- The Death of Isaac
8. דברה deborâh Deborah, “bee.” בּכוּת אלּון 'alôn -bākût Allon-bakuth, “oak of weeping.”
16. כברה kı̂brâh “length stretch.” A certain but unknown distance, a stadium or furlong (Josephus) a hippodrome (Septuagint) which was somewhat longer, a mile (Kimchi). אפרת 'ephrâth Ephrath, “fruitful or ashy.”
18. בן־אוני ben -'ônı̂y Ben-oni, “son of my pain.” בנימין bı̂nyāmı̂yn Binjamin, “son of the right hand.”
19. לחם בית bēyt -lechem Beth-lechem, “house of bread.”
21. עדר ‛ěder ‹Eder, “flock, fold.”
This chapter contains the return of Jacob to his father‘s house, and then appends the death of Isaac.
Jacob returns to Bethel. “And God said unto Jacob.” He receives the direction from God. He had now been six years lingering in Sukkoth and Sleekem. There may have been some contact between him and his father‘s house during this interval. The presence of Deborah, Rebekah‘s nurse, in his family, is a plain intimation of this. But Jacob seems to have turned aside to Shekem, either to visit the spot where Abraham first erected an altar to the Lord, or to seek pasture for his numerous flocks. “Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there.” In his perplexity and terror the Lord comes to his aid. He reminds him of his former appearance to him at that place, and directs him to erect an altar there. This was Abraham‘s second resting-place in the land. He who had there appeared to Jacob as the Yahweh, the God of Abraham and Isaac, is now described as (house of El), the Mighty One, probably in allusion to Bethel (house of El), which contains this name, and was at that time applied by Jacob himself to the place. “His house;” his wives and children. “All that were with him;” his men-servants and maid-servants.
The strange gods, belonging to the stranger or the strange land. These include the teraphim, which Rachel had secreted, and the rings which were worn as amulets or charms. Be clean; cleanse the body, in token of the cleaning of your souls. Change your garments; put on your best attire, befitting the holy occasion. The God, in contradistinction to the strange gods already mentioned. Hid them; buried them. “The oak which was by Shekem.” This may have been the oak of Moreh, under which Abraham pitched his tent Genesis 12:6. The terror of God; a dread awakened in their breast by some indication of the divine presence being with Jacob. The patriarch seems to have retained possession of the land he had purchased and gained by conquest, in this place. His flocks are found there very shortly after this time Genesis 37:12, he alludes to it, and disposes of it in his interview with Joseph and his sons Genesis 48:22, and his well is there to this day.
“Luz, which is in the land of Kenaan.” This seems at first sight to intimate that there was a Luz elsewhere, and to have been added by the revising prophet to determine the place here intended. Luz means an almond tree, and may have designated many a place. But the reader of Genesis could have needed no such intimation, as Jacob is clearly in the land of Kenaan, going from Shekem to Hebron. It seems rather to call attention again Genesis 33:18 to the fact that Jacob has returned from Padan-aram to the land of promise. The name Luz still recurs, as the almond tree may still be flourishing. “And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el.” Thus has Jacob obeyed the command of God, and begun the payment of the vow he made twenty-six years before at this place Genesis 38:20-22. “There God revealed himself unto him.” The verb here נגלוּ nı̂glû is plural in the Masoretic Hebrew, and so it was in the copy of Onkelos. The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint have the singular. The reading is therefore, various. The original was probably singular, and may have been so even with its present letters. If not, this is one of the few instances in which Elohim is construed grammatically with a plural verb. Deborah dies in the family in which she began life. She is buried under “the well-known oak” at Bethel. Jacob drops a natural tear of sorrow over the grave of this faithful servant, and hence, the oak is called the oak of weeping. It is probable that Rebekah was already dead, since otherwise we should not expect to find Deborah transferred to Jacob‘s household. She may not have lived to see her favorite son on his return.
God appears to Jacob again at Bethel, and renews the promise made to him there Genesis 28:13-14. Again. The writer here refers to the former meeting of God with Jacob at Bethel, and thereby proves himself cognizant of the fact, and of the record already made of it. “When he went out of Padan-aram.” This corroborates the explanation of the clause, Genesis 35:6, “which is in the land of Kenaan.” Bethel was the last point in this land that was noticed in his flight from Esau. His arrival at the same point indicates that he has now returned from Padan-aram to the land of Kenaan. “He called his name Israel.” At Bethel he renews the change of name, to indicate that the meetings here were of equal moment in Jacob‘s spiritual life with that at Penuel. It implies also that this life had been declining in the interval between Penuel and Bethel, and had now been revived by the call of God to go to Bethel, and by the interview.
