Genesis Chapter Thirty-Five


Read Genesis 35:1-5 – God Send Jacob to Bethel


v.1And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.”


            God now speaks to Jacob and gives him some explicit directions.  He is to go the place where God visited him in the mountains some 20 or 25 miles south of Shechem and Sychar.  This is the place that Jacob had worshipped God on his journey to Haran and set up a pillar naming it the “house of God” or Bethel.


Genesis 28:13And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;” “v.19And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.”


            The scripture says that Jacob is to go “UP” to Bethel but it is almost due south of Sychar and the Fara Valley.  How is this so?  We point this out to remind us of the precision and accuracy of the wording of scriptural.  The answer is elevation; Bethel is in the mountains in what later became land allocated to the tribe of Benjamin.


v.22Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:”


            Jacob is preparing his family to move to the “house of God, Bethel” and serve the living God.  First they are to put away the false gods whose images that they carried with them.  That men worshipped something other than the living God is a matter of scripture record:


Joshua 24:2And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.”


Rachel had stolen her father’s gods, the images that he worshipped and held very dear:


Genesis 31:19And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father’s.”


These gods had to be removed.  In addition he tells them to wash and change their garments; a symbolic as well as a physical cleansing that would further prepare them to be in the presence of God.  The prophet gives Judah very similar instruction:


Isaiah 1:16Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;” v.18Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”


This is the same kind of cleansing, a type or shadow of what we accomplish today by our repentance and remission of sins through the washing of baptism:


Romans 6:66Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”


v.3And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.”


            Jacob remembers Bethel as the place that God came to him in reassurance, encouragement and promised to look after him when he was about as far down as he could get.  His brother had sought to kill him, he had to leave his home, he was traveling hundreds of miles to a place that he did not know to be with a people that may or may not accept him.  But God gave him hope and since that day had kept his promises to be with him.  Just as the psalmist writes, those that God has redeemed:




v.4And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.”


            We don’t know the significance of the giving up of their earrings unless it was a mark that was common with the heathen around them.  I understand the use of jewelry by women to enhance their beauty with limitations and appropriate modesty but personally I’m repulsed by the piercings and multiple earrings worn by many of our younger generation today.  I’m aware that each generation seems to require a mark or sing of it’s rebellion against the standards, controls and morals of the one before it.  I’m also reminded of the words of the Lord to the prophet Hosea, speaking of Israel:


And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.” Hosea 2:13


Jacob takes their images and earrings and buries them, hides them away in the earth, probably by himself, where his family could not find them again.


v.5And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.”


            After the sons of Jacob had destroyed Shechem, he was fearful that the other people of Canaan would rise up against him.  But, God is protecting him and his family just as he protected the new nation of Israel later:


Deuteronomy 11:25There shall no man be able to stand before you: for the LORD your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon, as he hath said unto you.”


Read Genesis 35:6-15 – Jacob Builds an Altar and Worships God


v.6So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him.”


            Jacob arrives at his destination.  We should remember the name of Luz from our earlier study:


Genesis 28:19And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.”


v.7And he built there an altar, and called the place El-bethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.”


            In his previous visit to Luz, now called Bethel, Jacob had made a promise to God.


Genesis 28:20-21And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:


Jacob understands the concept that the Holy Spirit through the pen of the wise man, Solomon, provides us in later writings of scripture:


Ecclesiastes 5:4-5When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. 5Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.”


We make the same kind of vow or promise to be faithful children to God when we repent of our sins, obey Him in baptism and accept his forgiveness.


v.8But Deborah Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.”


            We now hear from the family of Isaac again.  When Rebekah went to Canaan with Abraham’s servant, a nurse had been sent with her.


Genesis 24:59  And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant, and his men.”


Though no mention of Isaac is made in until later in this chapter, nor are we told whether Rebekah is still living; it is obvious from this verse that Jacob is now living near his father.


v.9-10And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. 10And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.”


