This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
God is patient toward those whom He loves. Just as He called Abram to leave Ur (11:31) and then later to leave Haran to complete the journey (12:1), so God was patient with Jacob. Jacob had delayed in obeying God’s command to go to Bethel, and he had suffered greatly for it. His daughter, Dinah, had been raped by Shechem, the prince of the land. But God was not finished with Jacob. He would keep His covenant with Jacob, proving Himself faithful even when man is not.
1 Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to 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 which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; 3 and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.
How gracious is God! Though Jacob had been slow to obey, living in spiritual passivity for around ten years, God again called him again to Bethel where He had first revealed Himself to Jacob. Jacob responded by sanctifying his household unto God, recognizing that it was God alone who had answered him and protected him. How slow we are to recognize that God is all that matters, but how patient God is to guide us to such an understanding.
5 As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. 6 So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. 7 He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother.
Jacob traveled despite the danger from the cities of Canaan who could have attacked his family because of what they did to the people of Shechem. God put a great terror upon the people so that they did not pursue or make war with Jacob. He protects those whom He has chosen so that no harm can come upon them except that which He allows for their good. Jacob arrived in Bethel and worshiped the LORD with a sacrifice upon an altar which he called ‘the God of Bethel.’
8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth.
It was never recorded that Rebekah had called Jacob from Paddan-aram. Nor is it ever recorded that Rebekah died. She disappeared from the pages of Scripture after her deceit of Isaac. However, the death of Rebekah’s nurse is suddenly mentioned. Apparently she had went to live with Jacob at some point, probably after her mistress died. This occasion caused much weeping, therefore the tree which she was buried under was called ‘the oak of weeping.’
9 Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. 10 God said to him,
“Your name is Jacob;
You shall no longer be called Jacob,
But Israel shall be your name.”
Thus He called him Israel. 11 God also 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 forth from you.
12 “The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac,
I will give it to you,
And I will give the land to your descendants after you.”
For the first time in many years, God appeared to Jacob and reiterated the promises of the Abrahamic covenant. He also officially changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which had first been done by the Angel of the LORD many years before. The Abrahamic covenant had not changed, for the LORD will never change His promises.
13 Then God went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him. 14 Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He had spoken with him, a pillar of stone, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 So Jacob named the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel.
After God spoke with him, Jacob put up a pillar of stone as a memorial. He anointed it with oil and sacrificed a drink offering to solemnize the occasion and worship God for His promises. So the place was named Bethel.
16 Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor. 17 When she was in severe labor the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for now you have another son.” 18 It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Jacob set up a pillar over her grave; that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day. 21 Then Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder.
God answered Rachel’s prayer for another son to be added to her, yet He did not allow her to live past the birth of her child. For that reason, she named the boy ‘the son of my sorrow.’ However, Jacob called him ‘the son of my right hand.’ Jacob would have been very old by this point, having lived past one hundred years.
22 It came about while Israel was dwelling in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine, and Israel heard of it.
This act disqualified Reuben’s house from possessing the kingship. The promised seed of the woman, the Messiah who would reign forever, would not come through Reuben. Nor would He be born of the tribes of Simeon or Levi because of their actions against the Shechemites on account of their sister, Dinah.
Now there were twelve sons of Jacob— 23 the sons of Leah: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, then Simeon and Levi and Judah and Issachar and Zebulun; 24 the sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin; 25 and the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid: Dan and Naphtali; 26 and the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid: Gad and Asher. These are the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram.
These twelve sons will inherit the Abrahamic Covenant, becoming a great nation of people who would be given the Promised Land and through whom would come the great King. These twelve tribes would bring blessings upon the world for those who bless them and curses for those who curse them. At this time, they were a long way from the holy nation and kingdom of priests that God would make them to be.
Many years after leaving Paddan-aram, Jacob finally went to his father, Isaac:
27 Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre of Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had sojourned. 28 Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. 29 Isaac breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
Since Isaac was sixty when Jacob and Esau were born, both Jacob and Esau were one hundred twenty when their father died. Jacob would live for another twenty seven eventful years. With the passing of Isaac, the baton was officially passed to Jacob to live in the land and expect the fulfillment of the covenant.
The death of Isaac by no means demonstrates God inability to bring about the promises of the covenant. Abraham and his covenantal descendants will indeed inherit the land promised to them, and will be ruled by the great King, Jesus Christ. Entrance into this kingdom is through faith in Jesus Christ who takes away sin. He will return soon and reign forever.