The renewal of the naming aptly expresses this renewal of spiritual life. “I am God Almighty.” So he proclaimed himself before to Abraham Genesis 17:1. “Be fruitful, and multiply.” Abraham and Isaac had each only one son of promise. But now the time of increase is come. Jacob has been blessed with eleven sons, and at least one daughter. And now he receives the long-promised blessing, “be fruitful and multiply.” From this time forth the multiplication of Israel is rapid. In twenty-six years after this time he goes down into Egypt with seventy souls, besides the wives of his married descendants, and two hundred and ten years after that Israel goes out of Egypt numbering about one million eight hundred thousand. “A nation and a congregation of nations,” such as were then known in the world, had at the last date come of him, and “kings” were to follow in due time. The land, as well as the seed, is again promised.
Jacob now, according to his wont, perpetuates the scene of divine manifestation with a monumental stone. “God went up;” as he went up from Abraham Genesis 17:22 after a similar conferencc with him. He had now spoken to Jacob face to face, as he communed with Abraham. “A pillar” in the place where he talked with him, a consecrated monument of this second interview, not in a dream as before, but in a waking vision. On this he pours a drink-offering of wine, and then anoints it with oil. Here, for the first time, we meet with the libation. It is possible there was such an offering when Melkizedec brought forth bread and wine, though it is not recorded. The drink-offering is the complement of the meat-offering, and both are accompaniments of the sacrifice which is offered on the altar. They are in themselves expressive of gratitude and devotion. Wine and oil are used to denote the quickening and sanctifying power of the Spirit of God. “Bethel.” We are now familiar with the repetition of the naming of persons and places. This place was already called Bethel by Jacob himself; it is most likely that Abraham applied this name to it: and for aught we know, some servant of the true God, under the Noachic covenant, may have originated the name.
On the journey, Rachel dies at the birth of her second son. “A stretch.” It was probably a few furlongs. “Fear not.” The cause for encouragement was that the child was born, and that it was a son. Rachel‘s desire and hope expressed at the birth of Joseph were therefore, fulfilled Genesis 30:24. “When her soul was departing.” This phrase expresses not annihilation, but merely change of place. It presupposes the perpetual existence of the soul. “Ben-oni,” son of my pain, is the natural expression of the departing Rachel. “Benjamin.” The right hand is the seat of power. The son of the right hand is therefore, the child of power. He gave power to his father, as he was his twelfth son, and so completed the number of the holy family. “Ephrath and Beth-lehem” are names the origin of which is not recorded. “The pillar of Rachel‘s grave.” Jacob loves the monumental stone. “Unto this day.” This might have been written ten or twenty years after the event, and therefore, before Jacob left Kenaan (see on Genesis 19:37). The grave of Rachel was well known in the time of Samuel 1 Samuel 10:2, and the Kubbet Rahil, dome or tomb of Rachel, stands perhaps on the identical spot, about an English mile north of Bethlehem.
Eder - The tower of the flock was probably a watch-tower where shepherds guarded their flocks by night. It was a mile (Jerome) or more south of Bethlehem. Here Reuben was guilty of the shameful deed which came to the knowledge of his father, and occasions the allusion in Genesis 49:4. He was by this act degraded from his position in the holy family. The division of the open parashah in the text here is more in accordance with the sense than that of the verse.
Jacob‘s return and his father‘s death. The family of Jacob is now enumerated, because it has been completed by the birth of Benjamin. “In Padan-aram.” This applies to all of them but Benjamin; an exception which the reader of the context can make for himself. Jacob at length arrives with his whole establishment at Hebron, the third notable station occupied by Abraham in the land Genesis 13:1. Here also his father sojourns. The life of Isaac is now closed. Joseph must have been, at the time of Jacob‘s return, in his thirteenth year, and therefore, his father in his hundred and fourth. Isaac was consequently in his hundred and sixty-third year. He survived the return of Jacob to Hebron about seventeen years, and the sale of Joseph his grandson about thirteen. “Esau and Jacob his sons buried him.” Hence, we learn that Esau and Jacob continued to be on brotherly terms from the day of their meeting at the ford of Jabbok.
This chapter closes the ninth of the pieces or documents marked off by the phrase “these are the generations.” Its opening event was the birth of Isaac Genesis 25:19, which took place in the hundreth year of Abraham, and therefore, seventy-five years before his death recorded in the seventh document. As the seventh purports to be the generations of Terah Genesis 11:27 and relates to Abraham who was his offspring, so the present document, containing the generations of Isaac, refers chiefly to the sons of Isaac, and especially to Jacob, as the heir of promise. Isaac as a son learned obedience to his father in that great typical event of his life, in which he was laid on the altar, and figuratively sacrificed in the ram which was his substitute. This was the great significant passage in his life, after which he retires into comparative tranquillity.
