Genesis 35:7
And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared to him, when he fled from the face of his brother.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) El-beth-el.—That is, the God of the house of God: the God into whose house he had been admitted, and seen there the wonders of His providence.

God appeared.—The verb here, contrary to rule, is plural (see Note on Genesis 20:13), but the Samaritan Pentateuch has the singular. No argument can be drawn either way from the versions, as the word for God is singular in them all, and the verb necessarily singular also. In no other language but Hebrew is the name of God plural, but joined with verbs and adjectives in the singular.

Genesis 35:7. He built an altar — And, no doubt, offered sacrifice upon it, perhaps the tenth of his cattle, according to his vow, I will give the tenth unto thee. And he called the place — That is, the altar, El-Beth-el — The God of Beth-el. As when he made a thankful acknowledgment of the honour God had done him in calling him Israel, he worshipped God by the name of El-elohe-Israel; so now he was making a grateful recognition of God’s former favour at Beth-el, he worships God by the name of the God of Beth-el, because there God appeared to him.35:6-15 The comfort the saints have in holy ordinances, is not so much from Beth-el, the house of God, as from El-beth-el, the God of the house. The ordinances are empty things, if we do not meet with God in them. There Jacob buried Deborah, Rebekah's nurse. She died much lamented. Old servants in a family, that have in their time been faithful and useful, ought to be respected. God appeared to Jacob. He renewed the covenant with him. I am God Almighty, God all-sufficient, able to make good the promise in due time, and to support thee and provide for thee in the mean time. Two things are promised; that he should be the father of a great nation, and that he should be the master of a good land. These two promises had a spiritual signification, which Jacob had some notion of, though not so clear and distinct as we now have. Christ is the promised Seed, and heaven is the promised land; the former is the foundation, and the latter the top-stone, of all God's favours.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.

7. El-Beth-el—that is, "the God of Beth-el." El-beth-el, i.e. He confirmed the name which he had formerly given to the place. And he built there an altar,.... As he was bid to do, and as he promised he would, Genesis 35:1,

and called the place Elbethel; the God of Bethel; a title which God takes to himself, Genesis 31:13; or rather the sense is, that he called the place with respect God, or because of his appearance to him there, Bethel, confirming the name he had before given it, Genesis 36:19; see Genesis 35:15; as the following reason shows:

because there God appeared; or the divine Persons, for both words are plural that are used; the Targum of Jonathan has it, the angels of God, and so Aben Ezra interprets it; but here, no doubt, the divine Being is meant, who appeared

unto him; to Jacob in this place, as he went to Mesopotamia, and comforted and encouraged him with many promises:

when he fled from the face of his brother; his brother Esau, who was wroth with him, and sought to take away his life, and therefore was forced to flee for it.

And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. the place] See notes on Genesis 12:6, Genesis 28:11.

El-beth-el] That is, the God of Beth-el. Here, as in Genesis 33:20, the altar receives the name of the deity.

was revealed] Referring to Genesis 28:12-13. In the Heb. “was revealed” is in the plural: see note on Genesis 20:13, cf. Joshua 24:19. Dillmann (Theologie d. A.T., p. 211) explains this by saying that “Elohim” here is “God with the angels.” The Divine Presence is regarded as hidden or covered, and needing to be “revealed”; cf. Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16.Verse 7. - And he built there an altar, - thus redeeming his vow (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:4) - and called the place El-beth-el: - i.e. God of Bethel. Not he called the place of God, or the place sacred to God, Bethel (Michaelis, 'Suppl.,' p. 2174), nor he called the altar (Keil, Kalisch, Gerlach, &c.), but he called the place where the altar was El-beth-el; i.e. either he devoted the place as sacred to the El of Bethel (Rosenmüller), or he gave to the place the name of (so. the place of) the El of Bethel, reading the first El as a genitive (Lange); or he called it El-Beth-el metaphorically, as Jerusalem afterwards was styled Jehovah Tsidkenu (Jeremiah 33:16) and Jehovah Shammah (Ezekiel 48:35; Inglis). It has been proposed, after the LXX., to avoid the seeming incongruity of assigning such a name to a place, to read, he invoked upon the place the El of Bethel (Quarry, p. 513) - because there God appeared unto him, - the El of Bethel was Jehovah (vide Genesis 28:13; Genesis 31:13) - when he fled from the face of his brother. Journey to Bethel. - Jacob had allowed ten years to pass since his return from Mesopotamia, without performing the vow which he made at Bethel when fleeing from Esau (Genesis 28:20.), although he had recalled it to mind when resolving to return (Genesis 31:13), and had also erected an altar in Shechem to the "God of Israel" (Genesis 33:20). He was now directed by God (Genesis 35:1) to go to Bethel, and there build an altar to the God who had appeared to him on his flight from Esau. This command stirred him up to perform what had been neglected, viz., to put away from his house the strange gods, which he had tolerated in weak consideration for his wives, and which had no doubt occasioned the long neglect, and to pay to God the vow that he had made in the day of his trouble. He therefore commanded his house (Genesis 35:2, Genesis 35:3), i.e., his wives and children, and "all that were with him," i.e., his men and maid-servants, to put away the strange gods, to purify themselves, and wash their clothes. He also buried "all the strange gods," i.e., Rachel's teraphim (Genesis 31:19), and whatever other idols there were, with the earrings which were worn as amulets and charms, "under the terebinth at Shechem," probably the very tree under which Abraham once pitched his tent (Genesis 12:6), and which was regarded as a sacred place in Joshua's time (vid., Joshua 24:26, though the pointing is אלּה there). The burial of the idols was followed by purification through the washing of the body, as a sign of the purification of the heart from the defilement of idolatry, and by the putting on of clean and festal clothes, as a symbol of the sanctification and elevation of the heart to the Lord (Joshua 24:23). This decided turning to the Lord was immediately followed by the blessing of God. When they left Shechem a "terror of God," i.e., a supernatural terror, "came upon the cities round about," so that they did not venture to pursue the sons of Jacob on account of the cruelty of Simeon and Levi (Genesis 35:5). Having safely arrived in Bethel, Jacob built an altar, which he called El Bethel (God of Bethel) in remembrance of the manifestation of God on His flight from Esau.
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