Chapter xxxv
11. The Last Events of Isaac's History (35:1-29)

If we are to follow the outline offered by the author himself, we must have some such title as the above. For the "history" (toledôth) of Isaac closes with this chapter; he has, unaggressive person that he was, still dominated Jacob's action up to this point. Jacob becomes an independent factor after his father's death, and his own "history" begins with Ge 37:2.

1. And God said to Jacob: Arise, go up to Bethel and tarry there, and \make there an altar unto God who appeared to thee at the time of the flight from before Esau, thy brother.

Since the divine name 'Elohim or 'El dominates this chapter, it appears plainly that the writer regards the various acts and words of God here recorded as displaying the activity of the Creator-God in His authority as He deals with His creature man. In this capacity Elohim authoritatively bids Jacob fulfill his vow; the altar is to be erected, to Elohim (v. Ge 35:3), who showed forth His power in protecting Jacob. The God who controls the nations lets a terror fall upon the inhabitants of the land lest they harm Israel (v. Ge 35:5). It is Elohim, who appears to Jacob, blesses him, changes his name, and bestows upon him the blessing of Abraham; for Elohim alone possesses authority to do these things. Without a doubt, some of these acts, like the last, do also show forth the Yahweh character of God; but we sincerely believe the Elohim character predominates.

We have no way of knowing in what manner God spoke to Jacob. If this appearance is analogous to that of v. Ge 35:9-13, it would seem that He appeared under some visible guise, because (v.13) He "went up from him." But more puzzling is the question why Jacob should have deferred fulfilling the vow of Ge 28:22 and should have to be bidden by God to do according to it. The readiest explanation is that Jacob had kept putting it off until a more convenient season. The level of faith arrived at at the close of chapter 32 had not been maintained. God Himself prevents further sinful delay by allowing Jacob no choice in the matter. That God demands the building of an altar where Jacob had vowed to build a "house" shows how Jacob had meant his vow: he had intended to establish a sanctuary, whose most prominent feature in days of old could be nothing other than an altar. He should "tarry" (shebh, imperative from yashabh; here not in the sense of "dwell" but "tarry") just long enough to carry out the injunction laid upon him. Jacob was not to "go up to Bethel to live" (Meek). This rendering creates an unnecessary conflict with what Jacob actually does.

2-4. And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him: Discard the foreign gods which are in your midst, and purify yourselves and change your garments. And let us set out and go up to Bethel; and there I shall make an altar unto El (God) who answered me at the time of my distress, and was with me on the way that I went. And they turned over to Jacob all the foreign gods in their possession and the rings that were in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the terebinth near Shechem.

Such a command as Jacob has just received requires more, as Jacob clearly sees, than a mere literal keeping. A general repentance and reconsecration of all that are with him should accompany the outward act. Certain of the more recent happenings had taught him the need of such a purging of his household. His sons had given evidence of a very carnal and cruel disposition. His daughter may at least have displayed undue levity. The grave danger growing out of the present situation had contributed to stir his conscience. But most important of all, there had been a most pernicious and dangerous practice subtly at work poisoning the fountainhead of all true religion -- idols were worshipped. Most of this evil must have kept under cover. It now appears that Rachel's purpose in stealing her father's teraphim (Ge 31:19) may well have been at least occasionally to engage in the worship of them. Then it is highly probable that the servants acquired in Mesopotamia may in many cases have still been idolaters. The sacking of Shechem may have brought additional "foreign gods" into the possessions of the plunderers, and the mere having of them will have constituted a grave danger for the possessors. Without a doubt, Jacob will as a faithful patriarch have instructed his entire household to serve Yahweh, the only true God, and, as Luther frequently reminds, will have been a faithful preacher in his own household. But now the drastic action that might well have been taken long before marks a courageous and thoroughgoing attempt to root out the evil. Patriarchal authority certainly made Jacob's course possible and effective. Hasiru means more than our "put away" -- that might imply "storing away"; the verb is rather an emphatic "discard." The command, "purify yourselves," may include ceremonial washing, as in Ex 19:14, but its essence would be: purge your hearts and lives of this noxious influence. Again as at Mt. Sinai the changing of garments was to do honour to the occasion and further symbolize the putting off of the old and the putting on of the new. For "foreign gods" the Hebrew uses the noun in place of the adjective -- "the gods of the foreigner."

