Matthew Poole's Commentary
And 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.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.
Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:The strange gods, the idols, which are so called here, and Deu 31:16 32:12 Joshua 24:20, because they were the gods of strange and foreign nations, such as all were accounted who were not Israelites.
Quest. How came these to be and to continue so long in Jacob’s house.
1. By Rachel’s means, who brought them from her father’s house, which haply was not discovered till this time. Or,
2. By Leah, and by Jacob’s two concubines, who might possibly bring such with them. Or,
3. By the means of Jacob’s Gentile servants, who might secretly worship such gods; or having taken them from the She-chemites, they might keep them for their precious matter, as gold and silver, though not for religious use. Like a good man, and a good master of a family, he takes care not only for himself, but for all his family, to keep them from the exercise of a false religion, and to engage them as far as he can in the profession and practice of the true. Compare Genesis 18:19 Joshua 24:15.
Be clean; cleanse yourselves by outward and ritual washing, as Exodus 19:10,14, which even then was in use; and especially by purging your hearts as well as hands from these idols, which I perceive, to my sorrow, some of you have still retained; and from your late detestable cruelty; that you may be fit to approach to that God who hath now summoned me and you to make a solemn appearance before him.
Change your garments, either by putting on new garments, as 2 Samuel 12:20, or by washing the old ones, as Exodus 19:10 Leviticus 15:13. And these, as well as other ceremonial institutions and practices, were professions of their repentance; which consists in putting off the old man, and putting on the new, Ephesians 4:22.
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.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 they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.Either because they had been abused to idolatry and superstition at Shechem, or elsewhere, and therefore were to be destroyed according to God’s command, now signified to Jacob, and afterwards delivered to his posterity, Deu 7:5 12:3; or for fear they should be so abused. For the Scripture seems to insinuate, and other writers expressly affirm, that divers heathen people did wear earrings for the honour of their idols, and with the representations or ensigns of their idols engraven upon them. See Judges 8:24. After he had melted or broken them, (which seems probable from parallel instances, as Exodus 32:20 2 Kings 18:4),
Jacob hid them under a certain oak, though not known to his family which it was. He chose that place, either as most proper to put monuments of idolatry under those trees which were so much and so generally abused to idolatry, as oaks especially were, Isaiah 1:29; or as the safest place, where they were likely to remain longest hid, because the heathen had a veneration for oaks, and therefore would not cut them down, nor dig them up, nor do any thing which had a tendency that way.
And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.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.
So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him.In the land of Canaan, properly so called, or where the Canaanites properly so called dwelt. Thus it is distingnished from another Luz, Judges 1:26.
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.El-beth-el, i.e. He confirmed the name which he had formerly given to the place.
But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.She came with Rebekah into Canaan, Genesis 24:59, and probably tarried with her whilst she lived, and after her death, as it seems; and, upon Jacob’s desire, after his return from Haran, came into his family; where, being a person of great prudence and piety, her presence and advice was very useful in his numerous and divided family.
Allon-bachuth, from the great lamentation which they made there for the loss of a person of such singular worth.
And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.No text from Poole on this verse.
And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.Israel shall be thy name. I do not repent of the change which I made of thy name, but I do again confirm it; and as then thou didst prevail over thy brother Esau, so now thou shalt prevail over those of whom thou art afraid.
And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;A company of nations, tribes, for number and power, equal to so many nations,
shall come out of thy loins, i.e. shall be begotten by thee, as this phrase is taken also in Genesis 46:26 1 Kings 8:19 Acts 2:30.
And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.No text from Poole on this verse.
And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.God went up from him; either locally and visibly, to wit, in that human shape in which he appeared to him; or by withdrawing the signs of his special presence, as Genesis 17:22 Judges 13:20; as on the contrary God is said to come down, not by change of place, but by some signal manifestation of his presence and favour, as Exodus 3:8 Numbers 11:17.
And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.Either he repaired the old pillar set up by him, Genesis 28:18, which was ruined by the injury of time, or by the neighbouring idolaters; or rather erected a new one, more stable and durable than he could do in that time, as a monument or witness of God’s manifold favours, and of his own gratitude. The
drink-offering was of wine, as may be gathered by comparing Exodus 29:40 Numbers 28:14.
And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.No text from Poole on this verse.
And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also.No text from Poole on this verse.
And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.In departing; or, in going out; namely, out of the body, as Psalm 146:4, which is an argument of the soul’s immortality, especially if compared with Ecclesiastes 12:7. From which places, laid together, we learn the two terms of the journey, whence it goes, and whither it goes.
Benjamin; either as near and dear and precious to him as his right hand, which is both more useful and more honourable than the left; see Psalm 80:17; or instead of his right hand, the staff, stay, and comfort of his old age.
And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.In the way to Ephrath; not in the city, though that was near; for in ancient times their sepulchres were not in the places of resort, but in separated places, and out of cities. See Matthew 27:60 Luke 7:12.
And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day.Jacob set a pillar, as a monument or memorial of her life and death, and as a testimony of her future resurrection.
Unto this day, i.e. unto the time wherein Moses writ this book, and long after. See 1 Samuel 10:2 Jeremiah 31:15.
And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.Or, the tower of the flock; a place where were excellent pastures. See Micah 4:8.
And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve:This was a horrid incest; for concubines were a sort of wives. See Genesis 22:24 25:1.
Israel heard it, and doubtless sadly resented it, both in Reuben, as appears from Genesis 49:4 1 Chronicles 5:1,2; and in Bilhah, whose bed without question he forsook upon it, as afterwards David did in the like case. See 2 Samuel 16:22 20:3. Yet here is no mention of Jacob’s reproof of it, nor any censure of Moses added to it; possibly to teach us, that we are not to approve of every fact which is mentioned in Scripture without censure, and that the miscarriages of professors of religion are rather to be silently bewailed than publicly reproached, lest religion should suffer by it.
The sons of Jacob were twelve, which were heads of the twelve tribes; therefore his daughter Dinah is not here mentioned, because she was not the head of a tribe.
The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun:No text from Poole on this verse.
The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin:No text from Poole on this verse.
And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali:No text from Poole on this verse.
And the sons of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid; Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram.All but Benjamin, who must in all reason be supposed to be excepted here, because he is said to be born elsewhere, above, Genesis 35:16. But it is a usual synecdoche, whereby that is ascribed to all in gross which belongs to the greatest part. See Genesis 15:13 46:15 Exodus 12:40 Judges 20:46 John 20:24 1 Corinthians 15:5.
And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned.Jacob came; either with his wives, and children, and estate, to dwell with Isaac; or rather in person, to visit his sick and dying father; for otherwise Jacob having been ten years near his father, no doubt he had oft visited him, and carried his wives and children thither, though Scripture be silent in this particular: but they could not live together because of the greatness of their estates, as it happened with others. See Genesis 13:6 36:7.
And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.1715
Was gathered unto his people; either to the society of the dead, or to the congregation of the just. See Genesis 15:15 25:8.