) am a company that can be numbered (lit., people of number, easily numbered, a small band, Deuteronomy 4:27, cf. Isaiah 10:19); and if they gather together against me, they will slay me," etc. If Jacob laid stress simply upon the consequences which this crime was likely to bring upon himself and his house, the reason was, that this was the view most adapted to make an impression upon his sons. For his last words concerning Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:5-7) are a sufficient proof that the wickedness of their conduct was also an object of deep abhorrence. And his fear was not groundless. Only God in His mercy averted all the evil consequences from Jacob and his house (Genesis 35:5-6). But his sons answered, "Are they to treat our sister like a harlot?" עשׂה: as in Leviticus 16:15, etc. Their indignation was justifiable enough; and their seeking revenge, as Absalom avenged the violation of his sister on Amnon (2 Samuel 13:22.), was in accordance with the habits of nomadic tribes. In this way, for example, seduction is still punished by death among the Arabs, and the punishment is generally inflicted by the brothers (cf. Niebuhr, Arab. p. 39; Burckhardt, Syr. p. 361, and Beduinen, p. 89, 224-5). In addition to this, Jacob's sons looked upon the matter not merely as a violation of their sister's chastity, but as a crime against the peculiar vocation of their tribe. But for all that, the deception they practised, the abuse of the covenant sign of circumcision as a means of gratifying their revenge, and the extension of that revenge to the whole town, together with the plundering of the slain, were crimes deserving of the strongest reprobation. The crafty character of Jacob degenerated into malicious cunning in Simeon and Levi; and jealousy for the exalted vocation of their family, into actual sin. This event "shows us in type all the errors into which the belief in the pre-eminence of Israel was sure to lead in the course of history, whenever that belief was rudely held by men of carnal minds" (O. v. Gerlach).
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