3. With the preparations demanded in v.2, which may well be regarded as a repentance of heart, the people as a whole are ready to "set out" (literally: "rise up," qum) and "go up" ('alah, for Bethel lies 1,000 feet higher). In recounting by way of thankful confession what God did for him Jacob remembers what strength God displayed in guarding him against all harm and therefore designates Him as El, the "Strong One." Jacob's confession includes the statement that 'El answered him "in the day" (beyom) or "at the time of my distress." The following words are a definite allusion to Ge 28:15; for this was just what God had promised at Bethel, to be with him on the way that he went. Since, without a doubt, Jacob had frequently told the story of God's promise, this word will have been recognized by those that heard him as an acknowledgment of God's faithfulness.

4. When "they gave" (nathan) to Jacob the objects he had asked them to discard, it was with the purpose that he might dispose of them as he pleased; therefore we translate nathan they "turned over" to Jacob. Apparently they entered wholeheartedly upon the plan, for they gave "all the foreign gods in their possession," as well as earrings, which must have served as amulets and tokens of some idolatrous practices. Jacob buries all they give him "under the terebinth near Shechem." Such a terebinth ('elah) was mentioned as having been at Shechem in Abraham's day (Ge 12:6), although there we read, "the terebinth of Moreh," which, as we remarked on this passage, hardly bears any idolatrous connotation. Since it may, nevertheless, be the prominent terebinth under which Abraham had stopped and at which the Lord had appeared to him, the article may here recall that event; and the sacred memories associated with it may well accord with the memorable event of our chapter, and so the tree becomes a memorial tree of the notable religious events. Reluctant to accept Scriptural suggestions and seemingly anxious to obscure a simple text, one critic remarks: "The burial of idolatrous emblems under this sacred tree has some traditional meaning which we cannot now explain." The claims to the effect that some Canaanite cult was associated with this tree rest upon a weak foundation. The dative is here expressed by the preposition 'el, (K. S. p.263, 1). In Jos 24:26 Shechem becomes the scene of an event much like that of Jacob's days.

5-7. Then they departed; but there was a terror of God upon the cities round about them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. And Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan -- that is to say, Bethel -- he and all the people that were with him. And he built there an altar and called the place El-Bethel (God of Bethel), for there God had been revealed to him in his flight from Esau.

God gives plain tokens of his favour and approval of the step just taken by Jacob in purging out idolatry by putting restraint upon all Canaanite projects of revenge for the Shechemites. Certainly, here again God's favour far exceeded the deserts of the chosen group, but on the other hand Jacob's reformation had prepared his family for holier living. The "terror of God" was a supernatural terror -- "of God" being either a descriptive genitive or a genitive of source. Apparently, the neighbouring cities had intended a murderous pursuit, and in point of numbers they certainly had the advantage. But God had purposes for the future in reference to Abraham's seed and so spared them. "Terror," chittah, a feminine noun, has a masculine verb because of the tendency to let sentences begin with masculine verbs (K. S.345a). Cf. also 2Ch 20:29.

6. We are reminded of Ge 28:19 where already Jacob had altered "Luz" to "Bethel." The mention of Bethel is a definite allusion to the former experience at this site. So, too, the mention of the coming of Jacob "and all the people that were with him" aims to show how marvellously God had fulfilled His promise to bring Jacob back unharmed. The critics do not believe the Elohist, so called, capable of making any such point, so they ascribe at least 6a to P. Naturally, such points are too important for the writer, Moses, to overlook.

