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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 35

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-5


Verses 1-5:

The terrible crime at Shechem produced an undesigned blessing to Jacob. It was clearly impossible for him and his family to remain at the scene of the treachery and cruelty of Simeon and Levi. The consternation Jacob felt became a means which caused him to listen to the voice of Elohim, calling him to return to Beth-el, as he had long ago vowed. This illustrates the principle, that tragedy may be used of God to accomplish His will in His child.

Jacob at this point asserted the authority he should have affirmed years before. He demanded of his entire family that they put away all "strange gods" from among them. This included the teraphim Rachel had stolen from Laban, as well as other objects of idolatrous worship either brought from Haran or acquired after moving to Canaan, or those possessed by the captives. They were to purify themselves ceremonially, through some form of ablution. Even the garments were to be changed, symbolizing a complete moral purification of mind and heart. These activities were similar to those later incorporated into Israel’s law (Nu 19:11, 12; Le 14:4; 15:13; Ex 19:10).

Jacob’s family must now go to Beth-el, where he would erect an altar to Elohim. In preparation the family surrendered all idolatrous artifacts. This included jewelry used’ for purposes of idolatrous worship. Earrings were often covered with words and figures supposedly endowed with supernatural virtue (Jg 8:24; Isa 3:20; Ho 2:13). The text implies that Jacob then destroyed all these artifacts, and buried them under a specific tree near Shechem, which was a landmark familiar to those who then lived. It may have been the same tree by which Abraham pitched his tent, (Ge 12:6) on arriving in that country.

When Jacob cleared his conscience, cleansed himself and his house from the trappings of idolatry, and became obedient to God’s direction, God responded by granting protection from his enemies. He inspired a supernatural dread in the city-states of that region, so that none dared pursue after Jacob as might have been expected.

Verses 6-8

Verses 6-8:

Luz was the ancient name of the town which was re-named Beth-el. There he built an altar and called it El-beth-el, literally "God of Beth-el." Thus he at last fulfilled his vow made thirty years earlier.

The introduction of Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, at this point implies that she was now in Jacob’s household, perhaps because Jacob had visited his father at Hebron, or that Rebekah had sent her (Ge 27:45), or that following the death of Rebekah she was placed in Jacob’s care. It is also possible that Isaac had migrated to the neighborhood of Beth-el. Deborah at this time was very old. She had left Padan-arm with Rebekah more than 150 years earlier.

Deborah died, and was buried under an "oak" or terebinth tree in a valley below Beth-el. From that time on, this site was known as "Allon-bachuth," or "the oak of weeping."

Verses 9-15

Verses 9-15:

Once more God appeared to Jacob, this time in a visible manifestation in contrast to the voice in Shechem, and the dream in Beth-el. God renewed the promises and blessings of the Covenant, in essentially, the same words He had spoken to Abraham. He confirmed the name change granted after the session in Jabbok (Ge 32:28).

God identified Himself as "God Almighty," or "El-Shaddai," as He had to Abraham (Ge 17:1). This affirmed His power to fulfill the promises of blessing and provision.

This appears to be a turning point in Jacob’s spiritual life. From this point on there was no more depending upon his own craftiness to assure the promised blessing.

Verses 16-20

Verses 16-20:

God had not given specific instruction that Jacob remain permanently at Bethel. Thus, after an undisclosed time, Jacob began a journey southward by way of Ephrath, "fruitful." Rachel was pregnant, and soon into the journey went into hard labor. This was likely complicated because of advancing age, for it was at least sixteen years since the birth of Joseph A literal rendering of the mid-wife’s words is, "Fear not, for also this (is) to you a son," implying that the baby was already born and that it was a son.

Rachel was unable to survive the extremely hard labor, and with her dying breath named her son "Ben-oni," meaning "son of my sorrow," in recognition of her suffering in bearing him and of her death because of him. Jacob changed the name of the child to "Ben-jamin," meaning "son of my right hand." The sorrow Jacob felt at Rachel’s death was mitigated by the joy found in the son she gave him.

Jacob buried Rachel where she died, on the way from Beth-el to Bethlehem. He marked the grave with a monument. The site was well-known as late in Bible times as the time of Samuel (Isa 10:2). There is little reason to doubt that the actual site is that of the Turkish chapel Kubbet Rachil, about a half-hour’s journey north of Bethlehem.

Verses 21-26

Verses 21-26:

After Rachel’s death, Jacob traveled to Edar, where he set up camp near a "tower" which was likely a watch-tower erected for use by shepherds in guarding their flocks (see 2 Kings 18:2; 2Ch 26:10; 27:4). The exact location of this camp-site is uncertain. Some suggest it was about a mile south of Bethlehem.

During Israel’s stay at this site, Reuben, the first-born, committed a sin of incest, with Bilhah the handmaid of Rachel and one of Jacob’s concubines. Jacob became aware of this sin, and later disinherited Reuben from the rights of the firstborn.

All twelve of Israel’s sons were born in Padan-aram, with the exception of Benjamin. The promise of this final child was made before the family left Padan-aram.

Verses 27-29

Verses 27-29:

Jacob came to Isaac’s’ tents in Mamre, near the city of Arba. This city figures prominently in Bible events. It was also known as Hebron. (See Ge 13:18; 23:2, 19; Jos 14:15; 15:13). Here Isaac died, being 180 years old. Jacob was at this time 120 years old. When he stood before Pharaoh, he was 130 years old, and Joseph had been governor of Egypt for ten years. Jacob was 120 years old when Joseph became governor at age 30, which means he was 107 years old when Joseph was sold into Egypt. This means that Isaac was 167 years old when Joseph was sold, implying that he must have sympathized with Jacob for 13 years over Joseph’s disappearance.

When Isaac died, Esau came from Mount Seir to honor his deceased father. At the funeral, Jacob accorded him the position he once had as the first-born.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Genesis 35". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/genesis-35.html. 1985.
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