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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Genesis 35

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 35:1 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.

Ver. l. Arise, go up to Bethel.] This is not the first time that God tells him of that vow, and calls for performance. See Genesis 31:13. It is with us, as with children - Eaten bread is soon forgotten: deliverances, commonly, are but nine days’ wonderment at most; and it is ten to one, that any leper returns to give praise to God. If anything arouse and raise up our hearts to thankful remembrance of former mercy, it must be the sense of some present misery, as here. Jacob was in a great strait and fright: his sons had troubled him; the country was ready to rise upon him, and root him out: God also was justly displeased with him for his forgotten vow; yet chides him not, now that he was in heaviness; but takes his opportunity, for we are best when at worst, and gently minds him of what was his duty, and would be for his safety. Numa is said to have put so much confidence in his gods, that when he was sacrificing and news came that the enemy was at hand, he laughed, and said, At ego rein divinam facio. (a) Those Philistines were even ambitious of destruction, and ran to meet their ruin, that gathered themselves against Israel, while they were sacrificing and serving the Lord in their meet at Mizpeh. [1 Samuel 7:7] The Church, in her worship, is "terrible as an army with banners"; [Song of Solomon 6:10] "a cup of trembling to all the people round about"; "a burdensome stone for all people"; "a torch of fire in a sheaf." [Zechariah 12:2-3; Zechariah 12:6] He is a mad man that will meddle with her while she is upon good terms with Christ, her Champion. [Isaiah 37:22] Balaam knew this, and therefore gave that villanous counsel. All Germany was in arms against that handful of Hussites in Bohemia, yet could not suppress them. (b) Geneva, a small people, surrounded with enemies, and barred from aid of neighbours, yet faithful with God, hath been hitherto strangely upheld. At the siege of Mountabone in France, the people of God, using daily humiliation, as their service would permit, did sing a Psalm after, and immediately before, their sallying forth. With which practice the enemy coming acquainted, ever, upon the singing of the Psalm, upon which they expected a sally, they would so quake and tremble, crying, They come, they come, as though the wrath of God had been breaking out upon them. (c)


Verse 2

Genesis 35:2 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:

Ver. 2. Then Jacob said unto his household.] So Gideon began his reformation at his father’s house. David also would walk wisely in the midst of his house; and this he calls "a perfect way," a sign of sincerity. [Psalms 101:2] This Psalm Bishop Ridley read over often to his family, hiring them to learn it by heart; and taking care that they might be a spectacle to all others of virtue and honesty.

Put away the strange gods.] Strange it was that such idols should be suffered among them. Calvin thinks that Jacob winked at Rachel’s superstition, of a blind love to her; as Solomon gratified his mistresses of Moab. I should think rather that they were the idols of Shechem, brought into the house either by Jacob’s sons and servants, or by the captive women.

Be clean, and change your garments.] God is to be approached unto with the best preparation we can make. Heathens saw that God is not to be drawn nigh unto, hand over head, but preparation to be made at home. (a) We wash us every day; but, when to dine with great ones, we wash us with balls, and put on our best.


Verse 3

Genesis 35:3 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.

Ver. 3. And was with me in the way, &c.] Deducendo, reducendo, fraenumque socero, fratri, finitimisque Shecemi inieciendo, ne me ullo pacto laederent, saith Junius. All this called for thankfulness. Prayer and thanks should be like the double motion of the lungs. The air that is sucked in by prayer should be breathed out again by praises. God had heard Jacob; now he should hear of him.


Verse 4

Genesis 35:4 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.

Ver. 4. And they gave unto Jacob.] Now they were in danger of destruction, they would do anything. So those false Israelites, when God "slew them, then they sought him." [Psalms 78:34] So many, when they are deadly sick, are wondrous good; as William Rufus, who vowed, upon his recovery, to see all vacancies furnished. (a) In the sweating sickness, so long as the ferventness of the plague lasted, there was crying, Peccavi, peccavi: the ministers were sought for in every corner - You must come to nay lord, you must come to my lady, &c. (b) The walnut tree is most fruitful when most beaten. Fish thrive best in cold and salt waters. The most plentiful summer follows upon the hardest winter. David was never so tender as when hunted like a partridge; nor Jonah so watchful, prayerful, as in the whale’s belly. (c) When men suffer for their sin, [Lamentations 3:39; Lamentations 3:41] hands and hearts and all are lift up to heaven, that before were as "without God in the world," and thought they could do well enough without him. A lethargy is commonly cured by a fever; worms killed with aloes; so are crawling lusts by bitter afflictions. Israel under the cross, will "defile" the idols that they had deified; [Isaiah 30:22] and after that they were captives in Babylon, they could never be drawn to that sin, whatever they suffered for their refusal, as under Antiochus. I end, with St Ambrose: Beata anima, quae est instar domus Iacobi, in qua nulla simulachra, nulla effigies vanitatis: Blessed is that soul, that, like Jacob’s house, hath no idol in it.


Verse 5

Genesis 35:5 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.

