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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 35

 

 

Verse 1

1. God said — Probably in a dream or vision of the night.

Go up to Beth-el — Though southward from Shechem, and on a lower range, its importance led to speaking of it as a going up.

Dwell there — Not at Shechem; an implied rebuke for his long dwelling in such proximity to idolaters. So, too, the reference to his flight from Esau, and the vision of God at Beth-el, were of the nature of admonition and rebuke.


Verses 1-15

JACOB AGAIN AT BETHEL. Genesis 35:1-15.

The fear of Esau occasioned Jacob’s departure from Beer-sheba; the fear of the Canaanites his departure from Shechem. In both cases he went to Beth-el, the house of God, the gate of heaven. In the former case he had the command of Rebekah, and the blessing and charge of Isaac; now he has the command of God. He seems to have been slow in fulfilling his vow at Beth-el. At Succoth and Shechem he tarried many years. Probably the fear of Esau still detained him, and he would fain keep as remote from him as practicable. The secular cares of his large household and flocks, and the interests of his growing sons, had also occupied his thoughts. It was not until the shame and troubles of Shechem broke his sense of security, and the voice of God called him again, that he aroused from his neglect, put away the idols of his household, and proceeded to Beth-el.


Verse 2

2. Jacob said unto his household — And not to his own immediate family of wives, concubines, and children only; but to all that were with him; servants and helpers of every class and grade. The voice of God inspired him to sudden and resolute action in stopping at once the tampering with idolatry, which had gone too far in his house. Three things he now commands:

Put away the strange gods — The teraphim, which Rachel had superstitiously stolen and carried with her from her father’s house, (Genesis 31:19,) and similar images and charms in possession of other members of the household. Among the spoils of Shechem may also have been idolatrous images.

Be clean — Rather, cleanse yourselves. This was doubtless to be done by ceremonial ablutions, but of what particular form we have no means of knowing.

Change your garments — This would be another and marked token of their assuming a new and higher mode of religious life and action. Observe, there were priestly rites, and ceremonial purifications previous to the Mosaic legislation.


Verse 3

3. I will make there an altar — Shechem had not been without its altar, (Genesis 33:20,) but the one at Beth-el is to be a memorial altar, to the special honour of Him who answered Jacob in the day of his distress. All the awakened memories of God’s care are to enter into this new place of worship.


Verse 4

4. Earrings — These appear to have been used as amulets and charms, and used with superstitious reverence, even as the teraphim.

Hid them under the oak — Perhaps the same ancient tree or grove mentioned in Genesis 12:6. This was ever regarded as a sacred spot in Israel. Comp. Joshua 24:26. The proper disposal of these strange gods was to bury them as dead nothings. Isaiah 41:24; 1 Corinthians 8:4.


Verse 5

5. Terror of God — A terror inspired and intensified by God himself, who, on the other hand, had softened the heart of Esau to tenderness towards his brother.


Verse 6

6. Luz… Beth-el — See on Genesis 28:19. How must Jacob’s soul have burned with tender emotion as he came again to this holy spot!


Verse 7

7. El-beth-el — God of the house of God. Everywhere he seeks to honour the divine Name. Compare the hallowed names El-Elohe-Israel (Genesis 33:20) and Penuel, (Genesis 32:30.)


Verse 8

8. Deborah — Here suddenly comes the mention of the death of Rebekah’s nurse, without any notice of how she came to be with Jacob, or any apparent reason for its being mentioned in this connexion. Evidently the sacred writers have not attempted to tell us every thing, and the criticism which raises quibbles and difficulties over such stray notices of names as this is unworthy of serious regard. A very natural and probable supposition is that of Lange, that Rebekah was now dead, and after her death, Deborah came to dwell with Jacob. The death of Rebekah is nowhere recorded, but Jacob mentions her burial in Machpelah. Genesis 49:31. Perhaps Jacob had gone to his mother’s burial from Shechem, and brought Rebekah home with him; or perhaps Rebekah’s death occurred while Jacob was still with Laban, and the loving mother, who was never able to fulfil the promise of Genesis 27:45, desired that after her death the faithful and honoured nurse should go and dwell with Jacob.

Allon-bachuth — Which means oak of weeping. The special mention of Deborah’s death and burial at this time and place, and the name given to her grave, show with what honour and affection she was regarded. She had gone forth in youth with her beautiful mistress, on her bridal journey, (Genesis 34:59,) nearly one hundred and forty years before.


