Genesis 35:1-29 “God Renews the Covenant with Jacob, part2”
Sunday,05-13-12 Bryan E. Walker
Read Genesis 35:1-15
Introduction: In today’s passage we will see Jacob commanded of God to return toBethel and build an altar to worship Him. This text wraps up the Jacob cycle and ties together several themes from the creation account on into the book of Kings. Although in some ways this chapter is very complex, in that it has several odd items stuck together, the fundamental theme of the patriarchal story remains: God’s grace is given to sinners as He establishes this family in his covenant and plan of Redemption.
Last time we met we did not have time to outline the chapter thoroughly, so allow me to show you some of our options in outlining this chapter. Mathews keeps it very simple with vss. 1-4 Preparing forBethel; vss.5-15 Worshiping God atBethel; vss.16-20 Birth and Death Near Bethlehem; and finally, vss.21-29 Events Near and atHebron. Waltke adds another layer with the first section being vss.1-15 Israel Fulfills His Vow At Bethel being subdivided into: vs.1God Commands: Ascend to Bethel, Build an Altar There; vss.2-7 Jacob Obeys: Renews Household, Ascends to Bethel, Builds an Altar; vs.8 Death of Deborah; vss.9-13 God Appears to Jacob and Renews Abrahamic Covenant; vss.14-15 Jacob Rededicates the Stele and Renews Name of Bethel. Waltke’s second section covers vss.16-29, Births and Deaths: vss.16-20 Journey to Ephrath, Death of Rachel and Birth of Benjamin; vss.21-22a At Migdal Eder, Reuben’s Incest; vss.22b-26 Jacob’s Genealogy; vss.27-29 At Hebron, Death and Burial of Isaac. Wenham gives the chapter 8 parts: vs.1 Divine call to go to Bethel; vv.2-8 Jacob’s obedience; vv.9-12 Reaffirmation of the promises; vv.13-15 Jacob’s worship at Bethel; vv.Birth of Benjamin, Death and burial of Rachel; vv.21-22a Reuben’s shameful act; vv.22b-26Jacob’s sons; vv. 27-29 Death and burial of Isaac by his two sons.
This chapter is very complex with several components that do not seem to go together well. However, there is clearly a geographical theme of leaving Shechem, going toBethel, traveling to Ephrath where Rachel dies, journeying on to thetowerofEderthen moving on toHebron. This journey adds some cement to everything else that is happening, as geography tends to do. Some of the commentators mention H. Gunkel who states that this chapter is like a “heap of blocks” (Wenham, p.322; Ross, p.578). But it is Wenham who points out that the chapter is an itinerary chapter that matches up very precisely with chapters 22 and 46. All three of these chapters bring to a close the main stories of the three great patriarchs, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph. So even though outlining the chapter is complex, the chapter fits into the larger whole that Moses has constructed. Beyond that, the history that is recorded here matches what God did with Abraham and will do with Joseph. God, the author of scripture, is also the Lord of history. Moses is shown, again, to be a genius of an author.
Ross (p.580) writes: “It would certainly be possible (and correct) to take individual sections from this chapter for exposition, because they are individual units. But since the narrator has joined them together as a culmination of the Jacob stories, their cumulative effect can be better captured if taken together.” Indeed, this would be a hard chapter to preach from unless you did about 4-5 separate sermons.
- God Calls, Jacob Answers, On toBethel, vv.1-8
- God Confirms the Covenant with Jacob Again, On to Ephrath vv.9-15
- Jacob’s Family is Completed, Isaac Dies, On toHebronvv.16-29
- I. God Calls, Jacob Answers, On to Bethel vv.1-8
- A. God’s Call, v.1
- 1. God said to Jacob, Arise, vs. 1- Notice that it is God who takes the initiative in moving Jacob on from Shechem; it is God who takes the initiative to revive Jacob’s soul and bring all the way back in to where he is supposed to be, Bethel. Verse 1 could very well be sermon one in this chapter!
- 2. Apply- how many times have we been in a bad spot due to our own complacency and sin and God reached down to us in his loving-kindness and urged us to Arise? Any time you feel your soul stirred up to more holiness, more thankfulness, more obedience, it is because the Lord, through the Holy Spirit is gently commanding you to Arise!
