|<< Gen 34|
For New King James text and comment, click here.
Genesis 35-37 Listen
Jacob rededicates his life and gets a name change (Genesis 35:1-15)
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
8 But Deborah Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.
9 And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.
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.
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;
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.
13 And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.
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.
15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.
We see in this passage that unloading false gods and idol worship from Jacob's household had apparently been a challenge. You will recall that Rachel had taken her Dad's idols upon departure from Haran. It would appear that she wasn't the only one with conflicted worship practices in the family. When God speaks once again to Jacob, it's time for all of that to go. Jacob collects the idols and buries them near Shechem, and it's moving time again. Why move? Well, Levi and Simeon had just wiped out the city of Shechem in Genesis 34 (see notes) and collected everything of value including the women and children. Jacob had expressed concern after the incident that, from now on, the other surrounding towns may jump to the wild conclusion that Jacob and his clan were not such good neighbors. As a matter of fact, verse 5 indicates that the neighbors were quite fearful of Jacob's family, so Jacob heads back to Bethel, about 20 miles south of Shechem. Upon arrival in Bethel, God renews all the "seed" promises given to Abraham and Isaac; Jacob is told that all of those promises will now be fulfilled through his descendants. (To learn more about the Abrahamic Covenant, click here.) Oh! One more thing - God changes Jacob's name to Israel. I doubt that the name change fooled his new neighbors. We do see in Genesis 37:12 (see below) that Jacob maintained his land in Shechem for the purpose of grazing his livestock.
God changes Jacob's name to "Israel" in verse 10. Hey...I thought we already went through that back in Genesis 32:28 (see notes)! That's true; it was back some ten years ago or so on the occasion of Jacob coming home from Haran...after he had that wrestling bout with God. After that incident, it appears that Jacob is still mostly referred to as "Jacob." However, after the declaration of the name change in this chapter, we see that the name "Israel" appears with significant frequency.
We see the naming of Bethel for the second time here, the first being in Genesis 28:19 (see notes), and the second being here in verse 15. While we see reference to Bethel in Genesis 12:8 and 13:3, apparently it was actually called "Luz" by the locals until Jacob renames it.
Isaac and Rachel die (Genesis 35:16-29)
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.
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.
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.
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.
21 And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.
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:
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.
27 And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned.
28 And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore 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.
Rachel dies while bearing her last son, Benjamin. Actually, she names him Benoni, which means "son of my pain" - an appropriate name for the child whose birth results in her death. By the way, in Hebrew, the prefix "ben" means "son." I suppose Jacob is hesitant to let his son grow up with such a tag, Jacob changes his name to Benjamin, which means "son of my right hand." That's better. Then we have Reuben (son of Leah) taking advantage of Rachel's handmaid (Jacob's concubine, Bilhah) after Rachel's death (verse 22). As a matter of fact, Jacob never forgets Reuben's act - mentions it on his death bed in Genesis 49:3-4 (see notes) when he is passing out blessings. Now it's down to Hebron where Jacob's father, Isaac, finally passes away after 180 years. You will recall that Isaac apparently thought he was dying 43 years ago, back in Genesis 27 (see notes). Jacob and Esau bury their father.
We get a recap of the sons of Jacob again in verses 23-26 as follows:
Leah (Genesis 29:32-35, see notes)
The remaining childbirths are recorded in Genesis 30 (see notes), except for Benjamin.
Rachel's handmaid, Bilhah (Genesis 30:3-8)
Leah's handmaid, Zilpah (Genesis 30:9-13)
Leah (Genesis 30:14-20)
Zebulun or Zebulon
Rachel (Genesis 30:21-24)
Rachel (Genesis 35:16-18)
Esau moves away from the family farm (Genesis 36)
1 Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom.
2 Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;
3 And Bashemath Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth.
4 And Adah bare to Esau Eliphaz; and Bashemath bare Reuel;
5 And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these are the sons of Esau, which were born unto him in the land of Canaan.
6 And Esau took his wives, and his sons, and his daughters, and all the persons of his house, and his cattle, and all his beasts, and all his substance, which he had got in the land of Canaan; and went into the country from the face of his brother Jacob.
