Design By Humans

Genesis 35. God Can't See Through Oak!

Genesis 35.

1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.

    Well this is a bit odd. At first I thought that this was God speaking in the third person however the specificity leads me to the conclusion that this is one god telling Jacob (are we really going to continue to ignore that his name has changed) to build an alter to an other god, specifically the god that he built the first pillar for after his ladder dream.

2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:

    What does gods mean in this sentence? Are we talking Idols? or are there living, strange gods among his people? If they are idols, he has only asked them to be put away and not destroyed. Clearly the concept of many gods is not troubling to these people, are there any stories that aren't in this book about some of the other gods talking to people? Do people dream of these other gods? Does Jacob or did Isaac or Abraham speak with these other gods?

3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.

    The specificity with which Jacob identifies precisely which god he intends to build an alter to is confirmation that he acknowledges more than one god.

4 And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.

    Ok, so these strange gods were idols. What is the deal with the earrings? Does the God of Jacob not like earrings? Is hiding the idols really enough? Can Jacob's god not see through oak?

5 And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.

    That's an interesting, if short sentence. What this sentence tells us is that there is some reason why all of the cities that Jacob and his household pass by have reason to want to pursue them and that they are only prevented from doing this by the fear of God. Why would everyone want to pursue Jacob? Is it because he is the leader of a murderous tribe? The sentence has further implications. It seems that while Jacob's god can't see items hidden by oak, he does have the capability of protecting Jacob and all of his sons from cities full of people. I wonder if this kind of act will be consistent throughout the narrative or if the things that this god does for Jacob's progeny will be wildly inconsistent and have no detectable pattern.

6 So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him.

    Good good.

7 And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.
    So is this the site of the ladder dream? He's already erected a stone pillar here which I suppose is how he recognizes the place. He calls the place "El" Bethel, this is the god who is called El that he is referring to, but it is specifically stated that the dream he had was of the God of Abraham, The LORD. Are El and The LORD the same god?

8 But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.

    What was Rebekah's nurse called? Her death is mentioned, is she important? Why was she buried under oak? We know that if you want to hide things from God, like your household gods, you should put them under oak, is it so that she is hidden from God? Why do they want to hide her from God?

9 And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.

    Was it in a dream this time or a physical manifestation? What was the nature of the blessing?

10 And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.

    Didn't God already change his name Jacob's name to Israel? Is this a retelling of the renaming story with the wrestling removed for younger audience, or has God actually forgotten that he changed Jacob's name? Perhaps God took a blow to the dead during his grappling session with Jacob giving him amnesia.
11 And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;

    This is is the same old promise doled out to Isaac and to Abraham before him. It's not much of a prediction either, Jacob has a lot of children who are proven capable of wiping out whole populations of cities, the vast likelihood is that they will at least briefly be locally important enough to be called kings.

12 And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.
    Ok, is this more about which son of Isaac inherits the promise? We knew at least one of them would as that was what the promise was. I suppose God has to affirm the new head of the line at each generation?

13 And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.

    Where did God go up to? Did he use a ladder?

14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.

    Another pillar? this place is going to be littered with pillars and altars.

15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.

    Beth-El? another reference to the name of this God?

16 And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.

    Rachel is pregnant again? I lost count, has she won the baby battle with Leah?

17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also.

    Ok, So her labour was difficult but the midwife was confident that the baby would be born safely.

18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.

    The midwife was right, however Rachel has died. Why did Jacob (assuming he's the father, it doesn't say specifically) rename his son? Was the name his wife chose not good enough? Anyway. Benjamin is born and I have no good dating information to say when. Ho hum.

19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.

20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day.

    Unto this day again? When was this written?

21 And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.

    So we are calling him Israel now, it only took him being renamed twice for it to take.

22 And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve:
    Was he married to her? I'm guessing not. I wonder what Simeon and Levi had to say about this. Did plan to punish their brother for premarital sex? Well it doesn't say so I can't condemn them as hypocrites however I suspect that if they did punish Reuben it would have been written about here. That being said, the text does say that Israel heard it, now, weather that means he heard the actual act of lovemaking or heard about it later the statement does seem oddly truncated. Was there more, now missing text that dealt with how Israel reacted to his son's transgression?

23 The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun:


24 The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin:

25 And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali:


26 And the sons of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid; Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram.

    OK, Leah clearly won that one.

27 And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned.

    Wait! Isaac is still alive? After all this time. When we last saw Isaac he was on his death-bed and that has to be at least thirty years ago. Has he been at death's door all this time?
28 And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years.

    At last, another datable event! Isaac was born in 2048AE and so died in 2228AE having lived one-hundred -and-eighty years, only out-living Eber by forty or so years.

29 And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

    As is fitting I suppose.
So what have we learned this chapter?

  • God cannot see things that are hidden behind or under oak, it might be though that it is only gods that can be hidden from God with the use of oak. I wonder then if the oak is applies universally to the ability of one god to see another. Can the gods being hidden under the oak see the god they are hidden from?
  • The tribe of Jacob (Israel) are hated by their neighbours. God intervenes to save them from probably just retribution by leveraging terror. Another demonstration that God favours liars and murderers.
  • Israel, who is Jacob,  is renamed Israel again. Is god forgetful, surely he remembers that he already did this.
  • For some reason the burial of an unnamed hand-maiden is important to the narrative. I can't think why though.
  • Leah clearly won the baby making race against her sister. I wonder if this granted her the favour she was expecting from her husband.

Moving on then... Next: Genesis 36.

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