Read 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, 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.
9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.
11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; 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.
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. But his father named him Benjamin.
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.
Have you ever heard of a couple renewing their vows? After a number of years of marriage, there is a tendency for things to grow dull and mundane. A vow renewal is meant to remind the couple of their first love and their commitment to one another. Genesis 35 functions as a vow renewal of sorts. God meets with Jacob once again and reaffirms His commitment to Jacob and his descendants. However, this time the vow renewal isn’t for the one speaking, it’s for the one listening. Jacob needs to be reminded that God has not forgotten him and will continue to do what he has promised.
In the same way, God wants to continually renew His vow to you each and every day. He is committed to loving you and pursuing you regardless of life’s circumstances. As we are reminded of His faithfulness, it also gives us an opportunity to reexamine our own vows. How committed are you to God? Have you made big, bold promises to Him in the past and failed to keep them? Maybe today is a chance for you to renew your affections for God. At the end of their meeting, Jacob set up a stone at Bethel to remind himself of God’s faithfulness. What are those God moments that need to be memorialized in your life? Spend some time reflecting on His faithfulness, and then renew your own faithfulness to him today.
Why do you think God reaffirmed the promise to Jacob that He had already given to Isaac and Abraham?
Why do you think God chose to meet with Jacob at Bethel?
What are a few “God moments” that need to be memorialized and remembered in your life?
Did You Know?
In this chapter, God gave Jacob a new name. This name, Israel, means “he who struggles with God.” Although Jacob’s life was full of trials and mistakes, this name serves as a reminder that he fought to maintain his relationship with God. Our relationship with God doesn’t have to be easy for it to be honorable.