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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 35

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Verses 1-5

Jacob Must Go to Bethel

After the humbling events of Genesis 34, God reminds Jacob of his promise (Genesis 28:21-Song of Solomon :) and tells him to go to Bethel. God intends to bless Jacob. He wants to do this in Bethel, which means ‘house of God’. There is the house of God, there He dwells, and wants to have His own with him. Today the church is the house of God (1 Timothy 3:15).

When Jacob thinks of meeting God in His house, he realizes that he has to bring his own house into conformity with God’s house. In his family there must be cleansing, the idols must be removed, and the garments – which speaks of behavior, which the people perceive of us – must be adapted to what is appropriate for God’s holiness.

It may be that Jacob, through everything his family has entered that is not in harmony with God’s thoughts, has lost sight of what he promised God. Wrong things in the life of a believer make him blind to what is due to God. “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:5). However, God can recall it.

God’s house means that God wants to live with people and that people want to live with Him. He wants to bless them. The man who lives with Him may serve Him. But where He dwells, He determines the house rules. In His house reigns His authority and everything must be to His glory (Psalms 29:9). The recognition thereof gives blessing.

God has not told Jacob to cleanse his own house, but Jacob feels it well. He orders his house to do so, he takes his responsibility. Only then there can be a going up. Apparently a lot more has entered Jacob’s family than just the idols of Rachel (Genesis 31:30-Nahum :). All the idols and also the earrings – in this case this speaks of listening to things we like to hear – are brought to Jacob and he buries them. This is the first burial of this chapter. Three more will follow (Genesis 35:8; Genesis 35:19Genesis 35:29).

Here we can see the oak as a picture of the cross. That is where we should bury our idols. For us this means that we confess before God what in our lives has been given a place next to or instead of Him and see that the Lord Jesus has borne the judgment for it. Then it is gone (1 John 1:9). The result for Jacob is that God protects him (Genesis 35:5; 2 Chronicles 17:9-2 Samuel :; Joshua 2:9).

Verses 6-7

Jacob Comes in Bethel

During his first stay in Bethel, Jacob called Bethel an “awesome” place (Genesis 28:17). Now he is there again, but without fear. He builds an altar, that is, he worships God for Whom He is. Jacob made an altar at Shechem (Genesis 33:18-Proverbs :), but without a command from God to build an altar there. God does not appear to him there either.

God Himself indicates where and how He wants to be worshipped: “Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”” (John 4:21-Jeremiah :). When Jacob is ready, he calls this place “El Bethel” (Genesis 35:7), which is the “God of the house of God” (cf. Genesis 33:20).

Verse 8

Debora Dies

Then, just in between it seems, we read about a second burial in this chapter, that of Deborah. Deborah must have been an old woman. Before God can reappear to Jacob, she must first die. Is the meaning perhaps that first old traditions must disappear, the stories of the past, as if God of today can no longer show Who He is? Only when there is a personal relationship, a daily relationship with the Lord, He will reveal Himself to us. We cannot prey on the stories of father and grandfather, however stimulating these stories may be in themselves.

Verses 9-15

God Appears to Jacob Again

When Jacob has put his personal relationship with God in order, God appears to him again in Bethel. That is thirty years after his appearance to him in Bethel, when he fled from Esau (Genesis 35:1; Genesis 28:13). Here He confirms Jacob’s new name. In connection with this He blesses him.

Jacob responds by setting up a sign. He also had set up a memorial stone at the previous apparition. Then he only poured oil over it. Now he first pours a libation of wine over it and then pours oil over it. He thus connects –in picture – to this sign both joy (wine) and the power of the Holy Spirit (oil).

The prophet Hosea reminds the people of this speaking of God. Hosea wants to point out the relationship between God and His people. This is reflected in the words “there He spoke with us”, which shows fellowship (Hosea 12:4). It says, “with us” and not ‘with him’. Jacob represents the whole people. Hosea says, as it were, to the people: "’There He spoke to us through Jacob; what He said to Jacob there also applies to us.’

With this Hosea tells the people that a people who long for fellowship with God must discard the idols. That is what happened at Bethel. After Jacob had cleansed his house, he met God in Bethel. What Jacob did – throwing away the foreign gods – Ephraim and Judah should have done, but they did not. This event must also appeal to us if we desire to live in fellowship with God.

Verses 16-20

Benjamin Born; Rachel Dies

When the house of God (Bethel) has got its true place in our lives, “Benjamin” can be born. That is to say that the Lord Jesus as the Son of God’s right hand – Benjamin means ‘son of my right hand’ – gets his true place in our lives. Benjamin is a type of the Lord Jesus who rules in strength.

Rachel calls him “Ben-oni”, which means ‘son of my sorrow’. The two names of this son belong together. They concern the same person. They remind of the suffering (Ben-oni) and the glory (Benjamin) of the Lord Jesus which also cannot be separated from each other (1 Peter 1:11).

Rachel dies in Bethlehem. That name is also reminiscent of the Lord Jesus. It is the place where He was born (Matthew 2:1). Rachel is a picture of Israel. She gave birth to a son, but had no connection with him, as the Lord Jesus was born from Israel as a nation, but without Israel accepting Him.

Verses 21-22

Scandal of Reuben

Israel – not: Jacob – goes up. He continues in faith. It is also mentioned that he puts up his tent. He, the prince of God, dwells in a tent, while the city is reserved for him in the other world, that of faith.

When he dwells in the land, Reuben commits a terrible sin (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1). The consequences of this have effects in later generations (Genesis 49:4; 1 Chronicles 5:1). Reuben is the firstborn of Jacob, he is Jacob’s power. He will now be about nineteen years old and have longed for a woman. His desire was not wrong, but it was the way he satisfied it.

When Dinah is raped, we read that “Jacob” hears of it and keeps silent. The sequel shows that he is the passive father. When Reuben has committed his sin, we read that “Israel” hears of it. Again we do not read of a reaction. However, because there is talk of “Israel” he seems to face this sin in the right way and not as a passive father. Jacob has grown in his spiritual life and spiritual feeling in his getting along with God.

After Benjamin was born – he was the only one born in the promised land - Jacob’s family is complete.

Verses 23-26

The Sons of Jacob

Jacob left as a loner for Paddan-aram and now returns with a large family. For the first time the complete list of Jacob’s sons is mentioned. They are the ancestors of the people of Israel who will become a great people.

Verses 27-29

Death and Burial of Isaac

Isaac dies. Esau and Jacob bury him. Just like at the burial of Abraham there are two children at the grave of their father whose path and purpose of life are so completely different. Faith in God makes all the difference. Because of its absence one can only look into the grave, because of its presence the other can look over it.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Genesis 35". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/genesis-35.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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