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Genesis 36




SCRIPTURE: Genesis 36

As chapter 35 ended, we read where Jacob and Esau buried their dad.  This is a simple but important statement. Even though the boys had made up when Jacob returned, there were still a lot of years of “bad blood” between them.  So, it is telling when these brothers worked together in this situation.

Over the years, I have seen death have a lot of different impacts on families.  Sometimes it makes strong, close families even stronger and closer.  Sometimes it makes not so strong and close families strong and close.  And sometimes it tears families apart in ways that are much worse than physical separation.  I am glad that the death of Isaac didn’t drive another wedge between his sons.  

As we get into this chapter, we find ourselves neck deep in another one of the Bible’s famous or infamous (you decide) begat chapters.  I know we often wonder why these lists are included in the Bible.  Part of the answer is that ancestry was really important for those who lived in Old Testament times.  Now that I think about it, I guess ancestry is becoming more important in our time.  There sure seems to be a lot of websites that promise to help us find our heritage.  I have always been more than a bit afraid to do that kind of research because I am not sure what kind of critter may be sitting in my family tree.

But back to the story.  It is interesting to me that immediately after the death and burial of Isaac, the Bible gives us part of Esau’s lineage.  After all the redemptive story of the Bible is going to flow through Jacob not Esau.  Along with that Jacob is the one who inherited all that belonged to Isaac.  And Jacob would be the one who would inherit all that came through the Abrahamic covenant.  God would be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau.

As the Biblical narrative continues, the animosity between Jacob and Esau would be replayed in multiply in numerous ways through the descendents of Esau, the Edomites, and the descendents of Jacob, the Hebrews.  It is also interesting to note that Esau and Edom are mentioned in some form more than 200 times in the Old Testament.  But the names Jacob and Israel are mentioned more than 2,000 times in the Old Testament.  

It may be very well be that the reason this chapter is included in the Bible is that Esau and Edom are part of the story of Israel.  It is through Israel that our King and Redeemer will come.  And when he comes the Second time, He will put down all opposition to those who make up true Israel.  

Posted by Joe Ligon with

Genesis 35




SCRIPTURE: Genesis 35

We don’t know how long Jacob kept his family in Shechem but as this chapter opens, he was finally making plans to take his family to Bethel which is where he was supposed to go when they left Laban in Paddan-Aram.  Before they began their journey, however, Jacob gave his group some very special instructions.  They were to put away their idols.  They were to bathe themselves.  And they were to put on new clothes.

The ideas of bathing and putting on new clothes doesn’t seem like anything of much importance to us.  Obviously we value personal hygiene in our culture.  Bathing and putting on different clothes is basically a daily occurrence for us.  Not so for the culture that we are reading about in Genesis 35.  

It would have been a big deal for all those folks to bathe and put on new clothes.  But there is a deeper, more important aspect of this that we need to consider.  For example, bathing obviously removes the physical dirt from our physical bodies but it is also symbolic of removing sin from our spiritual lives.  Putting on new clothes is symbolic of living a new life.  So, there really is a lot going in this section of the chapter.

When Jacob and his entourage arrived at Bethel, he built an altar there.  You may remember that the last time Jacob was there, he used a rock as memorial stone and poured oil over it.  But now Jacob built an altar.  He also renamed the place from Bethel to El-Bethel.  In other words, the name changed from “The House of God” to “God of Bethel” or “God of the House of God”.  This changed the emphasis from the place (the house) to the person (God).

As the story progresses God was faithful to once again appear to Jacob.  And God renewed the covenant He made with Jacob.  This is evidenced by the repetition of the new name “Israel” as well as the promises of land and innumerable offspring.  God also introduced Himself as God Almighty.  This is El Shaddai in the Hebrew language and refers to God being all powerful or possessing all strength and therefore all ability to do what He chooses to do.  

In response, Jacob sat up another memorial stone in the place.  He poured out a drink offering which is an additional sacrifice.  In other words, a drink offering is an offering above and beyond what is required or necessary.  It symbolizes a sacrificial gift.  He then poured oil on the stone.  As we talked about a few chapters ago, the oil represents a couple of different things.  One, it typically represents the Holy Spirit.  Two, it often represents a person’s spirit.  So, pouring the oil over the stone represented Jacob giving himself fully to God.

From this high point in Jacob’s life, we quickly come into what must have been some very low points.  One, his beloved Rachel died during childbirth.  Jacob named the boy Benjamin which means “Son of my right hand” or “Son to be honored”.  

The next low point was Reuben, the first born, took Jacob’s concubine and had sex with her.  Although there are certainly all kinds of wrong things happening here, it is important to understand the symbolism of this act.  Reuben was basically saying he was now in charge of the group.  He was the head of the family.  This was a rebellion against Jacob and his leadership.

As chapter closes we read that Isaac died and Esau and Jacob buried him.  The death of Isaac was obviously a big deal.  Seeing Esau and Jacob cooperate was also a big deal.  But it won’t be long that such cooperation will not occur.

Posted by Joe Ligon with

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