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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 35

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 3


‘Let us arise, and go up to Bethel.’

Genesis 35:3

I. Bethel was the place of visions and of vows, and possessed sacred memories for Jacob. It was there he first came into touch with God, and vowed to become His servant. A long interval had passed that was not the most creditable to Jacob, and God had at last to thrust him out of the house of Laban in order that he might realise his early ideals. Between every Egypt and Canaan there lies a wilderness, and the journey from the house of Laban to the place of vision reflected much of the experience of those who set their face towards the place of full consecration and uninterrupted fellowship.

II. In getting back to Bethel Jacob found there were places to be left, things to be faced, and difficult and dangerous places to be passed. He had to leave the house of Laban, and there are associations that have to be broken up before we can be fully consecrated. The only way of safety lay in getting out of evil territory. Then there were things to be faced. If Laban was a difficulty, Esau was a greater. It was worse to have to face a wronged man than a bad man, for God puts Himself in the place of every wronged man. The wisest course is to settle the difficulty about the wronged man first with God in secret, and then to face the man himself. One must never seek to dodge Esau, for there can be no ‘second blessing’ for the man with an unrequited wrong in his memory. Then Jacob found there were difficult places to be passed. Shechem was a place that appealed strongly to Jacob from a business point of view, for it offered numerous advantages and opportunities, and he stayed there for a time, and built an altar to satisfy his conscience. But he paid dearly for his compromise, for his children went to the devil and disgraced their father. Then in his extremity he set his face towards Bethel once more. Let us go back to Bethel, to our first love, to our early vows, to those holy moments when we thought we would be absolutely and irrevocably Christ’s. Let us stand where we stood, where it would have been well for us if we had never lost ground; but it is better with one great effort to regain the past than continue to drift.

III. Jacob’s words sent a thrill of aspiration through his camp. They obeyed him, and renounced their strange gods, and put off their jewels, and the people arose with Jacob to a new life. It is a grand thing when a returning prodigal is able to influence many another to accompany him back to the Father’s house. And God appeared unto Jacob again. Oh, precious words! Take heart, beloved friend! It is long since you saw His face, and heard His voice, but it will all come back now, and you shall become fruitful, you shall multiply, spiritual children shall be given to you.

IV. Rachel died a few days after visiting Bethel. What a comfort it must have been to Jacob and to her to feel that their last common act was one of renewed religious life! It was easier for Jacob to bear all the trouble and sorrow that followed, with the inspiration of that one holy act lingering in his memory.


‘My Christianity should be continually progressive. It should leave what is behind, and reach forward to what is before. To-day should be better than yesterday, and to-morrow better than to-day. I ought not to need the return to Bethel. I ought to be perpetually advancing to new revelations, new experiences, new achievements, new benedictions. But—let me say it with regret and shame—it is not so, I retrograde. I lose my first love, and forget my first works. I turn aside into Bypath Meadow. I linger in the delicate plain called Ease. I fall asleep in the Enchanted Ground. There are sad halts, relapses, falls, in my progress. Yet how good is my God to me! Since I will not go steadfastly forward in His name and through His grace, He conducts me back to Bethel. He converts me a second time. He restores my soul. He says to me, “I heal thy backslidings, and now, My child, run the race more courageously and unfalteringly, looking unto Jesus.” ’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Genesis 35". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/genesis-35.html. 1876.
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