Genesis 35

Jacob Returns to Bethel

1 Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”
2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.
3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.”
4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem.
5 Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.
6 Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan.
7 There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel,[a] because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.
8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.[b]
9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram,[c] God appeared to him again and blessed him.
10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob,[d] but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.[e] ” So he named him Israel.
11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty[f] ; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants.
12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.”
13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.
14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it.
15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.[g]

The Deaths of Rachel and Isaac

16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty.
17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.”
18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni.[h] But his father named him Benjamin.[i]
19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).
20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.
21 Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder.
22 While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it. Jacob had twelve sons:
23 The sons of Leah: Reuben the firstborn of Jacob, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
24 The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin.
25 The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah: Dan and Naphtali.
26 The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.
27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed.
28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years.
29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Genesis 35 Commentary

Chapter 35

God commands Jacob to go to Beth-el, He puts away idols from his family. (1-5) Jacob builds an altar, Death of Deborah, God blesses Jacob. (6-15) Death of Rachel. (16-20) Reuben's crime, The death of Isaac. (21-29)

Verses 1-5 Beth-el was forgotten. But as many as God loves, he will remind of neglected duties, one way or other, by conscience or by providences. When we have vowed a vow to God, it is best not to defer the payment of it; yet better late than never. Jacob commanded his household to prepare, not only for the journey and removal, but for religious services. Masters of families should use their authority to keep up religion in their families, Jos. 24:15 . They must put away strange gods. In families where there is a face of religion, and an altar to God, yet many times there is much amiss, and more strange gods than one would suppose. They must be clean, and change their garments. These were but outward ceremonies, signifying the purifying and change of the heart. What are clean clothes, and new clothes, without a clean heart, and a new heart? If Jacob had called for these idols sooner, they had parted with them sooner. Sometimes attempts for reformation succeed better than we could have thought. Jacob buried their images. We must be wholly separated from our sins, as we are from those that are dead and buried out of sight. He removed from Shechem to Beth-el. Though the Canaanites were very angry against the sons of Jacob for their barbarous usage of the Shechemites, yet they were so kept back by Divine power, that they could not take the opportunity now offered to avenge them. The way of duty is the way of safety. When we are about God's work, we are under special protection; God is with us, while we are with him; and if He be for us, who can be against us? God governs the world more by secret terrors on men's minds than we are aware of.

Verses 6-15 The comfort the saints have in holy ordinances, is not so much from Beth-el, the house of God, as from El-beth-el, the God of the house. The ordinances are empty things, if we do not meet with God in them. There Jacob buried Deborah, Rebekah's nurse. She died much lamented. Old servants in a family, that have in their time been faithful and useful, ought to be respected. God appeared to Jacob. He renewed the covenant with him. I am God Almighty, God all-sufficient, able to make good the promise in due time, and to support thee and provide for thee in the mean time. Two things are promised; that he should be the father of a great nation, and that he should be the master of a good land. These two promises had a spiritual signification, which Jacob had some notion of, though not so clear and distinct as we now have. Christ is the promised Seed, and heaven is the promised land; the former is the foundation, and the latter the top-stone, of all God's favours.

Verses 16-20 Rachel had passionately said, Give me children, or else I die; and now that she had children, she died! The death of the body is but the departure of the soul to the world of spirits. When shall we learn that it is God alone who really knows what is best for his people, and that in all worldly affairs the safest path for the Christian is to say from the heart, It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. Here alone is our safety and our comfort, to know no will but his. Her dying lips called her newborn son Ben-oni, the son of my sorrow; and many a son proves to be the heaviness of her that bare him. Children are enough the sorrow of their mothers; they should, therefore, when they grow up, study to be their joy, and so, if possible, to make them some amends. But Jacob, because he would not renew the sorrowful remembrance of the mother's death every time he called his son, changed his name to Benjamin, the son of my right hand: that is, very dear to me; the support of my age, like the staff in my right hand.

Verses 21-29 What a sore affliction Reuben's sin was, is shown, " and Israel heard it." No more is said, but that is enough. Reuben thought that his father would never hear of it; but those that promise themselves secrecy in sin, are generally disappointed. The age and death of Isaac are recorded, though he died not till after Joseph was sold into Egypt. Isaac lived about forty years after he had made his will, chap. 27:2 . We shall not die an hour the sooner, but much the better, for timely setting our hearts and houses in order. Particular notice is taken of the agreement of Esau and Jacob at their father's funeral, to show how God had wonderfully changed Esau's mind. It is awful to behold relations, sometimes for a little of this world's goods, disputing over the graves of their friends, while they are near going to the grave themselves.

