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Genesis 35: 1-15 Notes

Gen. 35:1-15 Notes


A. Jacob returns to Bethel. 1. (1) God speaks to Jacob, calling him back to Bethel.
Then God said to Jacob, "Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother."

  1. Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there: The whole Shechem incident happened because Jacob went to Shechem instead of Bethel, where he was supposed to be. Now at last he went where God told him to go (Genesis 31:13).
    i. "The only cure for worldliness is to separate from it" (Barnhouse). Jacob had to leave Shechem and go to Bethel. There had to be a departure from one and a new direction and destination set. There was a new place for Jacob and his family to dwell.
    ii. Genesis 34 does not mention God once, and is one of the most sordid chapters in Israel's history. Genesis 35 mentions God over and over again, more than 10 times, plus 11 more times in names such as Betheland Israel.
  2. Make an altar there to God: Jacob was told to go back to Bethel and resume a life of worship there. This return to the LORD would have an especially good effect on the children of Jacob. This reminds us the best thing parents can do for their children is to choose God's path themselves.
    i. As Jacob looked back on his walk with God, the first meeting with God at Bethel must have seemed like a high point (Genesis 28:10-22). But to his credit, Jacob refused to think the best years of his life with God were behind him. He returned to his first love-he returned to Bethel, and God blessed it.
    ii. "A revival of old memories is often most useful to us, especially to revive the memory of our conversion. The memory of the love of our espousals, when we went after the Lord into the wilderness, and were quite satisfied to be denied and disowned of all, so long as we might but dwell near to him-that memory is right good for us." (Spurgeon)

2. (2-4) The cleansing of Jacob's family.

And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Put away the foreign gods that areamong you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. Then 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 in the way which I have gone." So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem.

  1. Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves: Jacob's family only got right with God after Jacob himself did. This again shows us the tremendous leadership role men have within the family. A man resisting God will see the same effect in his children. A man who gets right with God will also see the effect in his family.
    i. Jacob's children kept foreign godsbecause their mother did. Rachel kept the household idols of her father (Genesis 31:19). No matter how hard we try to teach our children godly conduct, they will continue to do what we do.
    ii. "In families it is often well, when you see that things are wrong, just to call the household together and say, 'We must draw near unto God with peculiar earnestness, for we are going astray. We have not given up family prayer, but we must now make it special, and with double zeal draw nigh unto God.' I am afraid that some of you neglect family prayer. If you do I am sure it will work evil in your households." (Spurgeon)
  2. And change your garments: This was an important step, both literally and as a symbol of something spiritual. Jacob wanted them to be cleaned up and in their best frame of mind to come before the God they had neglected.
    i. "Throughout the Bible, garments symbolize character. The inward life of the unregenerate is compared to a polluted garment." (Barnhouse)
    ii. Jude 23gives the idea: but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Ephesians 4:22-24 gives a similar exhortation: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
  3. And the earrings which were in their ears: Apparently, these earringsalso had a pagan connection. Though one could find some justification for keeping the earrings, they got rid of them nonetheless.
    i. It is important for everyone to take stock of what they may have in their home that is ungodly or connected to the occult, and promptly get rid of those things.
    ii. "He had not said anything about their earrings. Was there any hurt in their earrings? For a woman to wear an earring is not such a dreadful thing, is it? Perhaps not, but I suppose that these earrings were charms, and that they were used in certain incantations, and heathenish customs. It must have been a very sad discovery to Jacob, who himself could not have endured it, to find that wicked superstitions had come into his tents." (Spurgeon)

3. (5-7) God's protection of Jacob; he comes to Bethel.

And they journeyed, and the terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. And he built an altar there and called the place El Bethel, because there God appeared to him when he fled from the face of his brother.

