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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 35

 

 


Verses 1-15

Genesis 35:1-15. Jacob Goes to Bethel, where Elohim Appears to him as El Shaddai and Gives him the Name Israel.—This section is mainly from E and P. To P belong Genesis 35:6 a, Genesis 35:9-13, Genesis 35:15, the rest to E, though some assign Genesis 35:14 to J. Genesis 35:5 is the close of the Dinah story; the neighbouring cities were restrained by Divinely sent terror from avenging the fate of Shechem. Genesis 35:1-4, Genesis 35:6 b, Genesis 35:7 relate how Jacob returns at God's bidding to erect an altar at Bethel. He commands (2) due preparations to be made by the surrender of all strange gods, purifications of the person, and change of clothes, that the impurities attaching to both may be removed. The reason for the change of garments is that clothes contract an uncleanness, when worn in ordinary life, which unfits them for use in religious ceremonies. They who draw near to God must be ritually clean, and lay aside all the contamination of the world that renders them ceremonially unclean. It was possible to wear special clothes as in the present case (cf. Genesis 27:15, 2 Kings 10:22), or to perform the rites divested of clothing altogether, as we find among the Arabs. Washing the clothes also removes uncleanness (Exodus 19:10). It is an attenuated form of cleansing as going barefoot (Exodus 3:5, Joshua 5:15) is of ritual nakedness. Conversely, clothes used in religious rites contract a holiness which renders them unfit for ordinary use. and capable of infecting with holiness those with whom the wearer is brought in contact. This might presumably be removed by washing; but it was sometimes more convenient to reserve special garments for religious use (Ezekiel 42:14; Ezekiel 44:19*). Along with the gods, earrings, regarded not as ornaments but as amulets, are given up and buried under the terebinth near Shechem (Genesis 12:6, Joshua 24:23-27). The company then proceeds to Bethel, where Jacob builds an altar, and names the place El-beth-el. According to Genesis 35:14 he sets up a stone obelisk, pours a libation on it, and anoints it with oil. Since E has already a similar story as to the origin of the massebah at Bethel (Genesis 28:18) it is natural to infer that Genesis 35:14 belongs to J. But J does not recognise the standing stone; perhaps Genesis 35:14 was originally the continuation of Genesis 35:8, the libation being offered to the dead. Genesis 35:8 contains a strange statement, since we have no indication how Jacob's mother's nurse could have been with Jacob's company; moreover, Deborah must have been very old, even if we disregard the chronology of P, which would make her over 150. There may be some confusion with Deborah the prophetess (Judges 4:5*). The statement is inserted here, because it relates to the same locality. As to P's narrative, Gunkel suggests that Genesis 35:9 f. refers to a theophany after Jacob's return, not necessarily at Bethel, containing P's account of the origin of the name Israel, while Genesis 35:6 a, Genesis 35:11 f., Genesis 35:13 a, Genesis 35:15 give P's account of the same incident as that recorded in Genesis 28:10-22, and are, therefore, out of place here. Genesis 35:11 would be much more appropriate when Jacob had no children, than when his family was complete.


Verses 16-22

Genesis 35:16-22 a. Rachel Dies at the Birth of Benjamin.

Genesis 35:16-20 is assigned by some to J and by some to E. There is no decisive reason for either. Genesis 35:21-22 a is from J. The use of Israel as Jacob's name is characteristic of J. The pathetic story of Rachel's death is often explained to mean that, when the tribe of Benjamin was formed in Palestine after the Conquest, the earlier tribe of Rachel was broken up. This may be correct, but is very uncertain. Ephrath is identified in Genesis 35:19; Genesis 48:7 with Bethlehem. This is probably an incorrect gloss (see Cent.B on Jeremiah 31:15), and an otherwise unknown Ephrath near Bethel in the border between Benjamin and Ephraim (1 Samuel 10:2 f.) is intended. The mother "refuses to be comforted" with the cheering news that her prayer of Genesis 30:24 has been answered, as later she wails from her tomb and refuses to be comforted when her children have gone into exile (Jeremiah 31:15). She calls the child Benoni, born in bitter and fatal anguish (cf. mg.); but Jacob for this ill-omened name substitutes Benjamin, son of good luck, the right (mg.) being the lucky side. The real meaning is probably "son of the south," Benjamin lying to the S. of Ephraim and Manasseh. The fragmentary reference to Reuben's intrigue with Bilhah (cf. Genesis 49:4) may be explained as a reminiscence of some alliance of Reuben with Dan and Naphtali against the other tribes, or an encroachment of Reuben upon the Bilhah tribes. But it is too brief and obscure to warrant any confident interpretation (cf. Homer, Iliad, ix. 449-452, where Phoenix, at his wronged mother's request, avenges her by an intrigue with his father's concubine, and is cursed by him for it). Presumably the original story explained how Reuben lost the birthright for his misconduct.

Genesis 35:21. Eder: the flock; a watch-tower for the protection of the flocks is intended.

Genesis 35:22 b - Genesis 35:29. List of Jacob's Sons; Death and Burial of Isaac.—From P. Observe that Benjamin is included among the sons born in Paddan-aram. With Genesis 35:29 b, cf. Genesis 25:9.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 35:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/genesis-35.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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