7 For their riches were more than that they might dwell together; and the land wherein they were strangers could not bear them because of their cattle.
8 Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom.
9 And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir:
10 These are the names of Esau’s sons; Eliphaz the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel the son of Bashemath the wife of Esau.
11 And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, and Gatam, and Kenaz.
12 And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau’s son; and she bare to Eliphaz Amalek: these were the sons of Adah Esau’s wife.
13 And these are the sons of Reuel; Nahath, and Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah: these were the sons of Bashemath Esau’s wife.
14 And these were the sons of Aholibamah, the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon, Esau’s wife: and she bare to Esau Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah.
15 These were dukes of the sons of Esau: the sons of Eliphaz the firstborn son of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho, duke Kenaz,
16 Duke Korah, duke Gatam, and duke Amalek: these are the dukes that came of Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these were the sons of Adah.
17 And these are the sons of Reuel Esau’s son; duke Nahath, duke Zerah, duke Shammah, duke Mizzah: these are the dukes that came of Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Bashemath Esau’s wife.
18 And these are the sons of Aholibamah Esau’s wife; duke Jeush, duke Jaalam, duke Korah: these were the dukes that came of Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, Esau’s wife.
19 These are the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these are their dukes.
20 These are the sons of Seir the Horite, who inhabited the land; Lotan, and Shobal, and Zibeon, and Anah,
21 And Dishon, and Ezer, and Dishan: these are the dukes of the Horites, the children of Seir in the land of Edom.
22 And the children of Lotan were Hori and Hemam; and Lotan’s sister was Timna.
23 And the children of Shobal were these; Alvan, and Manahath, and Ebal, Shepho, and Onam.
24 And these are the children of Zibeon; both Ajah, and Anah: this was that Anah that found the mules in the wilderness, as he fed the asses of Zibeon his father.
25 And the children of Anah were these; Dishon, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah.
26 And these are the children of Dishon; Hemdan, and Eshban, and Ithran, and Cheran.
27 The children of Ezer are these; Bilhan, and Zaavan, and Akan.
28 The children of Dishan are these; Uz, and Aran.
29 These are the dukes that came of the Horites; duke Lotan, duke Shobal, duke Zibeon, duke Anah,
30 Duke Dishon, duke Ezer, duke Dishan: these are the dukes that came of Hori, among their dukes in the land of Seir.
31 And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.
32 And Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom: and the name of his city was Dinhabah.
33 And Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his stead.
34 And Jobab died, and Husham of the land of Temani reigned in his stead.
35 And Husham died, and Hadad the son of Bedad, who smote Midian in the field of Moab, reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Avith.
36 And Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah reigned in his stead.
37 And Samlah died, and Saul of Rehoboth by the river reigned in his stead.
38 And Saul died, and Baalhanan the son of Achbor reigned in his stead.
39 And Baalhanan the son of Achbor died, and Hadar reigned in his stead: and the name of his city was Pau; and his wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Mezahab.
40 And these are the names of the dukes that came of Esau, according to their families, after their places, by their names; duke Timnah, duke Alvah, duke Jetheth,
41 Duke Aholibamah, duke Elah, duke Pinon,
42 Duke Kenaz, duke Teman, duke Mibzar,
43 Duke Magdiel, duke Iram: these be the dukes of Edom, according to their habitations in the land of their possession: he is Esau the father of the Edomites.
Isaac has passed away, and the family farm had been given to Jacob by Isaac 43 years earlier. Not a big deal for Esau though; he's rich. As a matter of fact, he's so rich with cattle, there's not enough room to graze his cattle and Jacob's cattle in the same region. Esau moves east to what would become known as Edom. Esau is the father of the Edomites. The remainder of this chapter lists Esau's descendants. Take note of verses 8 and 20 compared to Deuteronomy 2:12 (see notes), "The Horims also dwelt in Seir beforetime; but the children of Esau succeeded them, when they had destroyed them from before them, and dwelt in their stead; as Israel did unto the land of his possession, which the LORD gave unto them." It would appear that Esau drove out the previous inhabitants of the land that he occupied in Edom.