  1. The terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob: This was God's protection on Jacob and his family. It would have been fairof God to leave Jacob to the consequences of his sinful lack of leadership in the family. Yet God's grace covered Jacob even when his sin had made them vulnerable.
    i. Jacob and his family needed this protection, because the massacre at Shechem made them hated among the Canaanites, as Jacob feared in Genesis 34:30.
  2. He built an altar there and called the place El Bethel: Though Jacob had sinned, he nowdid what was right before God. He did this despite the danger, and trusting God's protection. He might have justified a lack of obedience because of fear, but he trusted God instead.
    i. "They came to Bethel, and I can almost picture the grateful delight of Jacob as he looked upon those great stones among which he had lain him down to sleep, a lonely man. Perhaps he hunted out the stone that had been his pillow; probably it still stood erect as part of the pillar which he had reared in memory of the goodness of God, and the vision he had seen. There were many regrets, many confessions, many thanksgivings at Bethel." (Spurgeon)
    ii. It was dangerous for Jacob to set out to Bethel, but it was more dangerous for him to disobey God. The only thing that could save him was a radical obedience to the LORD. No matter what the circumstances look like, the safest thing to do is the will of God.

4. (8) The death of Deborah, Rebekah's beloved nurse.  

Now Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the terebinth tree. So the

name of it was called Allon Bachuth.

  1. Now Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died: We know nothing of this woman before this account. Seemingly, she came with Rebekah as a companion when she came from Haran to marry Isaac. Obviously, she was a beloved member of the family, because they named the place where she was buried Allon Bachuth, which means "Oak of Weeping."
  2. Rebekah's nurse: Some commentators assume for some reason that she came to be in Jacob's household, coming from his mother's household, but we do not know for certain if this is the case.

5. (9-15) God speaks to Jacob again at Bethel.  

Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, "Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name." So He called his name Israel. Also God said to him: "I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land." Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him. So Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it. And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel.

  1. Then God appeared to Jacob again... and blessed him: When Jacob finally arrived at the place God told him to go, he immediately found great blessing. God appeared to him, God blessed him, and God called him by his new name (Israel).
    i. The reminder of the new name was important, because Jacob had acted like the old Jacob instead of Israel. Yet God wanted to set his mind on the new man God made him to be. God does the same with us, reminding us who we are in Him. God wants us to remember and live in the great names He gives us.
    ii. Israel shall be your name: "The next thing that came of it was a confirmation to Jacob of his title of prince, which conferred a dignity on the whole family. For a father to be a prince ennobles all the clan. God now puts upon them another dignity and nobility which they had not known before, for a holy people are a noble people" (Spurgeon).
  2. God appeared to Jacob again: Relationship was restored. This was an excellent example of what it means to return to your first love, as in Revelation 2:4-5: Jacob rememberedto go back to Bethel. He repented by getting rid of all the idols, and he did the first works by building an altar and worshipping God as before.
  3. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land: God granted Jacob a precious reminder of his place in God's great covenant, begun with his grandfather Abraham. In this, Jacob did not need to hear anything new from God. He just needed to be reminded of what was true, and be encouraged to cling to it all.
  4. Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him: Seemingly, God appeared to Jacob here in bodily form. God blessed Jacob remarkably after his return to his first love. Much blessing waits for us until we dowhat God tells us to do.
  5. He poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it: Appropriately, Jacob performed sacrificial acts of worship to the God who had blessed him so much.
    i. The idea of a drink offeringis found in several places in the Bible. Exodus 29:40-41, Leviticus 23:13, and Numbers 15:5-7show the drink offering was made with wine poured out in sacrifice before the LORD at His altar. Paul considered the pouring out of his life before God to be like the pouring out of a drink offering at God's altar (Philippians 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:6).
    ii. Jacob's heart of worship showed gratitudetowards God. When we look back on life, we should never have the attitude that says, "I was robbed." Instead our heart should say, "God has blessed." This will probably determine if we will be perfectly miserable or perfectly delightful as we get older. 

Gen. 35:1-15 - Utley Word and Phrase Study: 

1Then 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." 2So 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; 3and 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." 4So 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.

35:1 "Then God said to Jacob, 'Arise, go up to Bethel'" Jacob's initial encounter with YHWH was at this place, cf. Gen. 28:18-22; 35:14. YHWH calls Himself "the God of Bethel" and tells Jacob to return to Canaan in Gen. 31:13.

