|This morning there was an article in the morning news about girls and their moms. It asked the question about whether moms should be their daughter’s friends, like in the show the Gilmore Girls. The consensus was that when a teen is growing up, they need a mom, rules, and guidelines, not a friend. Of course they do need mom’s love. As the teens mature and become adults, then comes the time for friendship. I think that if we look at the story of King Hamor and Shechem we see a father trying to be a friend to his son, and the disastrous results of that.
When a parent seeks to be a friend with their kids they may not lay down the necessary guidelines to protect their child, because they do not want the child to be mad a them. King Hamor allowed his son’s sexual desires to dictate the country’s policy and ended up having all the males killed, and their wives, children, animals and possessions taken.
I love my kids passionately, but will not compromise on what I demand of them. I demand that they love God, treat people with respect and courtesy, that they obey their father, that they live moral lives. My husband and I have had serious discussions with them about today’s issues and our expectations of them regarding marriage, drugs, etc. They know they are loved, but will be held accountable for their actions. And we pray hard for our kids.
Genesis 35 seems to be a hodge-podge of tying up loose ends. But happily, the sad experiences at Shechem have Jacob where he needs to be – at Bethel – the house of God.
Genesis 35:1 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.”
Jacob’s family was falling apart, the actions that they did in Shechem were ungodly, unnecessarily cruel and evil. Paul said, where sin abounds, grace abounds more. God gives Jacob much grace, and tells him to get up and move on. God gives Jacob another chance to get it right, and brings him back to a place of fellowship – Bethel.
There is a wonderful song with the lyrics, “We fall down and get up, we fall down and get up. For a saint is just a sinner who fell down and got up.” I know that in my four short years of walking with God, I too have made mistakes, fallen down and gotten back up. Sometimes my faith walk is strong, other times shaky. But one thing is certain, my commitment to a relationship with God is there. And as I grow more in my faith walk, my mistakes change. But I suspect that all along there are those moments when our guard can slip. The Bible talks about the fiery darts of the enemy, they are darts because darts can slip between the chinks of our spiritual armor. No one can assume that they can relax their guard, satan even left Jesus until a more opportune time.
Genesis 35:2-3 And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among 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.”
I had somehow thought that Jacob and his family were not idol worshippers, but this shows clearly the danger of living close to the borderland instead of full commitment to God. Jacob knew that there were those in his circle who had foreign gods, idols. And to Jacob’s credit, he does break free by telling people to put away their foreign gods, purify themselves and change their garments. In other words make a new start, and return to God. It reminds me of when Abram made that sojourn down to Egypt, and after awhile, he returned back to Bethel. When we stray from God’s path, the best thing we can do is go back to where we last had our encounter with God. Retrace our footprints and get back to God. Then we can continue on in God’s will.
Genesis 35:4 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 (oak) tree which was by Shechem.
Oh praise God for this. This is a perfect picture of salvation. They did not clean up their act for God to call them, God made the call first, and then they cleaned up their act. They put away the things that were not of God by burying them under a tree. Just as we put away things that are not of God by taking them to the foot of the cross. They responded to God’s goodness Romans 6:6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
Genesis 35:5 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.
God is so good, even when we sin, God can cause a crop failure in the seeds of sin that we sow. Sometimes we will face the repercussions of our sins, but sometimes God will give grace and protect us from ourselves and the repercussions. In this case, God caused the surrounding cities to not take revenge for all the deaths.
Jacob finally gets to Luz (the old name of Bethel) and builds an altar there, calling the place El Bethel (God of the house of God), because it was there that God appeared to him when he fled from Esau.
There is going to be a series of deaths in this chapter. First Deborah who was Rebekah’s (Jacob’s mom) nurse died and was buried below Bethel under a terebinth tree. They called the place Allon bachuth (Oak of weeping).
Genesis 35: 9 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 (Governed by God).
See, Jacob, who allowed his family to worship idols was called Jacob. When Jacob listened to God, buried the idols and earrings, and returned to Bethel and built the altar, then God called him Israel – governed by God.
Now God gives Jacob his promise:
Genesis 35:11-12 And 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.” This land being referred to encompasses the nation of Israel today. God gave the land to the Nation Israel, no nation in existence today has the right to insist that Israel give up what was God given them.
Genesis 35:13-15 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.
When I see stone I think of Jesus, and I think it is important to note that here a drink offering and anointing with oil is mentioned – long before the Laws given to Moses.
They journey away from Bethel and end up in Ephrath (which we now know as Bethelehem) Rachel dies and is buried. A pillar is set up to mark her grave site. I believe her tomb is still there. Rachel was pregnant and her labor was hard. The midwife says to her in verse 17 “Do not fear: you will have this son also.” Rachel in chapter 30 told Jacob to give her a son or else she would die. Jacob got angry at Rachel for this outburst, and unfortunately the son Rachel finally got led to her death. I think it is telling that Leah will one day know that she has the favor of Jacob, for when Jacob dies, he is buried with Leah, not Rachel. Perhaps Jacob grew wiser to realize that outward appearance is not the most important thing, but that is my guess.