Ver. 5. The terror of God was upon the cities.] The Hebrews tell us, that they pursued Jacob, and were beaten back by him: whereupon he saith, [Genesis 48:22] that he took that country "out of the hand of the Amorites, with his sword and with his bow." God might send a panic terror upon them as they were fighting against Jacob, and so bridle them from further attempts. The Syrians heard a noise of chariots and horses in the air, [2 Kings 7:7] made by angels, likely; or whether it were but their own fancy, as 9:36, and as the Burgundians took a field of standing corn for an army of fighting men, and fled for their lives. Theodosius, the Emperor, overcame the Persians and Saracens by means of a panic terror smitten into them by God; so that they ran into the river Euphrates, and above a hundred thousand of them perished in the waters. (a)


Verse 6

Genesis 35:6 So Jacob came to Luz, which [is] in the land of Canaan, that [is], Bethel, he and all the people that [were] with him.

Ver. 6. So Jacob came to Luz.] Which was thirty miles from Shechem: a long journey for such a large family, who went it with hearts full of heaviness, for, "without were fightings, within fears": but this was their comfort, they went to see the face of God at Bethel. As they that "passed through the valley of Baca," though they took many a weary step, yet went "from strength to strength," because they were to "appear before God in Zion." [Psalms 84:6-7] Popish pilgrims, though used hardly and put to much expense and inconvenience, yet satisfy themselves in this, I have that I came for, viz., the sight of a dumb idol, as Calvin notes. What, then, should not we suffer to see God in his ordinances? "They shall bring your brethren as an offering to the Lord, upon horses, in chariots, and in litters," saith the prophet: [Isaiah 66:20] that is, though sick, weakly, and unfit for travel; yet, rather in litters, than not at all.


Verse 7

Genesis 35:7 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.

Ver. 7. Because there God appeared.] Heb., Revelavissent Dii. Not the angels, but the sacred Trinity. {See Trapp on "Genesis 1:1"}


Verse 8

Genesis 35:8 But Deborah Rebekah’s nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.

Ver. 8. But Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died.] A grave matron she was; of great use while she lived, and much missed when she died. This is not every man’s case. Some have their souls, as swine, for no other use, than, as salt, to keep their bodies from putrefaction. (a) And when they die, they are no more missed than the sweepings of the house, or parings of the nails.


Verse 9

Genesis 35:9 And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.

Ver. 9. And God appeared, &c.] A sweet allayment of his late heaviness for Deborah, and a gracious preparative to the ensuing loss of Rachel. The joy of the Lord is the Christian man’s strength. [Nehemiah 8:10] One sight of him is enough to carry one through all conditions with comfort. As a man that hath his bones filled with marrow, and that hath abundance of good blood and fresh spirits in his body, he can endure to go with less clothes than another, because he is well lined within; so it is with a heart that hath a great deal of fat and marrow, communion with God, and feeling of his favour; he will go through troubles, in the fail of outward comforts. And as the lily is fresh, and looks fair, though among thorns; so will he, amidst miseries.


Verse 10

Genesis 35:10 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.

Ver. 10. And God said unto him, &c.] It is usual with God to revive and renew the promises with fresh supplies of comforts upon the hearts of his faithful servants, for the further confirmation of their faith and hope. Thus he seals to us at every sacrament, besides those sweet supplies of the Spirit of promise, {επιχορηγια, Philippians 1:19} whereby we are daily sealed to the day of redemption, as the merchant’s goods are signed with his seal. [Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30]


Verse 11

Genesis 35:11 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;

Ver. 11. I am God Almighty.] This is hardly persuaded; and yet it is the ground of all true comfort and spiritual security. We are apt to measure things according to our own model, as to think God so powerful as our understanding can reach, &c. But, for a finite creature to believe the infinite all-sufficiency of God, he is not able to do it thoroughly without supernatural grace; nor can he be soundly comforted till he comes to comprehend it. Of his will to do us good we doubt not, till, in some measure, we doubt of his power to help.


Verse 13

Genesis 35:13 And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.

Ver. 13. And God went up from him.] Not by local ascension; for he is everywhere; but in respect of that visible sign of his glory, which he now withdrew from over, or from upon Jacob. For the righteous are as God’s chariot, say the Hebrews on this text. Compare Song of Solomon 6:12.

Where he talked with him.] Prayer is a free and familiar conference or intercourse with God; a parling with his Majesty, as St Paul calls it; {εντευξις, 1 Timothy 2:1} a standing upon interrogatories with him; especially when Satan, sin, and conscience accuse. It was a part of the Persian kings’ silly glory, to keep their greatest subjects from coming near them without special licence. [Esther 4:11] To God we have free access upou all occasions, and are bid to "come boldly." [Hebrews 4:16] If Seneca could say, Audacter Deum roges, nihil illum de alieno rogaturus; how much more may the faithful Christian, since all is his, God and all! [1 Corinthians 3:22] Moses and Luther could have what they would of God. Fiat voluntas mea, saith Luther; and then he adds, Mea voluntas, Domine, quia tua: Let my will be done; but no otherwise mine, than as thine, Lord.