God caused a fear to rest upon the inhabitants of the land, so that they made no attempt to avenge the slaughter at Shechem. The travelers reached Bethel unmolested. Here the Lord again appeared to Jacob and renewed to him the covenant promise. “And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, even a pillar of stone.” PP 206.1
At Bethel, Jacob was called to mourn the loss of one who had long been an honored member of his father's family—Rebekah's nurse, Deborah, who had accompanied her mistress from Mesopotamia to the land of Canaan. The presence of this aged woman had been to Jacob a precious tie that bound him to his early life, and especially to the mother whose love for him had been so strong and tender. Deborah was buried with expressions of so great sorrow that the oak under which her grave was made, was called “the oak of weeping.” It should not be passed unnoticed that the memory of her life of faithful service and of the mourning over this household friend has been accounted worthy to be preserved in the word of God. PP 206.2
From Bethel it was only a two days’ journey to Hebron, but it brought to Jacob a heavy grief in the death of Rachel. Twice seven years’ service he had rendered for her sake, and his love had made the toil but light. How deep and abiding that love had been, was shown when long afterward, as Jacob in Egypt lay near his death, Joseph came to visit his father, and the aged patriarch, glancing back upon his own life, said, “As for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath.” Genesis 48:7. In the family history of his long and troubled life the loss of Rachel was alone recalled. PP 206.3
Before her death Rachel gave birth to a second son. With her parting breath she named the child Benoni, “son of my sorrow.” But his father called him Benjamin, “son of my right hand,” or “my strength.” Rachel was buried where she died, and a pillar was raised upon the spot to perpetuate her memory. PP 206.4
On the way to Ephrath another dark crime stained the family of Jacob, causing Reuben, the first-born son, to be denied the privileges and honors of the birthright. PP 206.5Read in context »
Inspiration faithfully records the faults of good men, those who were distinguished by the favor of God; indeed, their faults are more fully presented than their virtues. This has been a subject of wonder to many, and has given the infidel occasion to scoff at the Bible. But it is one of the strongest evidences of the truth of Scripture, that facts are not glossed over, nor the sins of its chief characters suppressed. The minds of men are so subject to prejudice that it is not possible for human histories to be absolutely impartial. Had the Bible been written by uninspired persons, it would no doubt have presented the character of its honored men in a more flattering light. But as it is, we have a correct record of their experiences. PP 238.1
Men whom God favored, and to whom He entrusted great responsibilities, were sometimes overcome by temptation and committed sin, even as we at the present day strive, waver, and frequently fall into error. Their lives, with all their faults and follies, are open before us, both for our encouragement and warning. If they had been represented as without fault, we, with our sinful nature, might despair at our own mistakes and failures. But seeing where others struggled through discouragements like our own, where they fell under temptations as we have done, and yet took heart again and conquered through the grace of God, we are encouraged in our striving after righteousness. As they, though sometimes beaten back, recovered their ground, and were blessed of God, so we too may be overcomers in the strength of Jesus. On the other hand, the record of their lives may serve as a warning to us. It shows that God will by no means clear the guilty. He sees sin in His most favored ones, and He deals with it in them even more strictly than in those who have less light and responsibility. PP 238.2Read in context »
Jacob felt that there was cause for deep humiliation. Cruelty and falsehood were manifest in the character of his sons. There were false gods in the camp, and idolatry had to some extent gained a foothold even in his household. Should the Lord deal with them according to their deserts, would He not leave them to the vengeance of the surrounding nations? PP 205.1
While Jacob was thus bowed down with trouble, the Lord directed him to journey southward to Bethel. The thought of this place reminded the patriarch not only of his vision of the angels and of God's promises of mercy, but also of the vow which he had made there, that the Lord should be his God. He determined that before going to this sacred spot his household should be freed from the defilement of idolatry. He therefore gave direction to all in the encampment, “Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 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.” PP 205.2
With deep emotion Jacob repeated the story of his first visit to Bethel, when he left his father's tent a lonely wanderer, fleeing for his life, and how the Lord had appeared to him in the night vision. As he reviewed the wonderful dealings of God with him, his own heart was softened, his children also were touched by a subduing power; he had taken the most effectual way to prepare them to join in the worship of God when they should arrive at Bethel. “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.” PP 205.3Read in context »