Genesis 35


God instructs Jacob to move to Bethel and build an altar in that place where God had appeared to him many years before. Faith is a journey, and before they Jacob and his family set out, he urged them to put away foreign gods, purify themselves, and change clothes. Jacob announces to his family that they will be going to Bethel to worship the faithful God that has been with him all these years and has answered his prayers time and again. Jacob's family complies handing over everything that related to any pagan worship. Jacob symbolically puts them to death by burying them, and they departed. As Jacob and his family made their way to Bethel, God provided them with safe passage by striking terror into the hearts of the Canaanites. They were afraid to attack, and so Jacob came to Bethel without incident. Obedience is the fruit of faith. Jacob builds the altar as instructed and detailing God's faithfulness. This beautiful occasion was marred by the death of Deborah, Rebekah's nurse. God appeared again to Jacob and blessed him. God renewed Jacob's name and reminded him of his new identity. He confirmed the promises that he had made to Jacob, to Isaac, and to Abraham. God ascended from the place where he was speaking, and Jacob set up a pillar of stone. He made an offering to the Lord and called that place the house of God.

Difficult Times

There is sometimes the misconception that people who walk with God don't suffer or have problems, but this is not what scripture teaches. The Bible does not tell us how long Jacob and his family lived at Bethel, but it does inform the reader that they moved on from that place. Just outside what would later be known as Bethlehem, Rachel experiences severe labor and when her pain was excruciating the midwife told her not to be afraid because she had another son. With her dying breath, Rachel called him the son of my trouble, but Jacob called him the son of my right hand. Jacob lost his beloved Rachel instead of a day filled with great joy; it was also filled great pain and loss. Jacob set up a pillar to commemorate her life and journeyed on to Eder. While there, Reuben slept with his stepmother Bilhah and Jacob heard of his wickedness. It would seem that there was no immediate discipline administered but 1 Chronicles 5:1 tells us that Reuben's rights as the firstborn were given to Joseph. Jacob was reunited with his father while he was living at Mamre and the two of them spent the next twelve years together until Isaac died. Esau and Jacob buried their father together.

Things To Consider:

  • Why must we take sin seriously?
  • What did a change of clothes symbolize for Jacob's family?
  • Why must we put sin to death?
  • Why is it important to remember that God is sovereign over the nations?
  • Why is suffering a part of our lives?
  • How do people excuse suffering and why are Christian answers sometimes seen as insincere?
  • How does scripture remind us of God's faithfulness?
  • Why is the giving of offerings a part of worship?
  • How can suffering and joy be experienced at the same time?
  • Have you ever experienced pain and joy simultaneously? When?
  • What do we continue to see about families through the lives of the patriarchs?