About Jesus Steve Sweetman
In verse 1 God tells
Jacob to move to
Many commentators believe
that Jacob wasted the previous thirty years of his life.
Jacob left his homeland because
he feared his brother would kill
him since he had deceived
his brother out of his inheritance.
Because of fear and sin Jacob fled not just from Esau but from
the will of God. God called
Jacob back to His will and Jacob proceeded but didn't complete the
journey to God's will. Once
again, at this point, God is calling him back again.
The ironic thing through all of this is that Jacob acted as if he
was in God's will. He had
built altars to God and worshipped at the altars. He even met with God
and wrestled with Him. He
saw angels. Still, Jacob was
not in the place God wanted him. That
sounds like the history of Israel, right up to this very day. It
also sounds like the history of the church. I think there are many
parallels between the history of Israel
and the history of the
Also in verse 1 God tells
Jacob to build an altar to worship once he got to
In verse 2 we see that
before Jacob and his people would go to
The changing of clothes
is symbolic. It represents
an inner change. This is
seen throughout the Bible, both in Old Testament Judaism, and New
Testament Christians. At
the end of this age, all true believers will receive a new set of
clothes and will be clothed in white, as the book of Revelation states.
In verse 3 Jacob makes
the call to go to
Jacob's people respond in
verse 4 by giving him all their foreign gods as well as their ear rings.
Jacob buried both in the ground.
It is easy to understand the foreign gods being buried, but
scholars are divided to why the ear rings were buried.
There is nothing wrong with ear rings.
We see ear and nose rings mentioned in the Old Testament, and in
many cases they are a gift with no immoral significance.
It is my thinking that these ear rings had some kind of
association to these foreign gods and that is why they were buried in
I can picture Judas of
New Testament fame, if he had have been there.
He would have probably suggested to Jacob that these things
should have been sold and put the money to good use.
It seems to me that Scripture tells us to clearly bury, get rid
of sin, get rid of worldly gods, not sell them to someone else.
If a god is bad for you, it will be bad for someone else.
The Bible does not suggest us profiting from worldliness and sin,
even when we are in the process of getting rid of sin.
In verse 5 it tells us
that "the terror of God" fell on all the towns around, to the
degree that no one dare attack them.
There is nothing ironic about this.
Jacob and his people had just cleansed themselves of all
unrighteousness to follow the one and only true God, and God says
throughout the Old Testament, that when Israel
obeyed God, they would be a nation in charge.
They'd be the head and not the tale as the Law of Moses states.
This is one example where
6 states that they arrived in Bethel. Verse 7 states that this
was the place where God met Jacob when he was fleeing from Esau.
This is why I think the "time of distress" mentioned
earlier refers to the time Jacob was fleeing Esau, not the time when he
returned home to see Esau with four hundred men.
Verse 8 tells us that
Deborah, Rebekah's nurse died and was buried.
Remember, Rebekah was Jacob's mother.
In those days, women with even moderate wealth were given
maid-servants and a nurse when they got married.
Some might wonder just why this death is mentioned.
I don't know for sure, but this whole chapter is about death.
The mentioning of Isaac's death is in this chapter, although most
scholars say that he actually died maybe ten years beyond this point.
Some people suggest that the topic of death in this chapter
signifies the departure of the past life and the entrance into a new
life with God.
From verses 9 through 14
we see God speak to Jacob. We
see God blessing Jacob and restating the terms of the covenant He first
spoke to Abraham and then to Isaac.
This is yet another confirmation of how God will deal with Israel.
Verse 10 tells us that
God changed Jacob's name from Jacob to
In verse 11 God calls
Himself "the God Almighty".
That's "El Shaddai". This is the second time in Genesis
that this term is used of God. It
means "the almighty breasted one who looks after His people.
Shaddai comes from a root word meaning "breasts".
For this reason some scholars say that God is both male and
God then says "to be
fruitful and increase in number", something He told Adam, Noah,
Abraham, Isaac, and now Jacob. Increase
in numbers does mean something to God.
