The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 35

Gen 35:1

GO UP TO BETHEL: Such a summons is, in effect, God's forgiveness for all Jacob's sins of the intervening 20-plus years.

BETHEL: "The house of God". It was God's plan that Jacob remain separate from Esau.

Gen 35:2

GET RID OF THE FOREIGN (STRANGE) GODS: "Teraphim" (Gen 31:19), having idolatrous implications. Suggestive of "wealth" (Gen 34:29) and property. Thus, Jacob and his wives renounce any claim to the lands and property of Laban, and demonstrate renewed reliance on God. (May refer to "teraphim" taken as plunder from Shechem also: Gen 34.)

PURIFY YOURSELVES AND CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES: Repr baptism: a purification by water, and a change of "garments".

Gen 35:4

JACOB BURIED THEM UNDER THE OAK AT SHECHEM: In view of Jacob's troubles there... a very fitting way to put an end to a former way of life. Cp Joshua at Shechem: Jos 24:23-26. Typ, we "bury" our old way of life under the "tree" of the "Burden-bearer".

Gen 35:5

See WP 72.

THE TERROR OF GOD FELL UPON THE TOWNS ALL AROUND THEM: Other towns would have heard of the slaughter of the Shechemites (Gen 34:25).

NO ONE PURSUED THEM: ie, to avenge the murder of the Shechemites.

Gen 35:6

LUZ: The former name of the place. Sig "perverse willfulness, or waywardness".

Gen 35:7

Vv 7-15: A short summary of main points of Jacob's life.

Gen 35:8

Apparently, Jacob had returned to his family sometime earlier, found that his mother had died, and took her old nurse Deborah back with him to Haran.

Gen 35:10

NO LONGER...: 'Not only, but also'. Other examples of this kind are Hos 6:6; Luk 10:20; Joh 6:27; Act 5:4; 1Co 15:10. Here, means: 'Your name will not (only) be Jacob now, but (also) you will be called Israel.'

Gen 35:11

Jacob ("Supplanter") (Gen 27:36) changed to Israel ("Prince with God") (Gen 32:28).

Gen 35:12


AND ISAAC: Gen 26:1-4.

I ALSO GIVE TO YOU... AND TO YOUR DESCENDANTS (SEED): The terms of the Abrahamic covenant:
THE LAND: Involving all earth: Rom 4:13. None actually inherited the land: Act 7:5; Heb 11:13.

Gen 35:14

A further appeal to God to maintain the separation between himself and Esau (cp Gen 21:45-52).

HE POURED OUT A DRINK OFFERING ON IT: Wine on altar = the shed blood of Messiah on the "altar" of the cross!

OIL: Repr God's Spirit, poured out upon Christ and then upon his bre, who become the "house of God".

Gen 35:17

Sadly, to fulfill Jacob's vow: Gen 31:32.

Gen 35:18

In similar fashion, Adam named his wife "Eve" -- "Life!" -- although by natural appearances "Death" might have been more appropriate. This demonstrates an appreciation of the importance of God's promises, even in the midst of suffering. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2Co 4:17,18).

FOR SHE WAS DYING: Rachel symbolizes the nation of Israel -- which dies politically at the coming of her "son" Jesus Christ: Isa 53:3; Luk 2:34,35; Rom 11:15.

BEN-ONI: "Son of my trouble, or my sorrow" (cp Mat 2:18). Jesus, at first coming, was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.

BENJAMIN: "Son of my right hand". Jesus, the only son of his Father, after suffering in sorrow, was then elevated to power at God's right hand: see Psa 80:17; 110:1,2; Mat 22:44; Phi 2:5-7.

"To every matter there is a bright as well as a dark side. Rachel was overwhelmed with the sorrow of her own travail and death; Jacob, though weeping the mother's loss, could see the mercy of the child's birth. It is well for us if, while the flesh mourns over trials, our faith triumphs in divine faithfulness. Samson's lion yielded honey, and so will our adversities, if rightly considered.

"The stormy sea feeds multitudes with its fishes; the wild wood blooms with beauteous flowers; the stormy wind sweeps away the pestilence, and the biting frost loosens the soil. Dark clouds distil bright drops, and black earth grows gay flowers. A vein of good is to be found in every mine of evil. Sad hearts have peculiar skill in discovering the most disadvantageous point of view from which to gaze upon a trial; if there were only one swamp in the world, they would soon be up to their necks in it, and if there were only one lion in the desert they would hear it roar...

"Faith's way of walking is to cast all care upon the Lord, and then to anticipate good results from the worst calamities. Like Gideon's men, she does not fret over the broken pitcher, but rejoices that the lamp blazes forth the more. Out of the rough oyster-shell of difficulty she extracts the rare pearl of honor, and from the deep ocean-caves of distress she uplifts the priceless coral of experience. When her flood of prosperity ebbs, she finds treasures hid in the sands; and when her sun of delight goes down, she turns her telescope of hope to the starry promises of heaven. When death itself appears, faith points to the light of resurrection beyond the grave, thus making our dying Benoni to be our living Benjamin" (CHS).

Gen 35:21

Typ national Israel in the Kingdom: Mic 4:8. Cp Luk 2:8.

Gen 35:22

REUBEN... SLEPT WITH... BILHAH: Reuben asserts his right (?) as firstborn (cp 2Sa 12:8; 16:22; 1Ki 2:22), by taking his father's concubine. Reuben fears Jacob will show favor to his beloved Rachel's sons, and thus pass him over. Note: where Reuben failed (ie, in fornication), Joseph was strong (Gen 39:9).

Gen 35:27

Somewhat amazingly, Isaac is still living when Jacob returns. Isaac was considered very old and thought he was at the point of death many years earlier (Gen 27:1,2).

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