Cross References 74

  • 1. S Genesis 12:8; Genesis 28:19
  • 2. S Genesis 4:26; Genesis 8:20
  • 3. ver 3
  • 4. S Genesis 12:7
  • 5. ver 7; Genesis 27:43
  • 6. Genesis 18:19; Joshua 24:15
  • 7. S Genesis 31:19; S Joshua 24:14
  • 8. Exodus 19:10,14; Numbers 8:7,21; Numbers 19:19
  • 9. ver 1
  • 10. S Genesis 32:7; S Judges 2:15
  • 11. S Genesis 26:3; Ge 28:15,20-22; Genesis 31:3,42
  • 12. S Genesis 24:22; Exodus 32:3; Exodus 35:22; Judges 8:24; Proverbs 25:12
  • 13. ver 8
  • 14. S Genesis 12:6; Joshua 24:25-26
  • 15. Exodus 15:16; Exodus 23:27; Deuteronomy 2:25; Joshua 2:9; 1 Samuel 7:10; 1 Samuel 13:7; 1 Samuel 14:15; 2 Chronicles 14:14; 2 Chronicles 17:10; 2 Chronicles 20:29; Psalms 9:20; Isaiah 19:17; Zechariah 14:13
  • 16. Psalms 105:14
  • 17. S Genesis 28:19; Genesis 48:3
  • 18. S Genesis 10:19
  • 19. S Genesis 8:20
  • 20. Genesis 28:19
  • 21. S Genesis 28:13
  • 22. S ver 1
  • 23. Genesis 24:59
  • 24. ver 4
  • 25. S Genesis 12:8; 1 Samuel 10:3
  • 26. S Genesis 25:20
  • 27. S Genesis 28:13; S Genesis 32:29
  • 28. S Genesis 17:5
  • 29. S Genesis 17:1; Exodus 6:3
  • 30. S Genesis 12:2
  • 31. S Genesis 12:2; Genesis 28:3; Genesis 48:4
  • 32. S Genesis 17:6
  • 33. S Genesis 13:15; Genesis 28:13
  • 34. S Genesis 12:7; S Genesis 15:7; Genesis 26:3
  • 35. S Genesis 17:22
  • 36. S Genesis 28:22
  • 37. Exodus 29:40; Leviticus 23:13; Numbers 6:15,17; Numbers 15:5; Numbers 28:7,14; 2 Samuel 23:16; 2 Chronicles 29:35
  • 38. S Genesis 28:18
  • 39. S Genesis 12:8; Genesis 28:19
  • 40. ver 19; Genesis 48:7; Ruth 1:2; Ruth 4:11; 1 Samuel 17:12; Micah 5:2
  • 41. S Genesis 29:6
  • 42. Genesis 38:28; Exodus 1:15
  • 43. S Genesis 30:24
  • 44. 1 Samuel 4:21; 1 Samuel 14:3
  • 45. ver 24; Genesis 42:4; Genesis 43:16,29; Genesis 45:12,14; Genesis 49:27; Numbers 1:36; Deuteronomy 33:12
  • 46. S ver 16
  • 47. Genesis 48:7; Joshua 19:15; Judges 12:8; Judges 17:7; Judges 19:1,18; Ruth 1:1,19; 1 Samuel 17:12; Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:16
  • 48. Joshua 4:9; Joshua 7:26; Joshua 8:28; Joshua 10:27; 1 Samuel 6:18
  • 49. 1 Samuel 10:2
  • 50. Joshua 15:21
  • 51. S Genesis 22:24; Genesis 49:4; 1 Chronicles 5:1
  • 52. S Genesis 29:29; S Genesis 34:5; S Leviticus 18:8
  • 53. S Genesis 29:16
  • 54. Genesis 43:33; Genesis 46:8
  • 55. S Genesis 29:35
  • 56. S Genesis 30:20
  • 57. S Genesis 30:24
  • 58. S ver 18
  • 59. Genesis 37:2
  • 60. S Genesis 30:8
  • 61. Genesis 37:2
  • 62. S Genesis 30:11
  • 63. S Genesis 30:13
  • 64. S Genesis 34:30; Genesis 46:8; Exodus 1:1-4
  • 65. S Genesis 25:20
  • 66. Genesis 31:18
  • 67. S Genesis 13:18; Genesis 18:1
  • 68. Genesis 23:2; Joshua 15:54; Judges 1:10; Nehemiah 11:25; Joshua 14:15
  • 69. S Genesis 13:18
  • 70. S Genesis 17:8
  • 71. S Genesis 25:7,20
  • 72. S Genesis 25:8; Genesis 49:33
  • 73. S Genesis 15:15
  • 74. S Genesis 23:20; S Genesis 25:9

Footnotes 9

  • [a]. "El Bethel" means "God of Bethel."
  • [b]. "Allon Bakuth" means "oak of weeping."
  • [c]. That is, Northwest Mesopotamia; also in verse 26
  • [d]. "Jacob" means "he grasps the heel" , a Hebrew idiom for "he deceives" .
  • [e]. "Israel" probably means "he struggles with God."
  • [f]. Hebrew "El-Shaddai"
  • [g]. "Bethel" means "house of God."
  • [h]. "Ben-Oni" means "son of my trouble."
  • [i]. "Benjamin" means "son of my right hand."

Chapter Summary


This chapter gives an account of Jacob's going to Bethel, and building an altar there by the order and direction of God, Ge 35:1-7, where Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died and was buried, Ge 35:8, and where God appeared to Jacob, confirmed the new name of Israel he had given him, and renewed to him the promises of the multiplication of his seed, and of their inheriting the land of Canaan, Ge 35:9-13; all which is gratefully acknowledged by Jacob, who erected a pillar in the place, and called it Bethel, in memory of God's gracious appearance to him there, Ge 35:14,15; from hence he journeyed towards his father's house, and on the way Rachel his wife fell in travail, and bore him a son, and died, and was buried near Ephrath, Ge 35:16-21; near this place Reuben committed incest with Bilhah, Ge 35:22, and the names of the twelve sons of Jacob are given, Ge 35:23-26; and the chapter is closed with an account of Jacob's arrival at his father's house, of the death of Isaac, and of his burial at the direction of his two sons, Ge 35:27-29.

Genesis 35 Commentaries