Jacob did fear for his life after what Simeon and Levi did to Hamor, his son Shechem and their people, but he made no attempt to leave his abode until YAHWEH asked him to “… arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto HIM, that appeared unto you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother” (Genesis 35:1). Thereafter, Jacob prepared his household to move, most interestingly, instructing them to “… put away, the strange gods that are among you,…”, apparently because as he had acquired goods over time, he’d also acquired servants, from diverse backgrounds, who may not necessarily follow his ways religiously. Even one of his wives, Rachel the one he loved most, at some point had idols she stole from her father, and hid in her possession. I highlighted this point to show that at every point in the history of Israel, from the individual to nationhood, traces abound to show that there wasn’t always homogeneity in worship amongst the people, and it remained a source of distress, not just to Jacob, as Israel but for many leaders and rulers of Israel (even to today’s Jewish Nation Of Israel), especially the religious ones.

In response to Jacobs’ instruction, those in possession of one strange god or the other, gave them up. Also, they also handed in “... their earrings which were in their ears...”, (v. 4) and though it isn’t stated why they did this, I can only infer from another story in the Book of Exodus (32:2-4), that such earrings could easily be melted, if they were ornamental metals like gold and silver, and used to make idols for and to worship. Hence, it will appear that Jacob not only intended for those around him to stop worshipping idols, but going forward, made it difficult (as best he could) for those with him, planning to go that route to have some delay in their ability to make an idol, and by implication force a possible rethink in their hearts before they go ahead with their initial plan. Jacob hid the stash of confiscated idols and earrings “… under the oak which was by Shechem” (Genesis 35:4), before proceeding on the journey to Bethel with his entourage. I am aware that because of the instances in which ornamental metals were confiscated in the stories of the Bible, some denominations are averse to their members wearing jewellery, but I haven’t found a cause yet, where the use of jewellery to adorn the body was an issue, than it was the use (especially and specifically to the moulding of molten images, as with Aaron in the book of Exodus) it can be put to order than for the purpose of adornment.

It is written, that no attempt was made to attack Jacob or members of his family, by people of cities through which they passed, to Bethel, because of the fear those people now had towards Israel owing to what they’d heard apparently. This feature remains up till this day, and many times to the detriment of those who call themselves, Israelites, Israelis or Jews, and/or those sympathetic to them or their cause(s), culture and religion. Once in Bethel, Jacob “… built an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there YAHWEH appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother” (Genesis 35:7), hence it’s understandable why he should be overly sentimental about such a place. It would seem like that was where the inspiration for all that he came to be started from. Most of us have such places, though not necessarily always physical, the turning point of our lives. The death of Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, after their arrival in Bethel, must’ve dampened spirits, as evidenced in the naming of the oak tree under which she was buried as  “Allonbachuth” (Oak of Weeping), by Jacob.

Again YAHWEH appeared to Jacob to tell him that he “… shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name, and he called his name Israel” (v. 10). Seeing as this is rendered like such a thing hadn’t been said before (See Genesis 32:27-28) albeit by an angel supposedly, many scholars point to this, as evidence that the book of Genesis couldn’t have been written by one person. Others contend that this “error”, affects the credibility of the Bible. My take is, there’s nothing wrong in emphasising a point severally to engender trust in the heart of the one to which a promise is extended to. With this change of name, came also the promises made to Abraham, to Isaac and unto Israel, thus “… be fruitful and multiply (and Jacob lived to see a glimpse of that); a nation(Israel) and a company of nations (at some point Israel divided into two, the north and south, of ten tribes to one with the Levites, and then much later with Ethiopian Jews, on to adopted non-biological Jews by faith, the world over today) shall be of thee, and kings (who took over from judges, priests and prophets to eventually rule over Israel, of which David remains the most notable) shall come out of thy loins; 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 (even this Bethel became part of Israel, and played significant roles in the history of it)” (v. 11-12).

My reckoning above as to the controversy surrounding a second naming of Jacob like it hadn’t occurred before, will suffice again with verse 15, where it is written that “… Jacob called the name of the place where YAHWEH spoke to him, Bethel”, though rather than looking like a reinforcement, this supports more the theory of separate authors, who didn’t deem it necessary to align their stories as to the occasion in terms of where and when, the event in question took place the first time, Peniel or Bethel. Notwithstanding, nothing in terms of the message is lost, rather a reinforcement of what is known, making it difficult to forget, and towards that I tend to lean, as far as this is concerned. Of course, Jacob naming the place YAHWEH spoke with him, didn’t go without him setting 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” (v. 14).

In all, Jacob showed he respected his humble beginnings, and didn’t despise it, as many would, just because they’ve risen in stature financially and in power in society. At every single point, he deferred to his maker to guide his next step, and responded in kind by leaving symbols, just like his ancestors did, many times in the naming of places where he’d witnessed phenomenal occurrences, in relation to what YAHWEH had done to him, many of which stand to this day. What better way could one evangelise, with the tools available at the time, yet last all through the ages? The story of Jacob has an aspect that touches on all aspects of life, and going through it, I’ve discovered a lot about myself. I hope you do too.


– Genesis Chapter 35 Verse 1 – 15, THE SACRED SCRIPTURES (Bethel Edition), An Assemblies of Yahweh ®, Publication, © 1981 (Fourth Printing, 1993).

– http://baptisttabernacleonline.com
– http://paintingofaheart.blogspot.in