Daybreak: Genesis 35:1-29
“And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon. And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.” (Genesis 35:14-15)
One of the most recognized structures in Washington DC is the Washington Monument. Built to honor the man who was the military leader of the American Revolution and the first president of the United States, the structure is just over 555 feet tall. It is designed in the style of an Egyptian obelisk and has 896 steps up to an observation level where it is possible to see for over thirty miles. The cornerstone of the monument was put in place in July, 1848, but construction was not completed until December, 1884. For well over a century, this structure has remained a popular attraction for those visiting the United States capital.
Organizations and countries around the world spend time and money to build structures to honor heroes, remember victims of tragedies, or commemorate important occurrences. They are memorials — monuments to preserve the memory of people, deeds, and events which shaped a nation or influenced a community.
In today’s text, God directed Jacob to go back to Bethel. Jacob had a personal memorial at that spot — it was the place where God had met him when he had fled from his brother’s wrath. It was there that Jacob had witnessed the presence of the Lord, who said, “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac . . . And, behold, I am with thee” (Genesis 28:13,15). Now, many years later, God told Jacob to return to that place. Our focus verses record that when he arrived there, he built an altar to the Lord and made an offering. He remembered and honored the memory of what had taken place on that spot.
We need to have spiritual landmarks also — places where we know we communicated with God and He answered our prayers. What a blessing it is to go back to those “Bethels” from time to time, and rehearse how God met with us! Doing so can renew our spiritual vision, remind us that God is good and faithful, and encourage us to focus on the promises and power of God.
We never want to drift away from what has taken place between us and the Lord. He is coming soon, and we need to maintain the close relationship with Him which He has established in our hearts. One way we can do this is to build spiritual memorials, and revisit frequently what God has done for us and what we felt as He blessed our souls!
This text tells how Jacob and his family continued toward Bethel, and gives an account of the deaths of Rachel and Isaac.
Because of the events of the previous chapter, Jacob was fearful of the neighboring tribes. God directed him to go back to Bethel and build an altar. Bethel was south of Shechem, and had formerly been called Luz. (While scholars differ on the exact location of Bethel, most now believe the site to be located at the Israeli settlement of Beit El, which is north of Jerusalem in the central West Bank.) Jacob had changed the name to Bethel, which means “house of God,” after God had appeared to him there when he fled from his brother, Esau. At that time, a covenant was made — God had promised protection, and Jacob had promised to pay tithes.
Jacob directed his household to prepare for this meeting with God (verses 2-5). Previously, Rachel had taken a teraphim from her father (Genesis 31:34). Apparently, Jacob was aware of other household idols, which may have been trinkets similar to good luck charms, but had not required his family to get rid of them. The earrings were also charms that related to heathen practices. At this point, Jacob wanted nothing to distract his family from a focus on the true God. He instructed his people to cleanse themselves and change their garments; these were ceremonies signifying purification and a change of heart. The cleaning of the household was a solemn preparation that was made before they attended to the ordinance of God.
The Bible does not indicate when Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse (verse 8), moved from Isaac’s household to Jacob’s. This may indicate that Rebekah had already died. The family must have been attached to Deborah because the name of her burial place, Allonbachuth, means “oak of weeping.”
At this second meeting with God at Bethel (verses 9-15), God stated again that Jacob’s name would be Israel, and reaffirmed His promise to multiply Jacob’s seed and give them the land of Canaan. Jacob responded by setting up a stone as a public witness or tribute to God, presenting a drink offering, and pouring oil upon the stone.
Verses 16-20 record the death of Rachel, the wife Jacob loved most. Benoni means “son of sorrow” but Benjamin means “son of the right hand” or “son of the south.” Jacob may have chosen this name to show that this last son of Rachel’s was especially beloved, or it may have been an indicator that this was the only one of his twelve sons who was born in Canaan.
The chapter closes by telling of Isaac’s death. Abraham and Isaac had both lived in Hebron, which was south of Bethel and Bethlehem. The fact that Esau and Jacob together buried their father shows they had remained on good terms from the time of their reunion.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The early history of the chosen race
6. Jacob’s journey toward Hebron (35:1-29)
a. The blessing at Bethel (35:1-15)
b. Rachel’s death in childbirth (35:16-20)
c. Reuben’s error with Bilhah (35:21-22)
d. The statement of Jacob’s sons(35:23-27)
e. The death of Isaac (35:28-29)
A Closer Look
- What did God promise to Jacob?
- Why do you think God reminded Jacob in verse 10 that his name had been changed to Israel?
- What can we do to preserve spiritual landmarks in our lives?
Jacob remembered the landmark at Bethel and prepared for God’s blessing. God did not disappoint him. If we do our part to prepare ourselves, we too will receive God’s blessing.