Genesis 35 Commentary
The LORD instructs Jacob to go to Bethel (formally Luz). It is here that the LORD appeared to Jacob when he was fleeing from Esau. I like what the LORD said. Though Rebekah had put it to Isaac as a marriage trip, the LORD knew exactly why Jacob was making the trip. He was running away from his brother Esau. Jacob is told to go and raise an altar to the God who had appeared to him there. We see that even at this stage Israel had foreign gods amongst them.
Verse 11 is key as the LORD repeats the Abrahamic blessing to Israel. The LORD introduces Himself as El-Shaddai and Israel is confirmed as Jacob’s new name. Is the LORD reflecting on the many struggles that Israel would undergo in her relationship with God, not just now but throughout its entire history? While Abraham’s name means father of nations, Jacob’s new name means ‘fights God’.
In this chapter Rachel dies as she gives birth to a son she calls Ben-oni. But Israel called him Benjamin. The name change was important for his destiny. She was buried at Bethlehem.
Reuben goes in and sleeps with Bilhah. Now Reuben is Israel’s firstborn son and Bilhah is Jacob’s wife (one of the 4 wives). Jacob hears about it and the Bible goes silent on it. But keep this tab open. So we have Reuben the firstborn with this scandal. Simeon was the second born while Levi was the third born but remember their anger and excessive aggression in slaughtering and clearing out an entire city. Keep tabs on these three.
Again here is a note on multiple marriages. Like we observed, when God’s design is disturbed results are unpredictable and there is pain. Bilhah wasn’t raped. She gladly consented. You would want to guess that she wasn’t happy with Israel’s availability and matrimonial care. It is not a justification for sin but stresses the point that Israel didn’t do justice to himself by disturbing a young woman who could have possibly married and have a man to herself.
The LORD designed life in a way that creates a peaceful environment for all. Our scheming and wisdom on the other hand can almost always create confusion, pain and suffering. At some point Rachel is reported to have kept Jacob to herself as the most loved wife thereby denying others the privileges of matrimonial service. It’s at this time that Leah pays for the services with mandrakes that Reuben (Leah’s son) collected from the field. So Israel was allowed to sleep with Leah. She conceived and that is how Issachar was born. You get a picture of a man being used as a sex tool…..more like you would keep a bull to service 4 cows. (Check chapter 30:14-18) When the design is messed up, you have a real mess. God help us keep your will and purposes even when it appears undesirable. For by your will we shall find our peace and meaning. Amen
The patriarch Isaac dies at the age of 180 – a long and peaceful existence (with one wife).