Later on, however, the Edomites would become a great nuisance to Israel. In Numbers 20:14-21 (see notes), the Edomites deny Israel passage through their land on the way to Canaan. Israel's relationship with them was always problematic. The entire Book of Obadiah (see notes) is a prophecy against the Edomites.
Note these future conflicts with the Edomites:
Later on, these prophets prophesied concerning Edom:
As you can see, the goodwill between Israel and Esau's descendants, Edom, eventually soured.
Joseph: I have a dream! (Genesis 37:1-11)
1 And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.
4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.
5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.
6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:
7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.
8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.
9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.
10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?
11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.
To fully appreciate Joseph's position in the family, we must recall that Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife, and she only had two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Joseph is 17 in this passage (verse 2), so Benjamin is still a child at home. This passage tells us that Joseph is Jacob's favorite son (verse 3), and he has the new clothes (coat of many colors) to prove it. What's more, verse 2 tells us that he was a tattle tale on the other brothers. Of course his brothers don't like him, but it gets worse. Joseph has dreams - that's right, dreams. And they're not your ordinary dreams either; he interprets his dreams before his father and brothers as predictions that he'll be served by all his brothers, and he's only 17 years old. Jacob even rebukes Joseph for telling his dreams; it just causes deeper resentment from his brothers. As a matter of fact, verse 4 says, "...they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him." And after he told them his I'm-gonna-be-somebody dream, verse 5 says, "...they hated him yet the more." Joseph obviously lacked good social skills. Jacob attempts to head off the controversy when he speaks to Joseph in verse 10, "What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?" The resentment of his brothers toward Joseph continued to grow.
So, how much did Joseph's brothers hate him? (Genesis 37:12-36)
12 And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.
13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.
14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.
15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?
16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.
17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.
18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.
19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.
28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.
29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
31 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;
32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no.
33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.
34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.
36 And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.
The good news: Joseph found his brothers. The bad news: Joseph found his brothers. It was a twenty-mile trip from Hebron to Shechem where they were supposed to be. Then it was another 15 miles over to Dothan (northeast of Shechem) where he found them. They are NOT happy to see him in his colorful new set of clothing. All but two of the brothers want to just kill him. Reuben and Judah talk them out of it. They strip off his robe and drop him into a pit instead, presumably to die. However, that's apparently not Reuben's plan according to verse 22. He goes back to free him as he had planned when he persuaded his brothers to put him into the pit, but Joseph is not there. Judah had talked his brothers into selling Joseph as a slave to the Midianite traders. Maybe Reuben just wanted to teach Joseph a lesson on humility. Judah didn't want to have blood on his hands. The other brothers were just plain ol' ruthless people. When Reuben returns to the brothers in a panic, I don't see any indication that they ever told Reuben what had actually happened to Joseph. As a matter of fact, later in Genesis 42:22 (see notes), Reuben seems to indicate that he does think that Joseph is indeed dead. Nevertheless, Reuben does, however, participate in the cover up.
Well, they took Joseph's robe, put goat's blood on it and took it back to Jacob as evidence that Joseph was dead. This would have been a palatable story since a 35-mile trip alone through territories where Jacob's family was not particularly liked could be perceived as a treacherous journey. Joseph ends up as a servant in Potiphar's house in Egypt. So, who actually saved Joseph's life? Reuben's noble plan to save Joseph failed. Judah's intentions in verses 26-27 do not seem honorable, but you must admit that his initiative did save the life of Joseph from a certain death.
Here's a what-if brain teaser. If the brothers had not sold Joseph into slavery, he would not have been in charge of Pharaoh's food-for-money program in Egypt when the brothers later show up to buy food. They would not have left Canaan, the land of promise, and moved to Egypt under Joseph's protection. Furthermore, they would not have fallen into captivity under Egyptian rule. So, you might say that the evil deed of the brothers against Joseph resulted in the 430-year stay for their descendants. It should be remembered, however, that God told Abraham that all of this would happen in Genesis 15:13 (see notes), "And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years."
Well, of course, this was all in God's plan.