7. Then the altar is built, no doubt, more than the simplest kind of a place of sacrifice. If in making his vow (Ge 28:22) Jacob had spoken of a "house of God," we are justified in thinking here of a permanent sanctuary, such as the needs of that day would require, the task of building which may have required weeks. Yet everything centred about the mizbéach, "the place of slaughtering" or the "altar." Here now, without a doubt, maqom must mean "holy place" or "sanctuary." This holy "place" therefore receives the name 'El-Bethel, "the Strong God of Bethel." Those translators who failed to recognize that the holy place was meant (e. g. Septuagint) altered the name to a mere "Bethel." The propriety of the name Jacob chose is readily apparent: "The Strong One" who had so often delivered him as He had promised at "Bethel" is the one whose altar Jacob has built. The experiences of twenty years are perpetuated pointedly in this name. To make the reason for the erecting of the altar clear beyond all doubt the reason of v.1 is again repeated here: "God had been revealed to him in his flight from Esau." The verb nighlû is plural with ha'elohim, a plural of potentiality, a harmless construction explained above on Ge 20:13; which see. Such expressions never contain reminiscences of a former polytheistic standpoint. Here in particular all such possible allusions are ruled out by 'Elohim with the article ha, a combination always of the strictest monotheistic import, for it means: "the true God."

8. And Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died and was buried below Bethel beneath the oak; so it came to be called the Oak of Weeping.

Of Deborah we read in Ge 24:59 without being apprised of her name. It will forever remain a puzzle how she came to be with Jacob at Bethel. The simplest surmise is that after Rebekah's death she may have chosen to attach herself to Jacob, because she had loved and tended him in infancy and in youth. Even on Jacob's part there may have been an attachment for one, who in our day might be referred to as an old "mammy." Deborah must have been very old at this time. Since Jacob may have been nearly 110 years old at this time and was born rather late in his mother's life, an age of 170 years for Deborah is not unlikely. But Isaac lived to be 180 years old (v. Ge 35:28). But these unexplained and unusual features constitute no reason for questioning the historicity of this event. The confusion of our event and the person of Deborah (Jud 4:5) does not lie in these passages but in the minds of the critics. The Deborah of a later date "judged" and dwelt "under a palm tree between Ramah and Bethel." Our Deborah "died" and was buried "under an oak below Bethel." More important to observe is the fact that the Scripture regards the death and the burial of this menial worthy of notice; and that fact would lead us to infer, as Luther does, that "she was a wise and godly matron, who had served and advised Jacob, had supervised the domestics of the household and had often counselled and comforted Jacob in dangers and difficulties." So the "Oak of Weeping" became a monument to a godly servant whose loss was deeply mourned by all.

9-12. And God appeared to Jacob again as he came from Paddan-Aram and blessed him; and God said unto him: Thy name is Jacob; thy name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name. So He called his name Israel, And God said to him: I am God Almighty; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a group of peoples shall come from thee, and kings shall come forth from thy loins. And the land which I gave to Abraham and to Isaac, I now give to thee; also to thy seed after thee will I give the land.

Apparently the author's point of view is that Jacob is to be regarded as still on his way home from Paddan-Aram. Only in v. Ge 35:27 does Jacob actually return home to his father Isaac. But since Jacob has returned again to Bethel, at least the significant point of departure had again been reached. To confirm and ratify the promises made at the time when God first appeared to him at this place, God deems it good and necessary for Jacob that He appear to him again. With this appearance is coupled a ratification of the change of name which was first determined Ge 32:28. Since the whole of God's dealings with Jacob in this manifestation may be designated as the imparting of a divine blessing -- even the change of name may be regarded from this point of view -- it is here said and He "blessed him."