The "go up" verb (BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperative) can be understood in two ways.

  1. Bethel was to the south, but was higher topologically than Shechem.
  2. The verb is often used of going to the temple (i.e., a holy site). Bethel may have represented an intimacy with God.

 ▣ "make an altar" The term "altar" (BDB 258) means a place of slaughter. The Patriarchs made many altars.

Obviously, sacrifice predates the Mosaic covenant.

35:2 "the foreign gods which are among you" The term "gods" (little "g" plural) is exactly the same as the term Elohim (capital "God") in v. 1. Context must determine the translation of this term. See Special Topic at 12:1.

This verse is interesting in that it shows the spiritual preparation necessary for renewing the covenant promises. The foreign gods may refer to (1) the teraphim of Gen. 31:19,30; (2) other gods brought from Haran by members of his household; or (3) gods taken from Shechem made of precious metal (economic value), crafted artfully (ascetic value). This is similar to the covenant renewal of Josh. 24:14,23 (cf. I Sam. 7:3).

It is interesting that the spiritual preparation (the verb "purify" [BDB 372, KB 369] is a Hiphil imperative; this was not an option; this is the only use of this verb in Genesis, but it becomes common in Leviticus), and was symbolized by bathing and a change of garments (cf. Exod. 19:10; Num. 8:7,21; 19:19). Therefore, this outward, physical symbol was meant to reflect an inner spiritual preparation of all of Jacob's extended family. The stain of the slaughter of Shechem was heavy on them.

35:3 "let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God" Jacob is returning to the scene of his initial personal encounter with God (cf. Gen. 28:18-22). At this point in his relationship with YHWH one wonders if he is a monotheist (one and only one God) or a henotheist (only one God for me and my family).

35:4 "the foreign gods" This could refer to "the household gods" (teraphim, cf. 31:19,30,34; Jdgs. 17:5; I Sam. 19:13; Hosea 3:4, see Special Topic at 31:19), which denoted ancestral worship. It is surely possible that Jacob's extended family (i.e., servants, cf. v. 6b) were polytheists and had brought symbols or representations of the gods with them.

▣ "the rings which they had in their ears" Apparently these were some type of magical charms which were related to idolatry (cf. Hos. 2:13).

The verb (BDB 380, KB 377, Qal imperfect) can mean "hide," "conceal," or "bury" (cf. Job 40:13). Who was he hiding them from? This was a gesture of a clean break with the past religious practices of his new extended family from Haran.

▣ "under the oak" "Oak" is a translation from the Septuagint (cf. Peshitta; see note in UBS, Fauna and Flora of the Bible, p. 154-155). The Hebrew has terebinth (BDB 18). Trees seem to have had a very important place in the OT, often associated with holy sites (cf. Gen, 12:6; 13:18; 14:13; 18:1; Deut. 11:30; Josh. 24:26; Jdgs. 9:6,37).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 35:5-8   5As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. 6So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. 7He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother. 8Now Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth.

35:5 "there was great a terror upon the cities which were around them" The basic root for the term "terror" is חת (BDB 369, K 363, cf. 9:2; Job 41:25); also חתת in Job 6:21. The basic two-consonant root can also mean "shattered" (cf. I Sam. 2:4) or "dismayed" (cf. Jer. 10:2; 46:5). The form in this verse is חתח and it occurs only here.

Although the word is not used in Conquest texts it appears to denote something of the "holy war" imagery (lit. "a terror of God," cf. Exod. 15:16; 23:27; Josh. 10:10). In the ANE military campaigns were carried out in the name of the national deity. From the immediate context it could refer to the slaughter of Shechem (cf. Genesis 34). God was with Jacob in a special and recognizable way!

It is possible that elohim is used in a descriptive sense of "great terror," as in 23:6 (cf. NASB, REB).