- 3. Arise, go up, dwell, make vs.1a- The verse begins with 4 imperatives. Jacob’s journey began back in 27:43,44 and 28:2 with similar words “Arise, flee, and stay” (Rebekah), “Arise, go to Paddan-aram” (Isaac), and 29:19 “stay with me” (Laban). Wenham (p.323) “so the very terms used here echo the beginning of the story as does the explicit reference to “when you fled from Esau your brother” (v.1.) But the word for “go up” has different connotation that the “flee” in 27:43. “Go up” points toward a pilgrimage; it has religious implications as well as geographical (Bethel is 1000’ above Shechem). In the Psalms you always “go up” towards Jerusalem and the Temple (Psalm 24:3). Again this points us back to Jacob’s first encounter with God at Bethel in 28 where the Lord told him He would bring Jacob back and he set up the pillar and Jacob vowed to return in 28:20-22. Bethel had a huge significance in Jacob’s life and the Lord is calling him back there. This verse links with 22:1-2 and 46:2-3. He is to “dwell” at Bethel ysb like he dwelled at Paddam-aram. Waltke, p.472, “This is where Jacob should have headed instead of settling in Shechem.”
- 4. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled, vs.1b- Wenham tells us that this is the first time a patriarch is commanded by God to build an altar (p.323). In 22:1,2 God commands Abraham to “Take your son…and go to…Moriah…and offer him there….” Waltke says that this is the only time God tells a patriarch to build an altar.
- B. Jacob Buries the Idols of the past, vss.2-4
- 1. Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, v.2a- The brief word of the Lord he had received moved him to action. Though he did not address the issue of the rape of his daughter Dinah, he now addressesALL who are with him. This proves that the Jacob band is more than just his 4 wives and 12 children. There had to have been slaves and servants from Paddan-aram and most likely some of the women and children of Shechem. They could number in the hundreds.
- 2. Put away the foreign gods that are among you… This matches l other passages in Joshua 24:2, 14-15, 23. Although we see the patriarchs themselves being monotheistic and avoiding idolatry, those around them, even in their own families (Rachel) are at least syncretistic. The worship of other gods would plagueIsrael throughout her history, notably at Sinai in Ex.32 and after Solomon brought in his many wives, he fell into idolatry (1Kings11). All of these others with Jacob could have had a lot of idols and before the Lord leads them all toBethel they need to have a unified worship and worldview. They needed to purge this evil from their midst.
- 3. Col.3:5-17 “Put to death therefore…put them all away…put off the old self…put on the new self…put on then…put on love….”
- 4. purify yourselves and change your garments- this would include bathing, washing clothes and or changing into one’s finest clothes, and perhaps abstaining from sexual relations. All of this for a ceremony of burying the idols. These acts are related to the Law in Lev.14:8-9; 22:6-7; Num.8:7.
- 5. Apply- These ancient rites of purification carried over into our culture as the Saturday night bath prior to worship on Sundays and wearing your nicest “Sunday go to meetin’ clothes” to church or to court, or any other formal, important occasion (wedding garments, similarly). The principle here of making oneself presentable for worship is, in my opinion, being neglected today somewhat. The opposite end of the issue, legalism, dressing as a Christian should while looking smugly down your nose at those who do not dress as you, is also a danger.
- 6. This call by Jacob would also back up Moses as he gives the law in his day because the first two Commandments in Ex.20:3-6 speak to not having any other gods before the LORD and not making any idols. The purification rites are mentioned again in Ex. 19:10. So as Moses preaches this passage to his people they will identify what they went through with what Jacob did.
- 7. let us arise and go up to Bethel, vs.3 – he includes all his family and people in his call. Now we see Jacob the leader, not Jacob the distant. God can take a weak, distant man like Jacob and change him into a revival preacher!
- 8. so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress- He announces that they are departing, not out of fear as expressed in 34:30, but confidently with the purpose of worshiping the one true God. There is an implication of an answered prayer for Jacob’s “day of distress”, perhaps alluding to the destruction of Shechem and his fear of the other Canaanites.