10. It must remain a divine prerogative to determine when men need manifestations Such as these. So, then, it must have appeared necessary and good in the eyes of the Lord first of all to confirm the change of name and so to reimpress the obligation involved in the new name. If, then, this episode is closed with the assertion: "so He called his name Israel," this is no denial of Ge 32:28 but a reaffirmation of it. But criticism will persist in thinking this account in conflict with the earlier experience. But why should God not repeat what He wishes to emphasize strongly?

11, 12. These verses are a reaffirmation of the promise formerly given at Bethel Ge 28:13-15. In the earlier passage Jacob is assured that his seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and that he shall spread abroad to all quarters of the land. Here the blessing of fruitfulness and of multiplying covers the same ground, except that here in addition it is specified that "a nation and a group of peoples shall come" from him, as well as kings. In both words possession of the land is assured to Jacob and his seed. There God designates Himself as the faithful Yahweh; here, as 'El Shadday, i. e., God Almighty. Strangely, the earlier passage Ge 28:14 b offers the Messianic thought ("in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed"), which is not restated in the passage before us. May this be due to the fact that this most prominent part of the blessing had been laid hold upon by the faith of Jacob so decisively and retained so firmly that it required no repetition? It seems so. We know no more appropriate explanation.

13-15. And God went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him. And Jacob erected a pillar in the place where God spoke with him, a pillar of stone, and poured a libation on it and also poured oil upon it. And Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.

The unusual expression "went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him" implies that as God had spoken to Jacob from a position above Jacob so from this point His visible ascent occurred in a plainly visible fashion. For me'alaw means "from above him" and marks the starting point of His departure. It is hardly to be expected that the stone erected in Ge 28:18 in commemoration of the previous event will still have been standing after a lapse of thirty years, during which time Jacob had had no occasion to visit the spot. The matstsebha is in this instance again a sacred memorial pillar; and since wooden pillars may occasionally have been used, this one is specified to have been "of stone." The libation is poured out (nasakh nésekh -- "pouring out a pouring," i. e., a drink-offering or libation) as a quantity of wine that here constitutes an independent offering but later was always used in conjunction with other offerings. The oil is the oil of consecration. On drink-offerings see De 32:38; Ex 29:40; 30:9. Though this constitutes a repetition of what transpired Ge 28:18, it, like the appearance of God, is a second and a distinct act: God appeared twice; Jacob anointed a stone twice. But no one who reads the account fairly would claim to find evidence here of the fact that "these monuments were doubtless originally objects, of worship," or that the "libation was in the first instance an offering to the dead." Such interpretations impute to the patriarch superstitions of which not one trace appears in the text. Such "debunking" of the patriarchs and their religion deserves the sharpest rebuke. Note the omission of the dagesh forte in yitsoq (G. K.71).

15. If it seem strange that the name of the place should a second time (cf. Ge 28:19) be called "Bethel," i. e. "house of God" let a distinct difference be noted. Then there was but one person; now there is a multitude. Then the one expressed his godly sentiments in a memorial; now a whole tribal group shares in the experience, even if, perhaps, Jacob alone witnessed the divine manifestation. This time the word "Bethel" expresses what all feel or are to feel.

16-18. And they departed from Bethel, and when they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel brought forth a child and had great difficulties in the birth. And it came to pass when her labour was extremely hard that the midwife said to her: Do not be afraid, for this one too shall be a son for you. And it came to pass as her soul departed -- for she was dying -- that she called his name Ben-oni (Son of my sorrow), but his father called him Benjamin (Son of the right hand).

Jacob is on the way to his father at Hebron. Rachel's travail comes upon her "when they were still some distance from Ephrath." Now 'ephrath means "fruitful region" and must have been a certain fruitful area within which Bethlehem was the most prominent town. In Jacob's day the limits of that area may have been more distinctly marked so that, as they were approaching it, their location would be marked in reference to the proximity of Ephrath. Unfortunately, no light has as yet been thrown upon the expression kibrath. Luther says ein Feldwegs. Does he mean a distance like the length of an ordinary field? A. V. imagines the distance to have been greater, saying: "still some distance" -- so above. The Syriac Peshito seems to go too far when it calls the distance "a parasang," i. e. about six miles. The expression must mean a familiar distance and hardly seems to imply a great distance. The birth is first recorded in a summary way: watteledh, "and she brought forth a child." In characteristic Hebrew manner the details follow: she "had great difficulties (literally: "she had a hard time of it" or "she was hard beset") in the birth." Lidhtah -- infinitive from yaladh.

