1 God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” 2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”
-Interesting that God spoke to Jacob telling him to go to a place and build an alter, but Jacob also somehow knew to put away foreign gods and be pure. Its funny how we have this instinct about church when we set foot inside that you do no speak foul language or wear certain clothes even if it is a casual dress church. It’s like we somehow know or can feel God’s holiness. As far as we know, God has no explained or commanded holiness from Jacob or anyone else. This concept has not been given to us. As mentioned in my previous studies, when God communicates to someone, it is the Holy Spirit, even in Old Testament times before Jesus. The Holy Spirit has always been there and able to make a person more righteous and the even at Pentecost was only a recording of a “amplified” event which continue to happen to this day. Some day, we will look at this more closely. But for now, it can be interpreted that because the Spirit touched Jacob to give him these instructions, some truth rubbed off on Jacob and he knew to dispose of the idols and even to change garments. He instinctively understood the Holiness of God.
4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.
-I do not believe based on this passage that we can conclude that piercings are evil and sinful. The piercings they had may have had religious significance to other gods and that is why they were disposed of. Nothing in the bible says that it is a sin to pierce your own skin on purpose. There is certainly wisdom to taking care of our bodies and making responsible choices but this is one area we seem to have a total free will choice of. God gave us the bodies we have, but we have the ability to control them to an extent. We can let ourselves get fat or do the opposite and work out. We can tattoo or pierce ourselves. It seems to be our choice. The difference here and when the Levitic law is given banning tattoos is that these things are done for religious purposes not just aesthetics. These piercings and tattoos were done to show devotion to some other god. That is certainly evil and sinful.
5 And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. 6 And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7 and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.
-The danger of pursuit could very well have been because word spread of what Simeon and Levi had done in killing all the Hivite men and what Jacob feared about them all ganging up on them was going to happen. But God chose to protect them, by grace, even though they did deserve death for what they had done. “El-Bethel” is an interesting name because it means “God’s house of God”. Man does not make a house for God or say where he appears, only God can reveal Himself. God choosing to appear there means that God was making this a sacred place, not Jacob for building an alter there.
8 And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So he called its name Allon-bacuth.
-This seems a random mention. All the sudden the nurse of Rebekah is mentioned, not Rachel. How did the nurse of Jacob’s mother end up with them in the first place? The name “Allon-bacuth” means “oak of weeping”. To name a place after a mere nurse must mean that she was with them from the beginning. Perhaps she was sent with Jacob when he first life home and had been like a second mother to him all of this time. This reaction and mention would mean she must have been with Jacob his entire life since birth. Perhaps she had rode on the camels with Rebekah when she was taken from home to marry Issac. There is no mentioned of a servant going with her but it makes sense. When Leah and Rachel were given, a servant was mentioned going with them. Sarah also had her own servant. Deborah may have been the servant to Rebekah that we never had mention of until who she gave up to Jacob.
9 God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. 10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” 13 Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him. 14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone. He poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it. 15 So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.
-Jacob was given the name “Israel” back before he met up with Esau but it seems he hadn’t started using it yet. The covenant is reinforced here just like it had done with Abram when at the same time God declared his name to be Abraham.
The Deaths of Rachel and Isaac
16 Then they journeyed from Bethel. When they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. 17 And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” 18 And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.
-”Ben-oni” in Hebrew means “Son of sorrow” so it makes sense that Jacob would reject that name so as to not remember Rachel’s pain and call him “Benjamin” which means “son of the right hand”. This name could mean Jacob was referring to Rachel as “his right hand” and this is how he chooses to remember her. Perhaps in the end, Jacob learned to truly love her instead of only be infatuated with her.
19 So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), 20 and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day.
-This tomb really is still here to this day: http://www.lifeintheholyland.com/rachel_tomb_bethlehem.htm
21 Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. 22a While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it.
-While Jacob has finally matured and is at the point spiritually that God has given him a new name and made him “born again”, his sons are another story. As mentioned already, they have grown up in a severely self-centered, paranoid atmosphere where everyone must look out for themselves because everyone else is always out to get you. So therefore, take what you can whenever you want because the world owes it to you! This is the lesson Jacob, Leah, and Rachel taught their children in all their squabbles and there is no mention of Jacob imparting the ways of God onto his oldest son Reuben or any of his other sons aside from perhaps his favorite, Joseph.
22b Now the sons of Jacob were twelve. 23 The sons of Leah: Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. 24 The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. 25 The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s servant: Dan and Naphtali. 26 The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s servant: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram. 27 And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned. 28 Now the days of Isaac were 180 years. 29 And Isaac breathed his last, and he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
-God’s perfect timing strikes again and Jacob was able to reunite with his father before his death and Isaac got to see all his grandchildren. The Hebrew meaning of the names of the sons of Israel are as follows:
Reuben=behold a son
Issachar=there is recompense
Joseph=Jehovah has added
Benjamin=son of the right hand