35:6 "Luz" We know from Gen. 28:19 that Jacob encountered YHWH just outside of this Canaanite city and he named the place "Bethel." Throughout this period the Canaanites would call the city "Luz" (BDB 531 II, meaning "almond tree") and the Jews would call it by the name of the place where Jacob first encountered YHWH, "Bethel," which means "house of God" (BDB 110).

The Patriarchs named places where Deity appeared to them. This place near Luz was where YHWH initially contacted Jacob. He remembers it well! So he names it again as "the El of the house of El" (Bethel) because of the angels (cf. Job 1:6; Ps. 8:5 or a reference to the angelic council, cf. Gen. 1:26; I Kgs. 22:19) ascending and descending and YHWH standing above/beside the ladder.

▣ "God had revealed Himself" The name for "God" is Elohim, which is plural. Usually when the name is used of the One God the verb is singular, but here it is plural (BDB 162, KB 191, Niphal perfect plural). This may be (ABD, vol. 1, p. 270) because in Gen. 28:12 Elohim is used in connection with the angels of God. These occurrences of Elohim and a plural verb are rare.

It is also possible that the perfect tense and the plural verb denote a complete revelation.

35:8 "Now Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died" This detail denotes an eyewitness/contemporary source! Deborah had been a very faithful servant since Gen. 24:59. She would have been quite elderly. Notice that she is buried under (BDB 1065) an oak; again, another sacred site. The name of the place was called "the oak of weeping" (BDB 47 and 113).

▣ "below. . .under" These terms (BDB 1065) need to be explained because of their ambiguity in English.

  1. below Bethel, denotes a lower height than the altar itself
  2. under, means under the canopy of the branches, not under the trunk

 NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 35:9-15 9Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. 10God 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. 11God 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. 12The 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."  13Then God went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him. 14Jacob 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. 15So Jacob named the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel.

35:9-12 This covenant renewal and commitment is very much like Gen 28:13-15. The time of this encounter is not specified. It looks like a flashback to 32:28-32 or YHWH reaffirming Jacob's name change to Israel.

35:10 "Jacob. . .Israel" The NASB translates v. 10 and vv. 11-12 as poetry. This fits the repetition of the lines of v. 10 and matches the poetry of the theophanies of Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1; and 17:1-5.

It is surprising that we are uncertain as to the meaning (etymology) of the name "Israel." See Special Topic at 32:28.

35:11 "I am God Almighty" This is the Hebrew compound El Shaddai (BDB 42 and 994). We learn from Exod. 6:2-3 that it was the common name in Genesis for God (cf. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3). It seems to be made up of the term El (BDB 42), which is the general name for God in the ANE, probably from the root for "being strong" or "powerful," and the term Shaddai (שׁדי, BDB 994), which may be connected with a woman's breast (BDB 994, cf. Gen. 49:25). Another possible translation is "the All Sufficient One" or the rabbi's "self-sufficient," although in Num. 24:4,16, it is translated by NASB as "the Almighty." It is used often in non-Israelite sources such as Job and Balaam. This title is often connected with God's blessing (cf. Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 48:3-4). See Special Topic at 12:1.

In Deut. 32:17 a similar root (שד, BDB 993) is translated "demon" (an Assyrian loan word).

▣ "Be fruitful and multiply" See notes at 17:1 and 28:3. This has been God's mandate since Genesis 1 (for animals, for humankind, and now for His special covenant family).

▣ "A nation and a company of nations" Obviously this refers to Jacob's descendants (cf. 48:4), but also to a much wider group (i.e., "those made in the image and likeness of God," Gen. 1:26-27).

  1. God's promise of Gen. 3:15
  2. the implications of God's call to Abram in Gen. 12:3
  3. God's titles for Israel and her purpose in Exod. 19:5-6
  4. Isaiah's universal implications of the "nations" being included
  5. Jesus' capstone words to the church in Matt. 28:19-20 and repeated in Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8
  6. the sermons in Acts and the letters of Paul
  7. the clear statements of Galatians 3 and the book of Hebrews about the purpose of the OT

This phrase is a purposeful understatement with tremendous theological significance!

▣ "kings shall come forth from you" This phrase can be seen in two ways.

