וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל־יַעֲקֹב קוּם עֲלֵה בֵית־אֵל וְשֶׁב־שָׁם וַעֲשֵׂה־שָׁם מִזְבֵּח לָאֵל הַנִּרְאֶה אֵלֶיךָ בְּבָרְחֲךָ 35:1
ָ מִפְּנֵי עֵשָׂו אָחִיךָ
Gene. 35:1 And God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there, and make there an altar to God, Who appeared to you during your flight from the face of Esau, your brother.”
וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֶלבֵּיתוֹ וְאֶל כָּל אֲשֶׁר עִמּוֹ הָסִרוּ אֶת אֱלֹהֵי הַנֵּכָר אֲשֶׁר בְּתֹכְכֶם וְהִטַּהֲרוּ וְהַחֲלִיפוּ 35:2 שִׂמְלֹתֵיכֶם
Gene. 35:2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Eschew the gods of calamity that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments,
The words I have translated as “the gods of calamity” are often mistranslated. Examples are “the foreign gods” or “the strange gods.” These are incorrect because the number and form of the noun gods do not match the presumed adjectives foreign or strange in the Hebrew. The word for gods is in the form that should be translated as “the gods of...,” and the presumed adjective foreign or strange is singular while gods is plural. Therefore, the translation I suggest here is the only one that precisely follows the Hebrew grammar. See also v. 35:4 below.
אֲשֶׁר הָלָכְתִּי וְנָקוּמָה וְנַעֲלֶה בֵּית-אֵל וְאֶעֱשֶׂה שָּׁם מִזְבֵּחַ לָאֵל הָעֹנֶה אֹתִי בְּיוֹם צָרָתִי וַיְהִי עִמָּדִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ 35:3
Gene. 35:3 and let us arise and let us go up to Beth-el. And I will make there an altar to God, Who answered me in the day of my distress and was with me on the journey that I traveled.”
The three words for “and let us arise” and “ and let us go up” and “And I will make,” because their verbs are first-person imperfect, all contain non-inverting vavs
תַּחַת הָאֵלָה אֲשֶׁר עִם שְׁכֶם
Gene. 35:4 And they gave to Jacob all the gods of calamity that were in their hand and the earrings that were in their ears and Jacob hid them under the oak tree that was near Shechem.
Here, Shechem is the city.
וַיִּסָּעוּ וַיְהִי חִתַּת אֱלֹהִים עַל הֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר סְבִיבוֹתֵיהֶם וְלֹא רָדְפוּ אַחֲרֵי בְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב 35:5
Gene. 35:5 And they journeyed, and a terror of God was upon the cities that surrounded them and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.
וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב לוּזָה אֲשֶׁר בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן הִוא בֵּית-אֵל הוּא וְכָל הָעָם אֲשֶׁר עִמּוֹ 35:6
Gene. 35:6 And Jacob came to Luz, which was in the land of Canaan -- it is Beth-el, he and all the people who were with him.
וַיִּבֶן שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ וַיִּקְרָא לַמָּקוֹם אֵל-בֵּית-אֵל כִּי שָׁם נִגְלוּ אֵלָיו הָאֱלֹהִים בְּבָרְחוֹ מִפְּנֵי אָחִיו 35:7
Gene. 35:7 And he built there an altar and he called the place El-beth-el because He Who is God was revealed to him there in his flight from the face of his brother.
El-beth-el could mean “God of the house of God” or “To the house of God.”
וַתָּמָת דְּבֹרָה מֵינֶקֶת רִבְקָה וַתִּקָּבֵר מִתַּחַת לְבֵית-אֵל תַּחַת הָאַלּוֹן וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ אַלּוֹן בָּכוּת 35:8
Gene. 35:8 And Deborah, who had nursed Rebekah, died and she was buried below Beth-el under the oak and its name was called Allon Bacuth.
Allon Bacuth means “Oak of Weeping.”
וַיֵּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶל יַעֲקֹב עוֹד בְּבֹאוֹ מִפַּדַּן אֲרָם וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתו 35:9
Gene. 35:9 And God appeared to Jacob again in his coming from Paddan-aram and blessed him.
Gene. 35:10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob. Your name will no longer be called Jacob, but only Israel shall be your name,” and He called his name Israel.
Interesting! God is repeating something that the angel of God had already told Jacob (Gene. 32:29). We should be aware by now that there is a great deal of mystery surrounding Jacob. Much happens in his experience that is not explained very thoroughly. Oddly, whenever a strange sequence of events is described, the language of the description appears quite matter of fact, as if it’s exactly what the scribe might have imagined.
וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אֱלֹהִים אֲנִי אֵל שַׁדַּי פְּרֵה וּרְבֵה גּוֹי וּקְהַל גּוֹיִם יִהְיֶה מִמֶּךָּ וּמְלָכִים מֵחֲלָצֶיךָ יֵצֵאוּ 35:11
Gene. 35:11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall be from you, and kings shall come forth from your loins.”
וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לְאַבְרָהָם וּלְיִצְחָק לְךָ אֶתְּנֶנָּה וּלְזַרְעֲךָ אַחֲרֶיךָ אֶתֵּן אֶת הָאָרֶץ 35:12
Gene. 35:12 “And the land that I gave to Abraham and to Isaac, to you will I give it, and to your seed after you will I give the land.”
Gene. 35:13 And God went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him.
וַיַּצֵּב יַעֲקֹב מַצֵּבָה בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אִתּוֹ מַצֶּבֶת אָבֶן וַיַּסֵּךְ עָלֶיהָ נֶסֶךְ וַיִּצֹק עָלֶיהָ שָׁמֶן 35:14
Gene. 35:14 And Jacob erected a pillar in the place where He had spoken with him, a pillar of stone, and he offered upon it a drink offering and he poured oil out upon it.
Although the Lord changed Israel’s name and said he would not be called Jacob anymore, the earlier name is frequently used throughout the bible (as, for example, in vss. 35:14, 35:15, 35:20, 35:22, 35:23, 35:27, and 35:29). In keeping with my considering Jacob as the embodiment of the Jews in this time, I believe that the continued use of the name Jacob offers prophetic promise that we will become aware of at some time in the future.
וַיִּקְרָא יַעֲקֹב אֶת שֵׁם הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אִתּוֹ שָׁם אֱלֹהִים בֵּית-אֵל 35:15
Gene. 35:15 And Jacob had called the name of the place Beth-el, because God had spoken to him there. [Return to Judg. 20:28]
וַיִּסְעוּ מִבֵּית-אֵל וַיְהִי עוֹד כִּבְרַת הָאָרֶץ לָבוֹא אֶפְרָתָה וַתֵּלֶד רָחֵל וַתְּקַשׁ בְּלִדְתָּה 35:16
Gene. 35:16 And they journeyed from Beth-el. When there was still a measure of distance to go to Ephrath then Rachel was giving birth, and was hard in labor.
וַיְהִי בְהַקְשֹׁתָהּ בְּלִדְתָּהּ וַתֹּאמֶר לָהּ הַמְיַלֶּדֶת אַלתִּירְאִי כִּיגַםזֶה לָךְ בֵּן 36:17
Gene. 35:17 And it was during hard labor, that the midwife said to her, “You need not fear, for this is also a son for you.
וַיְהִי בְּצֵאת נַפְשָׁהּ כִּי מֵתָה וַתִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ בֶּן-אוֹנִי וְאָבִיו קָרָא לוֹ בִנְיָמִין 35:18
Gene. 35:18 And it was at the departing of her soul, as she was dying, that she called his name Ben-oni, but his father called him Benjamin.
Ben-oni means “Son of my sorrow,” while Benjamin means “Son of the right hand.” To my mind, the first name is purely descriptive, indicating Rachel’s distress and demise. The latter name may be descriptive and prophetic; prophetic in that later in this book we find that Jacob kept Benjamin close to him, at his right hand, so to speak. The descriptive implication is that Rachel was Jacob’s dearest love, and thus like his right hand.