All along God told
Abraham and Isaac that he would turn into a great nation.
Here in verse 11 God elaborates on that a bit.
He said that "a nation and a community of nations" will
come from Jacob. It is easy
to understand that Jacob would become a great nation.
It is a bit harder to understand what is meant by a
"community of nations". That
means more than one nation. The
only thing I can say concerning what this means is that this might be a
reference to when God finally ends the history of the earth and
recreates the earth into the new earth.
In Revelation 21:24 you see the new earth with the new Jerusalem.
It is said that kings and nations
of the earth will come into the new Jerusalem.
I think these nations might be the nations that are spoken of
here. They are all a result
We see something here
about nations. God deals
with mankind on two fronts. He
deals with us individually and as nations.
Evangelicals often stress the point that God deals with
individuals, but not so often about Him dealing with nations, but he
does, and often when the Bible speaks of God dealing with nations, it is
in reference to how those nations deal with Israel.
Verse 12 speaks of that
part of the Abrahamic Covenant that deals with land issues.
God promised Abraham a certain piece of land.
He promised the same to Isaac, and now He is promising the same
to Jacob, and to his descendents. As
I've said over and over again,
Verse 13 states that God
left Jacob by saying "He went up from that place".
This is why many people believe that where God lives is up from
us, as in the skies or heavens. I'm
not convinced that the word "up" should be thought of in terms
of geography. I'm not
convinced that God is up. I
tend to see Him as being around us, but in another dimension, a
spiritual dimension. Up is
more transcendent here, not geographical, or so I think.
Verse 14 tells us that
Jacob built another altar here to worship God.
He poured out a "drink offering".
We don't know much history of a drink offering.
It was not a part of the Law of Moses that was written later on.
It was clearly some kind of ceremony that was already in Jacob's
society. Paul speaks of a
drink offering to the New Testament.
He viewed his life as a drink offering, meaning, he poured all of
himself out in the service of the Lord.
Jacob also poured oil on
the altar. This too was
probably some kind of social ceremony.
Remember, the Law of
Moses was not yet written or dictated by God to Moses, but still, there
were certain things done by the patriarch's of Israel that become part
of the Law of Moses. Why and
how these things came about is debatable.
Verse 15 simply says that
Jacob named this place Bethel. This place was already
by him years earlier. The
writer is just restating a past fact.
Verse 16 states that
Jacob and his people "moved on from
We also see in verse 16
that while Jacob and his people were moving away from Bethel Rachel was
giving birth with some difficulty. It
makes you wonder if the difficulty was not a result of Jacob's decision
to move from
In verse 18 the midwife
that was helping Rachel tried to make Rachel feel better by telling her
that she had given birth to a son. This
was her second son, after all the years of trying.
Joseph was her first son who was born when her and Jacob lived
with her father Laban.
Verse 18 states that
Rachel "breathed her last." The
next phrase says that she died. The
Hebrew word "nephish" is the word translated as
"breathed" in the NIV, and "soul" in the KJV.
The word "soul" occurs more in the KJV than it does in
the NIV. "Nephesh"
means "breathe or wind", that's why the NIV uses the word
The KJV states that
Rachel's "soul departed".
Her soul left her. If
is commonly known that Hebrew culture understood the totality of life as
being one's soul. As a
matter of fact, the word "nephish" is often translated as life
in the Old Testament.
Greek culture understood
life as being made up of three parts, the spirit, the soul, and the
body. You can see this in
Paul's writings, (1 Timothy 5:23) although Paul also uses the Hebrew
culture's understanding in 1 Corinthians 15:45 as it related to
Because the Greeks saw a
clear separation between body, and soul, they understood the soul to be
sacred while the body not sacred. This
is why they had no problem with sexual immorality, even during religious
In many verses in the Old
Testament, especially in the Psalms, you'll see the phrase "my
soul". You might think
by saying "my soul" that this does not fit the Hebrew thinking
of soul. You might think
that means, "my soul" is one part of me, my spirit is another,
and my body is yet another. That's
not really the case. The
word "soul" in this case should be seen as "my
life", that is, all of who I am.