  1. a literary parallel to "a company of nations"
  2. a way of referring to the covenant with Abraham (cf. 17:6,16)

Jacob is the source of "tribes," but Abraham of "kings."

35:12 This is a reaffirmation of the initial promises to Abraham (cf. 13:15; 26:3; 28:13). YHWH's promises were to a family, a line of descendants! Some were stronger and more spiritual than others. This was not a promise to "favorites," but a promise fo fulfill an eternal redemptive purpose of the God of creation in Whose image all humans are created (cf. Gen. 1:26-27)! It is a promise to fallen humanity (cf. Gen. 3:15) to redeem them! God chose one to choose all!

35:13 "Then God went up from him" The verb "went up" (BDB 748, KB 828) has a wide semantical field ("go up," "ascend," "climb," "blossomed," "sacrifice," "return," "accompanied," and others. Here it is a spacial description of God leaving a person (cf. 17:22). The ancients believed God and heaven were "up" and judgment "down." The smoke of a sacrifice went up to God (cf. 8:20; 22:2,13). God spoke from the mountain/from heaven (cf. Exodus 19-20). The angels of God ascended and descended in 28:12.

Now that moderns know of the vastness of physical creation, many commentators believe that a better way of referring to the place of Deity is inter-dimensional instead of spatial. Heaven is primarily a person, the place is irrelevant.

▣ "in the place where He had spoken with him" This exact phrase is repeated in v. 14. This is the kind of repetition that looks like a common scribal error (dittography).

35:14 "Jacob set up a pillar" This is what he originally did back at Bethel (cf. Gen. 28:18, 19, 22). Also notice that in v. 20 of this chapter he will raise a pillar over Rachel's grave. These pillars marked the place of significant events.

▣ "he poured. . .he poured" There are two different verb used.

  1. the first, BDB 650, KB 703, Hiphil imperfect, refers to a drink offering (BDB 651)
  2. the second, BDB 427, KB 428, Qal imperfect, refers to olive oil (BDB 1032, cf. 28:18) used for special holy anointings, Exod. 29:7; Lev. 8:12

 35:15 Jacob's naming of this site of revelation is recorded three times. Some see this as different authors (J.E.D.P.), but I think it is similar to the recording of Paul's conversion three times in Acts. It was a tremendous theological event. YHWH revealed Himself to Jacob/Israel!

Gen. 35:1-15 - Jacob in Charge commentary

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." 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. 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. Genesis 35:1-5

God commands Jacob to do what he should have done ten years earlier - at long last to return to Bethel, where God had appeared to him 30 years before. He is to "dwell there" for a time - not at Shechem or Succoth, where he has spent the last decade.

Jacob has learned his lesson. Unlike in the previous chapter where he is indecisive and passive in the face of the rape of his daughter, here he prepares himself and his household.

Jacob prepares his household in part by telling them to put away their foreign gods. Where did these idols come from? Remember that Rachel had stolen Laban's gods when the family fled from him (Genesis 31). Perhaps they had collected more during the plundering of Shechem (Genesis 34). In any event, the immoral lives and religion of the Shechemites had begun to influence Jacob's family during their long stay near that city. Perhaps they considered these idols as just pretty, valuable statues, or interesting cultural artifacts. But even if they were not worshiping these gods, the idols presented a temptation, and a reminder of the pagan religion that influenced them at Shechem. So Jacob rightly discerns that all of these must go.

He also commands his household to purify themselves - to prepare to meet God. One aspect of purifying themselves is to changer their garments. Remember, at this time and in this culture, people did not routinely own 30 different sets of clothes. A rich person might have four or five; a poor person, only what he wears. So changing clothes - even for a rich person - is a relatively rare event. So changing clothes is a picture of a change in the inner self. So this action is an outward picture of the inner purifying that Jacob commanded.

Jacob realizes that God has been with him every step of the way, and that he must honor Him at Bethel. So his household obeys him, and they go.

Chapter 34 ends with the indecisive Jacob fearing the revenge of the Canaanites after the rape of Shechem. Here, decisive Jacob steps forward by faith, and the sovereign God puts fear in the hearts of the Canaanites so that they do not pursue him.

