Friday, February 11, 2011

Genesis 35:1-7 Back to Bethel

"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.'  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.  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.  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.  Then they set out and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them." (Genesis 35:1-5 NIV)

God reminds Jacob where he really belongs -- back at Bethel fulfilling the vow which he had made when he was fleeing from Esau years ago.  Jacob promptly obeys and calls for his household to purify themselves from any idols and symbols of allegiance to other 'gods' which they may have picked up along the way.  Jacob leaves these things behind at Shechem.  Jacob seems to have a new-found authority to his voice, and, as the party sets out for Bethel, even the surrounding inhabitants, who would normally have responded to the murders at Shechem by joining together to fight against Jacob, are overcome with fear and allow them to depart in peace.

"Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan.  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." (Genesis 35:6-7 NIV)  [El Bethel means 'God of Bethel']  God has been faithful in watching over Jacob and in bringing him safely back to Bethel, and Jacob finally builds the altar which symbolizes that the God of Bethel is no longer just the God of his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham, but his God as well.

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