Rachel lost her life,
lost her soul, here in Genesis 38:18.
She lost her very breath. She
lost that witch made her human, but her loss was only in a human sense,
her existence on earth. Her
soul "departed" from her as the KJV states.
This should be understood not in the sense that her soul left her
body, but her soul, her life, that witch made her human left this
planet. Her life departed to
another place. Her physical
breathing ended. Her
spiritual breathing remained.
So the Hebrew word for
"soul" is "nephish" which means breath.
It is interesting that the New Testament word spirit is
translated from the Greek word "pnuema" that also means breath
or wind. Without getting
further complicated, because both "nephish" in Hebrew, and
"pnuema" in Greek both mean breathe or wind, I think we can
safely say that both spirit and soul are related to each other, maybe so
related that we should not try to separate the two.
At this point in the discussion there is disagreement among Bible
scholars. Some hold to the
Hebrew thinking, some to the Greek.
I simply suggest that the lines between spirit and soul are
pretty blurred, and I'm not so sure we can clearly distinguish between
Just before Rachel died
she named her son "Ben-Omi", which means "son of my
Rachel died, Jacob renamed the new born son "Benjamin", which
means, "son of my right hand".
The naming of children might have been a co-operative thing
between husbands and wives back then, but ultimately it was the father's
decision to name the child. Why
Jacob named his new son "son of my right hand" has been well
debated. My guess is that
Jacob viewed Rachel as his right hand in life.
He loved her more than Leah or any other.
Verse 19 says that Rachel
was buried in Bethlehem. Her tomb is still marked as a special place for the Jews today. As I
write, here in March 2010, there is much controversy over this tomb and
also the tomb in
Verse 22 tells us that
Jacob set up a pillar over the place where Rachel was buried.
The text states that the pillar is still there, that is, is still
there when the author of these words were writing them.
Most conservative commentators believe that Moses is saying that
this pillar is still there as he wrote the words.
Some commentators suggest that Ezra edited the first five books
of the Bible, and that might well be, and that he was saying that this
pillar was still there in his life time, but that's a number of
centuries down the line.
In verse 21 we see Jacob
moving again. He is still
not in Bethel, the place where God wanted him. He
is like his grandfather Abraham. Some
might suggest that because he is a herdsman, that is the reason why he
moves so much. There may be
some truth in that, but I am not convinced that is the reason why he was
constantly on the move.
We note here, and in the
next verse, we finally see Jacob being called Israel. This is the first mention
of Jacob being
Verse 22 tells us that
was living in these particular parts, Rueben went in a slept with
Jacob's concubine. Jacob
actually heard the activity take place.
I'm sure he was not very happy with that.
Rueben was Jacob's oldest
son. He was the first son
born to Leah. Why he would
do such a thing is not known for sure.
Some say he wanted to make sure he got the blessing of the
firstborn, but that would be something he already had.
He might well have been taking after his father, with an
abundance of hormones.
Whatever reason Rueben
had, this act disqualified him from receiving the birthright of the
first born. Jacob
would not pass the leadership of the family on to him.
We also learn elsewhere that Levi and Simeon were disqualified
because they killed all the men in a city because one of them raped
their sister Dinah.
Verses 23 to 26 list all
the twelve sons of Jacob.
In verses 27 and 28 we
see that Jacob returned to his father's home in
In verse 29 we see the
words that Isaac "was gathered to his people".
In Hebrew culture this simply means that Isaac left earth and was
gathered to where his relatives were, in a place called Hades, the place
of the departed dead.
Both Esau and Jacob
buried Isaac, just as both Ishmael and Isaac buried Abraham.
Both Abraham and Isaac were buried in tombs in Hebron that are
celebrated to this day by the Jews in Israel as an historical site,
although it is being fought over by the Palestinians, who in my opinion
have no historical claim to this site.