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Genesis 34:3031; 35:17, 912, 1415comment (0)

March 27, 2008

By Jay T. Robertson

Related Scripture: Genesis 34:3031; 35:17, 912, 1415

Genesis 34:30–31; 35:1–7, 9–12, 14–15

Jacob soared in his midnight wrestle with the Lord and then in his return toward Canaan and his making peace with Esau whom from youth, he had so grievously cheated. But Jacob’s soar turned into a slide when he deceived Esau as to his intent to return to Canaan and then tarried in Succoth and finally settled 20 miles short of Bethel in Shechem in willful, halfhearted obedience. The cost of Jacob’s disobedience was tremendous — rape, degeneration, treachery and genocide. Yet God in His grace was at work. God allowed Jacob to experience the weight of his sinfulness so he would return to his call. 

Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite, raped Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. He then pleaded with Jacob to give Dinah to him as his wife. A cold and calculated plan was devised and two of Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, went into Shechem and killed every male.

Evaluate Your Actions (34:30–31)
Jacob was pathetic. He did not condemn the massacre. He did not mention that his sons had violated his contract with Shechem. He did not show any concern for his recently raped daughter. Jacob’s only concern was to save his own skin and, by association, that of his family. What a mess. And it was Jacob’s fault. After returning, he lied and deceived Esau again. Instead of traveling straight to Bethel as God had commanded him to do, he first stayed in Succoth outside of the promised land. Then when he did enter Canaan, he did not settle in Bethel; instead he settled 20 miles away in prosperous Shechem. It was partial obedience, which is actually disobedience. If Jacob had gone to Bethel in full obedience, none of this would have happened.

Purify Yourself (35:1–4)
God commanded Jacob to get up and go to Bethel and settle there. This religious pilgrimage was to culminate in the building of an altar at Bethel, which was a long-standing site of Canaanite worship. This altar would be a way of declaring the name of the true God in the heartland of Canaanite worship.

Jacob stepped up and took charge. He gave his family members clear instructions to get rid of the foreign gods they had brought with them from Mesopotamia or taken from the people of Shechem. They purified themselves by ritually washing their bodies and by changing their clothes, symbolizing a radical change in their lives. God’s people — washed, purged and reclothed — set out for Bethel.

Renew Your Devotion (35:5–7)
Jacob and his family proceeded to Bethel with the favor of God upon them. At Bethel, Jacob built an altar and called the place El-bethel, (or El Bethel, meaning “God of Bethel”) because it was there that God had revealed Himself to him 30 years before. Jacob fulfilled his 30-year-old vow by worshiping at the altar, joyfully offering sacrifices to God. The arrival at Bethel marked the end of Jacob’s journey and the final demonstration of the faithfulness of God. God had been with Jacob throughout his journey, and now he had safely returned to Bethel. 
Remember God’s Promises (35:9–12, 14–15)
The Lord responded to Jacob’s heartfelt worship by appearing to him again and blessing him. God reminded him that his name was no longer Jacob (“deceiver”) but Israel (“struggles with God”). God reminded Jacob that He was El-Shaddai, the almighty God. No one can stop His sovereign plan nor defeat His people when they walk in obedience to His commands. The Lord reminded Jacob that he would be fruitful in terms of a people and a land. Jacob responded to the Lord’s blessing by setting up a marker as a memorial to commemorate this special place. And Jacob understood it with a depth and devotion that he was not capable of in his youth.


The stairway reaching up to heaven from wherever Jacob had dwelt had been busy in his behalf over the last 30 years. God had kept His word despite Jacob’s self-focused scheming and halfhearted obedience. God’s constant grace had watched over him. It is important for believers to remember God’s promises as we complete our spiritual pilgrimages.     

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