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Ge 35:1-15. REMOVAL TO BETHEL.
1. God said unto Jacob, Arise, &c.--This command was given
seasonably in point of time and tenderly in respect of language. The
disgraceful and perilous events that had recently taken place in the
patriarch's family must have produced in him a strong desire to remove
without delay from the vicinity of Shechem. Borne down by an
overwhelming sense of the criminality of his two sons--of the offense
they had given to God and the dishonor they had brought on the true
faith; distracted, too, with anxiety about the probable consequences
which their outrage might bring upon himself and family, should the
Canaanite people combine to extirpate such a band of robbers and
murderers; he must have felt this call as affording a great relief to
his afflicted feelings. At the same time it conveyed a tender rebuke.
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
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
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,
4. they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods . . . and
earrings--Strange gods, the "seraphim" (compare
as well, perhaps, as other idols acquired among the Shechemite
spoil--earrings of various forms, sizes, and materials, which are
universally worn in the East, and, then as now, connected with
incantation and idolatry (compare
The decided tone which Jacob now assumed was the probable cause of the
alacrity with which those favorite objects of superstition were
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.
6. So Jacob came to Luz . . . that is, Beth-el--It is probable that this place was unoccupied ground when Jacob first went to it; and that after that period [CALVIN], the Canaanites built a town, to which they gave the name of Luz [Ge 28:19], from the profusion of almond trees that grew around. The name of Beth-el, which would, of course, be confined to Jacob and his family, did not supersede the original one, till long after. It is now identified with the modern Beitin and lies on the western slope of the mountain on which Abraham built his altar (Ge 12:8).
7. El-Beth-el--that is, "the God of Beth-el."
8. Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died--This event seems to have taken place before the solemnities were commenced. Deborah (Hebrew, a "bee"), supposing her to have been fifty years on coming to Canaan, had attained the great age of a hundred eighty. When she was removed from Isaac's household to Jacob's, is unknown. But it probably was on his return from Mesopotamia; and she would have been of invaluable service to his young family. Old nurses, like her, were not only honored, but loved as mothers; and, accordingly, her death was the occasion of great lamentation. She was buried under the oak--hence called "the terebinth of tears" (compare 1Ki 13:14). God was pleased to make a new appearance to him after the solemn rites of devotion were over. By this manifestation of His presence, God testified His acceptance of Jacob's sacrifice and renewed the promise of the blessings guaranteed to Abraham and Isaac [Ge 35:11, 12]; and the patriarch observed the ceremony with which he had formerly consecrated the place, comprising a sacramental cup, along with the oil that he poured on the pillar, and reimposing the memorable name [Ge 35:14]. The whole scene was in accordance with the character of the patriarchal dispensation, in which the great truths of religion were exhibited to the senses, and "the world's grey fathers" taught in a manner suited to the weakness of an infantile condition.
Ge 35:16-27. BIRTH OF BENJAMIN--DEATH OF RACHEL, &c.
16. And they journeyed from Beth-el--There can be no doubt that much enjoyment was experienced at Beth-el, and that in the religious observances solemnized, as well as in the vivid recollections of the glorious vision seen there, the affections of the patriarch were powerfully animated and that he left the place a better and more devoted servant of God. When the solemnities were over, Jacob, with his family, pursued a route directly southward, and they reached Ephrath, when they were plunged into mourning by the death of Rachel, who sank in childbirth, leaving a posthumous son [Ge 35:18]. A very affecting death, considering how ardently the mind of Rachel had been set on offspring (compare Ge 30:1).
18. She called his name Ben-oni--The dying mother gave this name to her child, significant of her circumstances; but Jacob changed his name into Benjamin. This is thought by some to have been originally Benjamin, "a son of days," that is, of old age. But with its present ending it means "son of the right hand," that is, particularly dear and precious.
19. Ephrath, which is Beth-lehem--The one, the old name; the other, the later name, signifying "house of bread."
20. and Jacob set a pillar on her grave . . . unto this day--The spot still marked out as the grave of Rachel exactly agrees with the Scriptural record, being about a mile from Beth-lehem. Anciently it was surmounted by a pyramid of stones, but the present tomb is a Mohammedan erection.
26. Sons of Jacob . . . born to him in Padan-aram--It is a common practice of the sacred historian to say of a company or body of men that which, though true of the majority, may not be applicable to every individual. (See Mt 19:28; Joh 20:24; Heb 11:13). Here is an example, for Benjamin was born in Canaan [Ge 35:16-18].
Ge 35:28, 29. DEATH OF ISAAC.
29. Isaac gave up the ghost--The death of this venerable patriarch is here recorded by anticipation for it did not take place till fifteen years after Joseph's disappearance. Feeble and blind though he was, he lived to a very advanced age; and it is a pleasing evidence of the permanent reconciliation between Esau and Jacob that they met at Mamre to perform the funeral rites of their common father.