וַתָּמָת רָחֵל וַתִּקָּבֵר בְּדֶרֶךְ אֶפְרָתָה הִוא בֵּית לָחֶם 35:19
Gene. 35:19 And Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath, that is, Bethlehem.
וַיַּצֵּב יַעֲקֹב מַצֵּבָה עַל קְבֻרָתָהּ הִוא מַצֶּבֶת קְבֻרַת רָחֵל עַד הַיּוֹם 35:20
Gene. 35:20 And Jacob erected a pillar upon her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel's grave until now.
Gene. 35:21 And Israel journeyed and pitched his tent a considerable distance from Migdal-eder.
Finally, Jacob is now referred to as Israel for the first time (other than in v. 35:10). Why did the Lord say that Jacob would no longer be called Jacob, only Israel, yet the name of Jacob has already been used three times so far? Surely, God knows the future and would not utter a false prophecy. What was His reason for saying this?
From another point of view, it’s highly unlikely that the scribe (out of force of habit?) forgot and wrote Jacob three times instead of Israel. Wouldn’t he have corrected his error as soon as he had realized it? Besides, as I mentioned in connection with v. 35:14, Jacob is occasionally found elsewhere in the bible as well.
וַיִּהְיוּ בְנֵי יַעֲקֹב שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר
Gene. 35:22 And it was while Israel dwelled in that land that Reuben went and lay down with Bilhah, concubine of his father, and Israel heard. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve:
What an abrupt change! At a point of such a dramatic disclosure! As there is no substantial separation in the Torah scroll between verses or chapters, only four blank lines between books, the latter part of this verse could have been another verse. Or it might be part of the next verse. In any case, the abrupt change is strange. Some bible commentators explain that this juxtaposition indicates that Reuben was not blamed for his sin and was still considered a son in good standing. Others seem to think Reuben’s act was not even a sin. I won’t say anything about these ideas except that they both seem farfetched to me.
בְּנֵי לֵאָה בְּכוֹר יַעֲקֹב רְאוּבֵן וְשִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי וִיהוּדָה וְיִשָּׂשכָר וּזְבֻלוּן 35:23
Gene. 35:23 The sons of Leah were Reuben, first born of Jacob, and Simeon and Levi and Judah and Issachar and Zebulun;
בְּנֵי רָחֵל יוֹסֵף וּבִנְיָמִן 35:24
Gene. 35:24 the sons of Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin;
וּבְנֵי בִלְהָה שִׁפְחַת רָחֵל דָּן וְנַפְתָּלִי 35:25
Gene. 35:25 and the sons of Bilhah, handmaid of Rachel, were Dan and Naphtali;
וּבְנֵי זִלְפָּה שִׁפְחַת לֵאָה גָּד וְאָשֵׁר אֵלֶּה בְּנֵי יַעֲקֹב אֲשֶׁר יֻלַּדלוֹ בְּפַדַּן אֲרָם 35:26
Gene. 35:26 and the sons of Zilpah, handmaid of Leah, were Gad and Asher. These are the sons of Jacob that were born to him in Paddan-aram.
וַיָּבֹא יַעֲקֹב אֶל יִצְחָק אָבִיו מַמְרֵא קִרְיַת הָאַרְבַּע הִוא חֶבְרוֹן אֲשֶׁר גָּר שָׁם אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק 35:27
Gene. 35:27 And Jacob came to Isaac, his father, to Mamre to Kiriath-arba -- that is Hebron, where Abraham had sojourned, and Isaac.
Gene. 35:28 And the time of Isaac was a hundred and eighty years.
וַיִּגְוַע יִצְחָק וַיָּמָת וַיֵּאָסֶף אֶל עַמָּיו זָקֵן וּשְׂבַע יָמִים וַיִּקְבְּרוּ אֹתוֹ עֵשָׂו וְיַעֲקֹב בָּנָיו 35:29
Gene. 35:29 And Isaac expired and died old and full of days, and was gathered to his people, and Esau and Jacob, his sons, buried him.