- 9. and has been with me wherever I have gone- here Jacob is looking further back and preaches to his people that God has been with him the whole time.
- 10. This causes me to remember the poem “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson http://www.footprints-inthe-sand.com/index.php?page=Poem/Poem.php
- 11. The Lord is not just omnipresent in some vague, meaningless way, he is with always, to the end of the age, he abides within us and we are in Him.
- 12. So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, vs.4- Notice that the people comply with Jacob’s command; he has regained leadership. Jacob hides them under the terebinth tree. This means buries, which matches the other 3 burials in the chapter. Notice that they also turned in the earrings. Why? They either had a pagan religious significance or they could be a source of temptation to melt down and create some more gods (irony intended).
- 13. This is a picture of coming to Christ. First there must be gospel proclaimed and heard, then the obedience of repentance. The washing of the Holy Spirit who makes us clean, applying the holiness of Christ as we put on the new garments of Christ’s righteousness.
- 14. Apply- have we buried our sins, our idols? Or do we just stow them away in a box up on the shelf in the closet or in the attic, or basement so that, in a pinch, we can pull them out if we want to badly enough? Do we keep a few pagan nose rings, earrings or amulets around just that we can melt them down and make a god out of it if need be?
- C. Jacob Journeys from Shechem to Bethel and Builds an Altar, vss.5-7
- 1. As they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities, v.5- This implies that Jacob’s fears in 34:30 were valid, he was not just paranoid. But God put a terror on them, much like in Exodus 23:27 and Joshua 2:9-11. How does that work? No doubt there was some sort of supernatural terror laid on them, but I believe the reputation of Jacob’s boys might have had something to do with that as well. “Psst. Hey! Did’ja hear what happened at Shechem? And those sons-o-Jacob are on the move now. Some say they are heading our way.” No one pursued Jacob’s band.
- 2. Should the world fear Christians or the Church? Does the world fear us? Is the holy terror of God upon the world when we proclaim the gospel faithfully? Why are so many churches vandalized, burgled, held up, shot up, burned? There is no fear of God in our society, no holy terror of the church, likely because we Christians are now so casual and laid back, unholy, weak and fragile. Afraid to irritate anyone.
- 3. And Jacob came to Luz…Bethel, v.6- Moses again uses the older name for the place- Luz, and explains it with Bethel. What may be a third name is “the place” maqom which is used a few times back in 28:11, 17,19 (Hamilton, p.377).
- 4. and there he built an altar- Jacob has obeyed the Lord. He has returned toBethel and constructed the altar and is worshiping as God commanded. Waltke writes, (p.473) “By their worship, the covenant family retains their separation from the Canaanites, their witness to them, and symbolically their claim to the land based on God’s promises.”
- 5. and called the place El-Bethel – Jacob renames the place from House of El (God) to El the House of El, focusing more on God than on the place it seems, because “there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother”. The section that follows shows that God renames Jacob again.
- D. Deborah Dies and Is Buried, vs. 8
- 1. And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, v.8 this initially seems to be a strange insertion because we are not informed as to when, how, or why Deborah came to live with Jacob. Deborah’s name is not mentioned back in 24:59, she is simply referred to as “her nurse” as Rebekah agrees to leave with Abraham’s servant to go be Isaac’s wife. The Jacob cycle begins with the births of two people, Esau and Jacob, and ends with the deaths of two women, Deborah and Rachel. The toledoth ends with the death of Isaac. The last words directed at Jacob from Rebekah are in 27:45 “Then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?” But Moses does not tell us if they ever saw each other again, and the way the story reads we would assume that Rebekah has previously died and that Deborah came to Jacob to live out her final days. This both honors Deborah by mentioning her here, and most likely shows the Lord’s disfavor on Rebekah for the role she played in deceiving her blind husband and first born son. Both Abraham’s and Jacob’s favorite wives are mentioned in death, but not Isaac’s. This kind of blank is not accidental; Moses does things like this to make a point. Rebekah is not totally blanked out; in 49:31 Jacob mentions that she was buried with Isaac in the cave in the field of Machpelah with Abraham and Sarah.