17. The Hifil stem of the verb qashah here differs little in meaning from the Piel of v.16; if anything, it may be a bit stronger: "her labour was extremely hard" vs. "she had great difficulties." The "midwife" was none other than some older woman experienced in helping at birth. She comforts Rachel when she discerns that this child too is to be a son, as she had prayed Ge 30:24 that he might be.

18. Rachel's birth struggle terminated fatally. Since néphesh means both "soul" and "life," we may translate either: "as her soul," or "as her life went forth or departed." There is a very tragic note in this that her dying word is an expression of the anguish of her soul as she gives the name to her son -- Ben-oni, i. e. "son of my sorrow." It would, indeed, have been almost morbid to allow a son to bear such a name through life. So the father promptly alters the name to at least a similar one: Benjamin. Though literally translated: "son of the right hand," this name may signify "a child of good fortune" because the right side was commonly regarded as the stronger and more honourable and so came to symbolize good fortune. Glueckskind has aptly been suggested as a rendering. From Jacob's point of view this is the son that rounds out the number of his children to a perfect twelve, and so his birth is a token of good fortune. It hardly seems likely that this son's birth is contrasted with that of the other sons in that he was born after Jacob became free, whereas the other eleven are the sons begotten in the state of relative bondage.

19-21. So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath, that is Bethlehem. And Jacob set up a pillar at her grave. This is the pillar of the grave of Rachel until this day. But Israel moved on and pitched his tent beyond Migdaleder.

After Rachel's death the sad duty of love, burial, devolved upon Jacob. The writer gives us the location of this grave very definitely for a reason which will soon become apparent. He says it was "on the way to Ephrath." This does not necessarily involve that the burial took place at the very spot where she died. Yet it cannot have been far from there, because in v. Ge 35:16 they were "still some distance from Ephrath." Nor are they now there. Ephrath is identified, for strictly speaking it is more in the nature of a common noun ("fruitful region") than a proper noun, or according to its meaning there may have been several such Ephraths in the land. The closer identification says: "that is Bethlehem." Since Bethlehem is a town in a region Ephrath -- so also in Mic 5:2 -- this identification must be meant in the sense that Bethlehem was the best known or most important town in this tract. Another possibility is this: "way" maybe supplied before the second noun, thus: "on the way to Ephrath, that is the way to Bethlehem." Then the region would be mentioned first; thereafter the specific spot in the region. Such a construction has nothing harsh or unnatural about it. Usually critics call the parenthetical identification -- "that is Bethlehem" -- a blunder on the writer's part. They say that the writer did not know that the region and the town were not identical. Strange ignorance on his part! But with our second explanation another difficulty vanishes: Jacob in coming from Bethel and approaching Ephrath may have been just past the site of Jerusalem when Rachel died. Near there he buried her. But now the two passages that are usually said to conflict with this point of view lose their point, viz., 1Sa 10:2; Jer 31:15. The first places Rachel's sepulchre in the border of Benjamin. But the border between Benjamin and Judah ran diagonally through Jerusalem. All we, then, need to assume is that Jacob had not yet passed Jerusalem when Rachel died.

The second passage (Jer 31:15) represents the mother of Benjamin weeping over her slain children at Ramah. Now Ramah lay about five miles north of Jerusalem. However, though Rachel is represented as rising from her tomb and lamenting over her slain descendants that does not say that her sepulchre has to be at the same spot where she weeps. The only discrepancy would then be the traditional site of Rachel's tomb, the Kubbet Rachel about two miles north of Bethlehem.