So here at the beginning of chapter 35 we see Jacob at his best:

  • This is the Jacob who brought together his bickering wives and convinced them all to support his departure from Laban (Chapter 31).
  • This is the Jacob - the Israel - who at Penuel clung to God and would not let go (Chapter 32)
  • This is the same Israel who stepped forward to meet Esau, when Esau came with 400 men to meet him (Chapter 33).

Jacob obeys God. His household follows him. He returns to Bethel:

The Return to Bethel

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. Genesis 35:6-7

Finally, Jacob arrives at Bethel. Finally, he builds an altar there and worships God, who met him and encouraged him so many years before when he was in great fear of Esau.

And he renames the place. Bethel means house of God. Remember, we criticized Jacob for delighting in the PLACE more than in the GOD who met him at this place. Jacob now realizes that earlier error, so renames the place El Bethel - "The God of Bethel", or "the God of the house of God". He now sees that God is the one who should be exalted - not the place! Jacob is learning what it means to be God-centered.

So Jacob is learning his lessons. Will his life now settle down into an easy, joyful retirement? We get an initial hint that this will not be the case. Right here at Bethel, a death occurs:

And Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. Genesis 35:8

Rebekah is Jacob and Esau's mother. We are told in Genesis 24:61 that Rebekah brought servants with her when Abraham's servant brought her to Isaac. Deborah must have been one of those young women - now, about 150 years later, an old, faithful, beloved servant. We're not told when she left Rebekah and Isaac and came to Jacob - presumably after Rebekah died.

But that is the curious point. Why does the author of Genesis include the death of Deborah - but say nothing about the death of Rebekah herself? The death of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, is recorded. The death of Rachel, Jacob's favorite wife, is recorded. But not the death of Rebekah.

We can't know for sure why her death is left out. But recording Deborah's death seems to underline the gap. The author seems to be drawing attention to his intentionally leaving out Rebekah's death.

Perhaps this explanation is that Rebekah sinned grievously in conspiring with Jacob to deceive Isaac. Now, the author of Genesis records sins of both Sarah and Rachel - yet they both clearly repent. There's no record of Rebekah's repentance - and perhaps that indicates that she didn't repent.

In any event, Deborah's death gives a note of sadness to this time of rejoicing - and that turns out to be a foretaste of the tragedies to come.

Nevertheless, after Deborah's death, God speaks to Jacob for the last time in his life:

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." Genesis 35:9-12

It is more than ten years since God spoke to Jacob at Penuel. These ten years have been characterized by Jacob's disobedience rather than his obedience. He has hardly lived up to his new name, Israel, 'God prevails". But in this appearance, God makes clear that the new name holds, despite the lost years. He reiterates that Israel is indeed Jacob's new name, calling him by that name. Then God emphasizes His sovereign might - His power over all foes, all opponents, all sinfulness, all pride. He will show clearly that He is God Almighty in the last 15 chapters of Genesis.

God then reiterates his promise of offspring. Jacob can see his many sons, but God promises more: They will become nations, and kings of nations.

Then God reiterates the promise of this land of Canaan, given to Jacob and to his offspring.

In effect, in this revelation God says, "Despite your disobedience, Jacob, My promises hold. You have returned. You indeed are MINE. I am your God. And despite your past disobedience, I will fulfill every promise made to you."

Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him. Genesis 35:13

God's ascending from this place not only ends this encounter but ALL direct encounters between God and the patriarchs. In the rest of Genesis, God is very much in control, but He does not again appear and speak to men. Instead, he reveals Himself through dreams and circumstances. Indeed, in the biblical narrative, God will not again speak to a man directly until the incident with Moses at burning bush (Exodus 3) - more than 400 years later.

So God gives Jacob the privilege of a final meeting, a final underlining of all the promises He has given him during his lifetime.

Jacob returns to Bethel, where he first encountered God, and God graciously meets him one final time here. Jacob is obedient. God meets him.