Verses 9-12

9-12. Appeared unto Jacob again — Thirty years have passed since God appeared unto him in the dream of the ladder — years of hope, of labour, of discipline, of sorrow, and of manifold cares. With this revelation his old secular life seems to have ended; he leaves all that to his sons, and hereafter he appears as the aged saint meditating the promises. We note in this passage (Genesis 35:9-13) the expressions God appeared, God said, and God went up. Genesis 35:13. The appearance was evidently some open vision, probably the presence of the covenant angel. The oracle spoken to him (Genesis 35:10-12) is twofold, designated by the twice-repeated “God said unto him.” The first saying (Genesis 35:10) is the repetition of his name Israel, a confirming of the blessing of Penuel. Genesis 32:28. In the second saying, (Genesis 35:11-12,) God, 1) announces himself as God Almighty, El-Shaddai, who gave Abram his new name Abraham, (Genesis 17:1; Genesis 17:5;) and 2) repeats to him the promise and prophecy spoken afore to Abram, (Genesis 17:6;) and 3) the promise of the land promised so often to Abraham and Isaac. Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:8; Genesis 26:3.


Verse 13

13. God went up from him — This implies the visible appearance of the Angel of Jehovah. Comp. Judges 13:20.


Verse 14

14. Set up a pillar — As he had done at the former time, (Genesis 28:18,) but now with much more expense and ceremony.

Poured a drink-offering… poured oil — This is the first mention in the Scripture of a drink-offering, or libation of wine. They were afterwards common in the worship of Israel. “The stone designates the ideal house of God, and in this significance must be distinguished from the altar. Through the drink-offering Jacob consecrates the enjoyment of his prosperity to the Lord; through the oil he raises the stone, as well as his thanksgiving, to a lasting sacred remembrance.” — Lange.


Verse 16

DEATH OF RACHEL, Genesis 35:16-20.

16. Journeyed from Beth-el — Having paid his vows at Beth-el, he feels a yearning to move on, southward, and see his father Isaac again.

A little way — Hebrews, a chibrath of land; some apparently definite measure of length or distance, but now to us unknown.

Ephrath — The ancient name of the place afterwards so well known as Bethlehem. Genesis 35:19.

Rachel travailed — At the birth of Joseph, she had yearned for yet another son, (Genesis 30:24,) and had given her firstborn a name in confidence that this hope would be realized. But many years passed before her hope was filled, and then at the cost of her own life.


Verse 17

17. Thou shalt have this son also — Rather, for this also is to thee a son; apparently in allusion to her wish at Joseph’s birth.


Verse 18

18. Her soul was in departing — Hebrews, in the going out of her soul; an intimation of immortality. The soul is thought of as a conscious entity, passing out into some other state and mode of life.

Benoni… Benjamin — The former name means son of my sorrow; the latter, son of a right hand. To his mother he is a child of woe; to his father, a child of hope.


Verse 20

20. A pillar… unto this day — An oak marked Deborah’s tomb, (Genesis 35:8,) a pillar Rachel’s. The place was known in Samuel’s time, (1 Samuel 10:2,) and there appears no sufficient reason to doubt that the modern Moslem tomb a little northwest of Bethlehem, known as Kubbet Rahil, occupies the spot of Jacob’s memorial tablet of his beloved wife.


Verse 21

REUBEN’S INCEST, Genesis 35:21-22.

21. The tower of Edar — Or, Migdal-Edar, which means tower of the flock, so called, doubtless, from being a tower or eminence whence flocks at a distance could be watched. Comp. 2 Kings 17:9; 2 Kings 18:8; 2 Chronicles 26:10.


Verses 22-26

22. Bilhah — Rachel’s handmaid, and mother of Dan and of Naphtali.

Genesis 30:3-8.

Israel heard — And it occasioned to Reuben the loss of his birthright, and the words of reproach recorded in Genesis 49:4.

LIST OF JACOB’S SONS, Genesis 30:22-26.

This list is given here, at the close of this section of the book, and before the account of the death and burial of Isaac, as a sort of concluding record of Jacob’s history thus far. The subsequent historic “generations of Jacob,” do not begin until after we have, in chap. 36, “the generations of Esau.” See Genesis 37:2.


Verse 27

ISAAC’S DEATH AND BURIAL, Genesis 35:27-29.

27. Jacob came unto Isaac — This appears to have been some twelve years previous to the death of Isaac, and therefore long enough to communicate often to his father his varied experiences, and to receive the counsels of the aged patriarch. Jacob was living at Hebron when Joseph was sold, (Genesis 37:14,) and the latter was at that time 17 years old. Genesis 37:2. Twenty-two years later Jacob went down into Egypt. He was then 130 years old; (Genesis 47:9;) consequently he was now 108, and Isaac 168, (Genesis 25:26;) and Isaac lived at least twelve years after this. So he must have lived to know of the loss of Joseph, and almost up to the beginning of the great famine which led Israel into Egypt.


Verse 28

28. Hundred and fourscore years — He lived five years more than his father Abraham. Genesis 25:7.


Verse 29

29. Esau and Jacob buried him — Again the brothers (like Isaac and Ishmael, Genesis 25:9) come together, both bound by tender affection for their venerated father. Esau had, probably long before this, removed his household and possessions unto Mount Seir. See Genesis 36:6-8. Here ends the section of the generations of Isaac, which began with Genesis 25:19.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Genesis 35:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/genesis-35.html. 1874-1909.

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