Somehow the peculiar interest attaching to the tomb of Rachel in Moses' day lay in the fact that the pillar, which Jacob set up as a memorial at Rachel's tomb, was still to be seen after a lapse of four hundred years. How it came that this pillar was not dislodged by the Canaanites or did not fall of itself we may not be able to determine. Sometimes burial sites enjoy even the respect of strangers. Neither have we any means of determining how Moses came into possession of this interesting fact. But all this casts no shadow of doubt upon its correctness. Moses, however, inserted such notices to arouse interest in the land of promise on the part of the people whom it was his business to lead there.

21. He that departs from the scene of his sorrow is designated as "Israel," as it would seem to indicate that he bore his grief as his better, newer nature helped him to do, and so "moved on" a chastened but a more seasoned saint of God. But for the present he did not move far. For "MigdalEder," meaning "the tower of the flocks," i. e. a lookout tower for shepherds, was, according to Mic 4:8, (rightly interpreted), on the southeast hill of Jerusalem on old territory of the tribe of Benjamin (Jos 18:28; Jud 1:21).

22 a. And it happened while Israel dwelt in that land that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah, his father's concubine. And Israel heard of it.

A sad testimony to the demoralization of Jacob's sons! Jacob is here called Israel to remind us that in doing this vile deed Reuben dishonoured Israel, the eminent hero of faith. Vile, incestuous lust here has its sway among men who should have been worthy to bear the honourable title sons of Israel. Though Bilhah was heretofore described only as Rachel's "handmaid," she is now after Rachel's death described in her relationship to Jacob against whom the wrong is done and is designated as Jacob's "concubine." Critics cannot see such simple proprieties and promptly seize upon such points as proofs of a supposedly different style of different authors. Need we be told the self-evident thing that Jacob disapproved and was deeply grieved and shamed? We are merely informed that he became aware of what has happened: he "heard of it." This prepares us for Ge 49:4 where his disapproval finds lasting expression for all future time. Criticism's verdict again cannot satisfy: it calls this statement "probably a temporal clause of which the apodosis has been intentionally omitted." The infinitive bishkon -- a temporal clause (G. K.45 g).

22b-27. Now Jacob had twelve sons: the sons of Leah -- the first-born of Jacob, Reuben, and Simeon, and Levi and Judah and Issachar and Zebulon; the sons of Rachel -- Joseph and Benjamin; the sons of Bilhah, the handmaid of Rachel -- Dan and Naphtali; the sons of Zilpah, the handmaid of Leah -- Gad and Asher. These are the sons of Jacob which were born to him in PaddanAram. And Jacob came to Isaac, his father, to Mamre, to Kirjath-Arba -- that is Hebron -- where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned.

Summaries or recapitulations serve a good purpose in narratives. Here it can be seen to be very appropriate to have those twelve who are Jacob's sons listed together, first, to reimpress their names on the mind and to show what potentialities for development into a numerous people lay in Jacob's descendants at this point already. Critics, of course, call this one of the characteristics of P, to write such summaries and discourse on their supposed findings but fail to see how naturally any writer, or writers, summarize at important junctures of their narratives, as here where Jacob presents himself to his father Isaac.

These sons are listed according to their mothers rather than according to age because those of one mother would naturally find themselves drawn closer together. Then, again, it is but natural that the sons of the wives be listed first, then those of the handmaidens. But among the wives, though Rachel was the favourite, Leah had borne many sons long before Rachel began; consequently her children are listed first. These twelve are all said to have been born in Paddan-Aram, though everyone knows that Benjamin was born in Canaan. Yulladh as a singular with a plural subject ("these" being the antecedent) is to be accounted for by the fact that after they have been summarized, they appear to the writer as one group. The passive of this verb is a convenient mode of avoiding the mention of numerous subjects (K. S.108).