            Here we have God speaking with Jacob again and giving him a confirmation of the promise made to Jacob by the angel in Gilead before he met Esau:


Genesis 32:28And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”


v.11And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;”


            First God confirms that Jacob is indeed hearing the promises of the Master and Creator of the Universe.  He identifies himself as El-Shaddai in the Hebrew, which literally is translated God Almighty or God All-Sufficient.  This is the same way he identified himself to Abram in our earlier study:


Genesis 17:1And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.”


He repeats the promise made first made to Abram to his grandson, Israel:


Genesis 17:5-6 “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.


v.12  And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.”


            God also repeats the land promise made to Abram:


Genesis 12:7And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.”


The land promise that he repeated to Isaac:


Genesis 26:3Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;”


v.13  And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.”


            God, his purpose completed, goes about his business.


v.14-15 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. 15And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.”


            Jacob is very near; if not at the same location where he set up a pillar and worshipped God on his way to Haran. 


Genesis 28:18-19And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. 19And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.”


Here he follows the same pattern of paying tribute to God and re-emphasizing the new name of this place as the “house of God”.


Read Genesis 35:16-20 – Rachel Dies Bearing Benjamin


v.16And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.”


            The location of Ephrath is given to us by verse19 is the same location of the town of Bethlehem and there is an ancient tomb at the entrance to that city that is called the Tomb of Rachel.  The location is further confirmed by Israel:


Genesis 48:7And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem.”
Sunset church of Christ, Shreveport, Louisiana; December 16, 2007                                                                  Page Seven


Genesis Chapter Thirty-Five


v.17And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also.”


            Rachel at the beginning was barren and did not bear a child until God gave her Joseph.  Now about to deliver again, she is having a very hard, difficult labor. Perhaps as an encouragement to her the midwife assures her that she will have another son.


v.18And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.”


            Knowing that she was dying bringing this child into the world Rachel named him Benoni, a word that means “son of my sorrow”.  His father, probably knowing that this will be his last son, and being partial to the children of Rachel, names him Benjamin.  Benjamin means “son of the right hand”; a phrase very similar to one that I remember hearing from my grandfather.  When I was small he would allow me to tag along with him and called me his “right hand man”, his way of indicating one that the loved and depended upon.


v.19-2019And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. 20And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.


            Moses writes in Genesis that the pillar that Jacob set to mark Rachel’s grave was with them even “UNTO THIS DAY”.  It was also well known in the time of Samuel as he uses it as a reference point in instructions to Saul when he anointed him to be king over Israel in I Samuel 10:2.  As we noted earlier it is still known today.


Read Genesis 35:21-26 – The Twelve Sons of Jacob


v.21  And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.”


            The Tower of Edar is mentioned only here in this verse but is known to be a location very near to Ephrath/Bethlehem.


v.22 “And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: and Israel heard it.”

            Jacob’s sons will be a trial to him throughout his entire life.  First Simeon and Levi at Shechem now Rueben, also commits sin against both God and his father.  This is a very brief description of what happen without any explanation or details given.  However, it is remembered in Jacob’s final blessing given from his death bed:


Genesis 49:3-4Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: 4Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.”


As a result of his sin, his birthright was given to the two sons of Joseph.


I Chronicles 5:1Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn;) but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.”


v.23-26The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun: 24The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin: 25And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali: 26And the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s handmaid; Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram.”


Read Genesis 35:27-29 – The Death of Isaac


v.27  And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned.”


            Isaac is still at Hebron in the area called Mamre.  When he gave the blessings to Jacob and Esau he was blind so apparently he hasn’t moved.  As this verse tells us it was also a place that Abraham lived and worshipped God:


Genesis 13:18  Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.”


v.28-29And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years. 29And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.”


Isaac lived to be 180 years old.  Genesis 49:31 tells us that Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah were all buried at the some place, the place that Jacob also buried Leah.  This place, of course, is that which Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth, the Hittite people.