Jacob’s Return to Bethel

A lady asked Billy Sunday: “Why do you keep having revivals when it doesn’t last?” He asked her, “Why do you keep taking baths?” (Source Unknown, Lou Nicholes - Missionary/Author). … More


The first 15 verses of this chapter record Jacob’s return to Bethel, which is about fifteen miles south of Shechem. If ever a man needed a decisive word from God it was Jacob the morning after the Shechem massacre. He is back home in the land of promise with all his family and wealth.

1. Place (v. 1a). - “And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there.”

2. Purpose (v. 1b) - “Build an altar there.”

3. Preparation (vv. 2-4) - “Put away the strange gods that are among you.”

God reminds Jacob of his forgotten vows. To complete these vows there had to be a sanctification process, It seems that along the way Jacob’s wives and children had picked up idols. He decides that he is going to go to Bethel and build an altar to God who had been at his side and answered his prayers all these years when he was in trouble (v. 3). Therefore Jacob says “Put away the strange gods that are among you, and change your garments.” He takes them and buries them under a big oak tree (v. 4). It would have been better if he had burned them. It is human nature to put our idols away at a time of spiritual awakening but to get them back later.

While Jacob and his family were traveling people wanted to follow and kill them but God protected them (v. 5). God took them back to Bethel, where He had appeared to Jacob when he was running from Esau  (vv. 6-7). While they were there Rebekah’s personal servant Deborah died and was buiried under an oak tree (v. 8). During this time Jacob experienced three very important things in his life:

1. Confession (vv. 6-8) - Jacob’s fresh confession of his love and care for God Himself.

2. Confirmation (vv. 9-13) - “And God appeared unto Jacob.”

3. Claimed (vv. 14-15) - “Jacob called the place where God spake with    him in Bethel.”

After arriving back at Bethel Jacob built an altar as God had told him to do (v. 1). God confirms the promise He had made at this place earlier. As before He promised Jacob many descendants (v. 11). He also added that kings would be included in his offering. The putting away of the strange gods and the building of an altar indicates Jacob’s desire for an exclusive devotion to his sovereign God. His family and all the world knew that he had been with God.  


God permits no rivals; He allows only single loyalty and not other idols of gods in our life. I never want to have anything such as cars, houses, boats or other material things to become idols in my life.

Genesis 35:1-15 (English Standard Version)

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