Rachel did have her son, and as her soul departed (for she died), she called her son’s name Ben-Oni, which means Son of Sorrow. But Jacob will change his name to Benjamin which means son of my right hand.
Here is a perfect example of the Jacob – fleshly/Israel godly actions.
Verses 20-21 And JACOB set a pillar on her grave; which is the pillar of Rachel’s grave to this day. ThenISRAEL journeyed and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. Eder is a shepherd’s tower near Bethlehem.
What is surprising is that Jacob moved Rachel when she was so far along in her pregnancy, God never told Jacob to move to Ephrath, God had told Jacob to stay at Bethel. Could that move have caused the problems that Rachel had and her ultimate death.
The sin-sickness in this family is immense. Jacob’s son Reuben (his oldest son) went in and slept with Bilhah the maidservant, who was his father’s concubine. Israel finds out about it and will remember this transgression when he goes to bless his children. Oh the things Jacob’s kids must have learned watching the heathen, and the lack of respect for their father mirrors some of what Jacob did when he lied to his father about his identity. Here is another death in the family – the death of Jacob/Israel’s trust in his first born son.
Then comes the death of Isaac. Jacob comes to his father at Mamre, or Kirjath Arba (Hebron), and Isaac died at 180 years old. He breathed his last and was gathered to his people being old and full of days. How awesome to die being full of days, not having one’s life cut short. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
Only one line about the burial – I wonder what transpired between Esau and Jacob at this time, were relations strained after Jacob’s lie about joining Esau later in the land. Will Esau remember his promise to kill Jacob after his father dies? Will Jacob and Esau get along? Have things been fully mended? Stay tuned.
Beth Moore, in her study The Patriarchs has a few more words to say about El Bethel on page 158 “Sometimes we just need to move. Our surroundings can be etched with such painful memories that a change of scenery becomes imperative for our emotional and spiritual health. The dirt under our injured feet can finally become quicksand to us, swallowing us in madness. We still have to deal with our memories and the repercussions of cataclysmic events, but we can do so on our way to a new start. Your life story is not written in scars.”
I starred the following line because it spoke so deeply to me when I did this study last fall. “While scars mark us, they don’t have to make us.”
Beth mentions something I did not notice about the death of Rebekah, Jacob’s mother. No mention was made of her death, so why the mention of her nurse’s death? page 159-160 “Deborah, the last remnant of the world of Paddan-aram, the old nurse of his mother who had been sent to watch over her as she left to join the people of God’s covenant, now at last departs; with her burial “beneath the oak” are symbolically laid to rest all traces of Mesopotamian influence. It is only at this point that “God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram”, and blessed him–for the first and only time—with a most abundant patriarchal blessing: a blessing for seed, national profusion, kindly descendants, and the Promised Land.”
On page 160 Beth talks about the radical change Jacob made in his family, wanting the old idols buried, and even a change of clothes. “He meant for moral transformation to be reflected—down to a change of clothes. Wisdom hasn’t exactly been Jacob’s calling card, but at this very moment we see a wise man indeed. Our lesson today began with these words, “Sometimes we just need to move.” Broaden the concept now to encompass the move to a new place with God rather than a new physical surrounding. If we are desperate for a move, we too could use a thorough housecleaning–spiritually and perhaps literally.”
Beth talks about a volcanic eruption that can occur when things that are ungodly are uprooted, and on p. 160 I starred these lines, “All led to housecleaning and an urgent pursuit of purity. They also led to Bethels in our lives: places we encountered our God afresh. Listen, Dear One, Pretty things don’t always come pretty ways.”
This particular chapter in this study hit home in many areas. I am going to share three more starred paragraphs on page 161.
“If I find myself confessing the same attitude or action over and over, I begin to realize that while I may be telling on myself, I’m not changing. I want to change! Don’t you? We need concentrated times of deep introspection when we allow God to shed light on our hearts, minds, attitudes, and motivations. That’s the way to tend to the root of our sin problems and not only the symptoms.”
“Renaming Bethel dramatically spotlights Jacob’s spiritual metamorphosis. Over a two-decade span of time, the abiding presence of God “Who has been with me wherever I have gone” (35:3), gradually shifted Jacob’s focus from the things of God–blessings, protection, land–to God Himself. This shift is the single most profound turning point toward spiritual maturity for Jacob or for us.”
“Many of us were taught to call our churches “God’s house” as children. Using this terminology, think how easily our focus on all the involvements and activities of church can exceed our focus on God Himself. If we’re not careful, we can come to love great worship music, small group Bible study, and the whole community of church more than we love God. One of the most obscure traps the devil sets for the deeply spiritual is to tempt us to love loving God more than we actually love God.”
I think I will leave the rest of Beth Moore’s comments on this chapter for tomorrow as this post is rather long. The above comments really hit home for me.
I am hoping your day is blessed.
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