- 2. and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So he called its name Allon-bacuth. – the name means “oak of weeping”. The significance of burial of loved ones in the Promised Land, and naming the site, is that they are establishing residency in the Promised Land and giving future generations a link to the past. Mathews writes, p.621, “The grievous mourning and raising of a special memorial evidenced the deep heartache Jacob must have felt toward the passing of the nursemaid who had attended him in his childhood.”
- A. God’s Call, v.1
- II. God Confirms the Covenant with Jacob Again, On to Ephrath vv.9-15
- A. God Reconfirms the Covenant, vv.9-12
- 1. God appeared to Jacob again…and blessed him v.9- Another theophany, demonstrating God’s amazing grace. Has Jacob lived an exemplary life? Does Jacob deserve this covenant renewal? But none of the patriarchs did, and neither do we. God’s grace is shown to be amazing here in Jacob’s life. The use of the again stresses that there had been a previous appearance; it most likely points back to both the prior Bethel experience as he is now returned, but also Peniel because there God changed his name the first time.
- 2. when he came from Paddan–aram– even though Jacob had been back from Paddan-aram for some time (years?) and living first at Succoth (34:17) and then Shechem (34:18), the story always seems to say he was supposed to be back at Bethel; hence the reference to his arrival from Paddan-aram at this point.
- 3. And God said…no longer shall your name be…Jacob, but Israel, v.10- This is the second time God has spoken in this story, and it is the second time God has renamed Jacob to Israel (32:28). Why rename him again? Mathews writes, p.621, “The significance in the redundancy in v.10 is to reinforce the message of the new name but with a different emphasis. In the first naming, the context of chaps. 32-33 focused the reader on the patriarch’s transformation, from “Jacob” the trickster to “Israel” the one blessed of God. Here the context highlights the national and royal importance of the name, shown by the new character of the promises in v.11 and the first formal listing of his twelve tribal descendants (vv.23-26).”
- 4. I am God Almighty- El Shaddai points us back to God’s self-revelation of this name to Abraham in 17:1. The name points to the mountains and refers to power and might, and could also include a woman’s breasts which provide the nourishment a baby needs to grow. Notice that in the context the name is linked to the promise of fruitfulness and multiplication. God is mighty to cause Jacob’s tribe to increase. The covenant here with Jacob is worded similarly to that with Abraham in 17, which was also the name changing ceremony for Abram to Abraham. It also points back to the original command to Adam and Eve in 1:28. There are several allusions to Israel’s future here as well: company of nations points to the 12 Tribes and the later split into two nations, kings obviously point forward to the time of the kings, and ultimately to Jesus, the King of kings. The passage then links together the creation account, with the covenant with Abraham and Isaac to now Jacob and points forward to Israel’s future history.
- 5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuXB1a3NBCw
- 6. I will give the land to your offspring, v.12- gave and give are repeated 3X in this verse emphasizing God’s gift, grace. The land is once again promised to Jacob’s children.
- 7. Then God went up from him, v.13- similar to God going up from Abraham in 17:22. Notice that God always goes UP.
- 8. And Jacob set up a pillar, v.14-15- “the place” is repeated twice for emphasis. The pillar and drink offering with an anointing of oil point back to similar actions in ch.28. Fermented drinks like wine were frequently used as offerings in the Law.
- A. God Reconfirms the Covenant, vv.9-12
Gospel conclusion: This covenant with Jacob continues the story of God’s redeeming grace and his plan for redemption. Jacob was an undeserving sinner and so are we. Jacob received a new name and so do Christians. Jacob received a promise of land and we have a promise of a new heaven and new earth over which we will reign with the Lord Jesus Christ. This text challenges us to put away and bury the idols that encumber us so that we can be a holy people for the Lord’s glory. The Lord will go with us though the world hates us. Along the way in this journey we have to bury faithful saints who nurtured us in the faith.
Next week we finish this chapter the Toledoth 8.
- III. Jacob’s Family Is Completed, Isaac Dies, On to Hebron, vv.16-29
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