Genesis 35


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Genesis Chapter 35 

God relocates Yaakov from Shechem to Bethel, and there the people are expected to ditch their accumulated ‘foreign gods’ they have picked up on their way among other people.  More etiological legends are echoed, including the burial of Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, buried at Bethel.  The sacred shrine of Bethel is reinforced with another vision, ritual, and promise.  This competing shrine to Jerusalem, in Samaria, in the north, will remain a countermelody to the songs of the temple in the south.  We get a replay of Yaakov’s renaming as Israel. 

On the way to Isaac’s home in Hebron, Benjamin is born to Rachel, precious youngest, born in Judea – though Rachel dies in childbirth, buried in etiological legend of Bethlehem, Ephrath.    

The story of Reuben’s public affair with Bilhah is not simply a matter of taboo and social rules about incest beyond genetic risks.  It is a slur against the people named for Reuben, the tribe who redeems its reputation as shock troops in the invasion of Canaan, and gets territory on the far side of the Dead Sea.  Remember the insult to Moab as the result of Lot’s daughter’s incest?  This is an explanation for the first-born ending up more marginal than Judah – who was 4th born after the hotheads Simeon and Levi.     

The 12 sons of Yaakov are listed: 6 from Leah, 2 each from Rachel and the maids.  It’s worth taking the time again to find them on a map, to see the layers of meaning of these 12 names over time and space. 

Esau and Yaakov together bury Isaac, just as Ishmael and Isaac had together buried Abraham.  We have arrived, completing the toledot.  The stage is set for Torah – except for the story cycle of Joseph, the necessary set-up for Exodus.  Once we have those first scrolls of Torah, the stage is set for all our scripture, the people and the land and the book. There is a ‘people of God’, and other peoples in varying relation to ours. 

Genesis Chapter 35 


God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel, and settle there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.’ 

 2So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your clothes; 3then come, let us go up to Bethel, that I may make an altar there to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.’  

4So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak that was near Shechem. 

5 As they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities all around them, so that no one pursued them. 

 6Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because it was there that God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. 

 8And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So it was called Allon-bacuth. 

9 God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and he blessed him. 10God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; no longer shall you be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ So he was called Israel. 

11God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you. 12The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.’ 13Then God went up from him at the place where he had spoken with him.  

14Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured out a drink-offering on it, and poured oil on it. 15So Jacob called the place where God had spoken with him Bethel. 

16 Then they journeyed from Bethel; and when they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel was in childbirth, and she had a difficult labour. 17When she was in her difficult labour, the midwife said to her, ‘Do not be afraid; for now you will have another son.’ 18As her soul was departing (for she died), she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 

 19So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), 20and Jacob set up a pillar at her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day. 21Israel journeyed on, and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. 

22 While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard of it. 

Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.  

23The sons of Leah: 

 Reuben (Jacob’s firstborn), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. 

 24The sons of Rachel: 

 Joseph and Benjamin. 

 25The sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid:  

Dan and Naphtali.  

26The sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid:  

Gad and Asher.  

These were the sons of Jacob who were born to him in Paddan-aram. 

27 Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre, or Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had resided as aliens. 

 28Now the days of Isaac were one hundred and eighty years. 29And Isaac breathed his last; he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.