Verse 14

Genesis 35:14 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.

Ver. 14. And Jacob set up a pillar.] Or, Had set up a pillar, had poured a drink offering, &c., - to wit, Genesis 28:18-19. And now he either repeats it in the presence, and for the edification of his family; or else he repairs the pillar now ruinated, and new consecrates it, by the old name Bethel.


Verse 15

Genesis 35:15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.

Ver. 16. She had hard labour.] Woman, of all creatures, bringeth forth with most pain and peril, as the philosopher (a) observeth, and experience confirmeth. Her only way is to send for Lady Faith, the best midwife; [1 Timothy 2:15] and thereby to repose upon him whose "voice causeth the hinds to calve," [Psalms 29:9] which yet, of all brute creatures, bring forth with greatest trouble, "bowing themselves," bruising their young, and "casting out their sorrows." [Job 39:3-4]


Verse 16

Genesis 35:16 And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.

Ver. 17. Thou shalt have this son also.] So she had "children," according to her desire; but this last, to her cost, for a chastisement of her strong affections, which drew on strong afflictions; as hard knots must have hard wedges. They that would needs have a penny for their pains, had no joy of their penny: when the end of the day came, [Matthew 20:13] when they were to go into another world, they saw that their penny was no such good silver; that preferment, profit, credit, were but empty things, and could not satisfy. It is best to be moderate in our desires after these outward things; and not so set upon it as to indent with God for such, and so much: this may be dangerous.


Verse 17

Genesis 35:17 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.

Ver. 18. As her soul was in departing,] viz., To God that gave it. It is a spiritual, immortal substance, distinct from the body; and can subsist of itself; (a) as the mariner can, when the ship is broken.

For she died.] In our birth, we rent our mothers, to death sometimes, whom before we had burdened; so far nature witnessing our viperous generation, because of sin, which we bring into the world.

But his father called him Benjamin.] Lest the former name should be a daily reminder of his loss. Let men make their burdens as light as they can, and not increase their worldly sorrow by sight of sad objects. It will come, as we say of foul weather, soon enough; we need not send for it. What should dropsy men do eating salt meats?


Verse 18

Genesis 35:18 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.

Ver. 19. And Rachel died.] We forfeit many favours, by over loving them. Our jealous God will not endure us to idolise any creature. Let them that have wives, or any other thing they hold most dear to themselves, be as if they had none. So love, as to think of loss. (a) Let all outward things hang loose, as an upper garment that we can throw off at pleasure. [1 Corinthians 7:29]


Verse 19

Genesis 35:19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which [is] Bethlehem.

Ver. 20. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave.] To testify his love, and continue her remembrance. Dead friends may be lawfully thus honoured with monuments; modo vitetur luxus et superstitio. .


Verse 20

Genesis 35:20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that [is] the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.

Ver. 21. Beyond the tower of Edar.] Or, Of the flock. This tower was built, it seems, for the safety and service of shepherds. There it was, probably, that those shepherds, Luke 2:8, watched their flocks. There also, Helena, mother to Constantine the Great, did afterwards build a temple, for a memorial of the angels that there appeared to those shepherds, carolling Christ into the world.


Verse 21

Genesis 35:21 And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.

Ver. 22. Reuben went and lay with Bilhah.] A foul fault, in so good a family: but so it sometimes falls out, by the malice of Satan, for the discrediting of religion. Such ugly incest was committed at Corinth, as was hardly (a) "heard of among heathen, that a man should have his father’s wife." [1 Corinthians 5:1] Some such there were among the kings of Egypt; but not many. Ethelbald, king of West Saxons, with great infamy marrying his father’s widow Judith, enjoyed his kingdom but two years and a half. (b) But how hateful is that Spanish incest, by Papal dispensation! King Philip of Spain might call the Archduke Albert, both brother, cousin, nephew, and son: for all this was he unto him, either by blood or affinity; being uncle to himself, first cousin to his father, husband to his sister, and father to his wife. (c) Abhorred filth!

And Israel heard it.] And held his peace, because he saw God in it, chastising him for his polygamy. The punishment is sometimes so like the sin, that a man may boldly say, Such a sin was the mother of such a misery. And here is a pause in the Hebrew, to show Jacob’s great amazement at this sad tidings. Dolores ingentes stupent. He was even "dumb, and opened not his mouth, because God was in it." [Psalms 39:9]


Verse 22

Genesis 35:22 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:

Ver. 23. Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn.] Who, though by his sin he fell from his birthright, yet is here reckoned as a patriarch, and afterwards, upon his repentance, not a little honoured. [Exodus 28:21; Exodus 28:29 Revelation 21:12] God is not off and on with his elect; their frowardness interrupts not the course of his goodness.


Verse 28

Genesis 35:28 And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years.

Ver. 29. And Isaac gave up the ghost.] Twelve years after Joseph was sold, and forty years after he first became blind. Three special friends Jacob buries, in this chapter. Crosses come thick: be patient.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Genesis 35:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/genesis-35.html. 1865-1868.

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