27. Comparing with Ge 18:1, we notice that Mamre will most likely be a briefer designation for "the terebinths of Mamre." The well-informed writer lists both names of the ancient town, giving "Hebron" parenthetically as the better known name for "KirjathArba," i. e., "the city of Arba." To mention that Abraham and Isaac "had sojourned" there does not serve the purpose of imparting new facts but suggests what it was that drew Jacob to Hebron: the place was redolent with the memories of his godly forefathers.

The break in v.22 indicates, as it were, the beginning of a new paragraph. The double accent on yisra'el suggests the two possible modes of reading: othnach for private reading, making a pause according to the sense, the metheg for public or liturgical reading to indicate direct continuation, slurring over the vile deed.

28, 29. And the length of Isaac's life was one hundred and eighty years. And Isaac expired and died and was gathered unto his people, an old man and sated with days; and Esau and Jacob his sons buried him.

From this time onward Jacob enters into the full patriarchal heritage, having at last attained to a spiritual maturity which is analogous to that of the patriarch. Coincident with this is Isaac's receding into the background. Consequently Isaac's death is now reported, though it did not take place for another twelve or thirteen years. For shortly after this, when Joseph was sold into Egypt, he was seventeen years old. When he stood before Pharaoh he was thirty (Ge 41:46). Seven years later when Joseph was thirtyseven, Jacob came to Egypt at the age of 130 (Ge 47:9). Consequently Jacob must have been ninety-three at Joseph's birth and at the time of our chapter 93 plus 15, i. e. about 108 years. But Isaac was sixty years old when Jacob was born; 108 plus 60 equals 168 equals Isaac's age when Jacob returned home. But in closing the life of Isaac it is proper to mention his death, though in reality this did not occur for another twelve years. Strange to say, Isaac lived to witness Jacob's grief over Joseph.

29. Gawa'," he expired," describes the process; muth, "he died," marks the conclusion of the process. That he "was gathered unto his people" certainly implies more than being laid in the common ancestral grave or even than passing out of this life. They to whom he goes are a "people" whom he joins. How strong and clear the hope of eternal life was in those days we cannot now tell, but this word bears testimony to such a faith. With the progressive weakening of the human race Isaac at 180 years was counted as an old man. How much of life God had let him taste is indicated by the statement that "he was sated (sebha' -- ' full') with days." He had seen as many as his soul might desire. It is a pleasant fact to note that at the death of their father the once estranged brothers are still united.

On the sources of this chapter the critics, though far from being of one mind, claim to have discerned a pattern about as follows: E wrote 1-8, 16-20. To J must be ascribed 21, 22 a. This leaves for P 9-15, 22 b-29 (K. C.). Aside from the fundamentally wrong presuppositions about discernable sources we have pointed to several additional weaknesses of this construction. To one not blinded by the glamour of pseudocriticism and its claims the manifest unity of the chapter and its natural sequence of parts will be sufficient proofs of its original unity.

Other untenable claims by more extreme critics are these: v. Ge 35:22 describes an old marriage custom of the Reubenites; v. Ge 35:18 the birth of Benjamin in Canaan is supposed to indicate that the tribe was formed after the conquest of Canaan. Attempts to discover astral myths relative to sun and moon reflected in the appearing of the brighter Jacob (sun) after the dimmer Isaac (moon) are extravagant impossibilities.


The first episode (v. Ge 35:1-8) suggests some such subject as Spiritual Housecleaning, or since Jacob is performing his vow, why not use the approach suggested by the psalm: Perform Thy Vows unto the Most High? A very practical treatment of that theme is suggested by these verses. Since v. Ge 35:9-15 is in a double sense a repetition of matters found previously in Genesis, why not make that a prominent feature of the treatment of the section and speak of the Repetition of Spiritual Experiences?

chapter xxxiv
Top of Page
Top of Page