RETURNING TO BETHEL
Gracious God, I need You. Pardon my sin, realign my life with Your will, restore me with counsel from Your Word.
Read Genesis 35:1–15
Jacob Returns to Bethel
35 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,[a] 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.[b]
9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram,[c] God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob,[d] but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.[e]” So he named him Israel.
11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty[f]; 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.[g]
- Genesis 35:7 El Bethel means God of Bethel.
- Genesis 35:8 Allon Bakuth means oak of weeping.
- Genesis 35:9 That is, Northwest Mesopotamia; also in verse 26
- Genesis 35:10 Jacob means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he deceives.
- Genesis 35:10 Israel probably means he struggles with God.
- Genesis 35:11 Hebrew El-Shaddai
- Genesis 35:15 Bethel means house of God.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectDo you have a place where you are very aware of God’s presence with you?
Bethel (the house of God) was a holy place for the nation of Israel. It was near Bethel that Abraham built one of the first altars to God (Genesis 12:8). When he returns here (Genesis 13:3,4), the Bible notes that he called on the name of the Lord. Later, in the time of the judges and Samuel, Bethel is mentioned as a place to find justice, to inquire of the Lord, to worship, to repent and to seek God’s will.
Jacob first went to Bethel as he was running away from home. It was here that he encountered God for himself and worshipped Him (Genesis 28:10–22). Now God tells him to return to Bethel and settle there (1). Notice how careful Jacob is in his preparation to go to this holy place (2–4).
Jacob has obeyed God, and purified himself and his household, and God responds by appearing to him, blessing him and reaffirming His covenant with Jacob and his descendants (9–13).
We know God is always with us, but 1 Corinthians 11:28 talks about examining ourselves before taking Communion – what does that mean for you? Are we sometimes over-familiar with a holy God?
Lord, I very much need and want to declutter my spiritual life. Help me root out the resentments, pettiness, and muddled priorities, and release them to Your forgiving grace.