Gen. 35:1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God……….
By Richard Lodwick
MUCH has happened in the life of Jacob/Israel, now. He tricked Esau out of the birthright & blessing, ran away, got married, etc. Read chapters 31 thru 34. Now, he’s going back to meet Esau. God is in that meeting, protecting & healing! And, in 33:20 we see Jacob building an altar to worship, and for reverence and thanks, and sacrifice to the True and living God. “Shalem” (33:18) is Salem, of which Melchizedec was king. It means “peace.” (See Gen. 14:18, Ps. 110:4, & Heb. 5:6-10, 6:20, & 7:1-21) Interesting that Jacob came to Salem (peace), pitched his tent, builded an altar, and sacrificed to God. Interesting order!
Note how many altars had special names. Here, Elelohe-Israel. (Pronounced: el-o-hay’ yis-raw)- the Mighty God of Israel. And it is interesting here that it was right after he bought a parcel of land. It was if he said, wherever we pitch our tent, God will have an altar. NOT the old one back there somewhere. But look at 33:1 here. GOD had delivered him from being killed by his estranged brother Esau. Remember the feud? What a reunion (V4). NOW look at 33:9-11. What a statement. THIS was a big deal to Jacob, and he never forgot that God was the One to be praised for it (See V15). This altar (33:20) is one of sacrifice of thanks! Now, note also he connects God to his new name (see Gen. 33:28), in this altar. But, now, after the heinous acts of Simeon and Levi in ch. 34, where they killed Hamor and Shechem (and many others) for defiling their sister Dinah, God tells Jacob to go back to Bethel, and build an altar… and remember his first vow! (Gen. 28:11-22). God had performed His part of the bargain, and had given Jacob more than bread to eat and raiment to put on—he had got an estate; but, it would seem, he had forgotten his vow, or at least had too long deferred the performance of it. Many years it was now since he came to Canaan; he had purchased ground there, and had built an altar in remembrance of God’s last appearance to him when he called him Israel (ch. 33:19, 20); but still Beth-el is forgotten. Time is apt to wear out the sense of mercies and the impressions made upon us by them; it should not be so, but so it is. God had exercised Jacob with a very sore affliction in his family (34), to see if this would bring his vow to his remembrance, and put him upon the performance of it, but it had not this effect; therefore God comes himself and (reminds him) of it: (M. Henry) AND, idolatry was in Jacob’s house (35:2).
God said, go back to Bethel! “House of God” Back to a place of vows… to Me… blessings from Me. Your family and life are moving away from ME! How MUCH had gone on in his life, and God says you forgot Beth-El, and your first altar there ! How true it is in all of us! Maybe Rev. 2:4-5 are the N.T. equivalent! Arise, go up (back) to Beth-El!
All CBBI Mini-series are authored by Richard Lodwick.