101-135 Genesis Part 3 Chapter 35
God tells Jacob to return to Bethel. It was at Bethel that Jacob had the vision of the ladder with angels ascending and descending from Heaven to earth. It was here at Bethel that God promised Jacob that his descendants would number the dust of the earth, and that God would watch over him and keep him until He completed all that He had promised. It was there, at Bethel, that Jacob took the stone he used as a pillow and set it up as a pillar to honor God. Jacob gathered his house and told them to prepare for the journey to Bethel, about twenty miles in distance. Jacob told them not only to prepare for the journey but also for worship of the Lord. His family was to get rid of all the idols and purify themselves. They were to remove the rings from their ears and put on clean garments.
As parents, especially the head of the household, it is a solemn responsibility to train and lead your family in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. In many families that profess to worship God there are surprisingly other Gods in those families as well. Whatever in our life that stands before our true worship of the Lord God almighty is a false God. What are clean garments or new garments if the heart is still sinful? Jacob telling them to put away their idols and changing their garments was also telling them to change their hearts towards the worship of the true God.
As they traveled to Bethel the Canaanites we wanting to seek revenge for the way the sons of Jacob had treated the Shechemites. The Canaanites were afraid to attack Jacob’s family for they knew and feared the God of Jacob. The Canaanites were kept back by God’s Divine power, as when we walk about in God’s work we are under His protection. God is with us while we are with Him and if He be with us then who can be against us?
Jacob returned to Bethel where he been before when traveling to his uncle Laban’s many years before. It was there Jacob had the vision of the ladder to heaven and there he had received many promises from God. Jacob built another altar to worship God. God then renewed the promises He had made with Jacob before. Two important promises were that Jacob will be the father of a great nation and that he would be the master of a great land. God again said that Jacob’s name shall now be Israel.
There is a spiritual significance to the two promises that God made to Israel. Jacob was probably aware of it but it was not so clear as it is today. Christ is the promised Seed, and heaven is the Promised Land; the former is the foundation, and the latter the top-stone, of all God’s favors.
On the way to Ephrath Rachael began to give birth to another son. It was a very severe labor and as the child was born Rachael in her last breath named the child Benoni, which means “son of my sorrow.” How sorrowful the sons of Bethlehem, present day Ephrath, that after the birth of Jesus King Herod slaughtered all the male children 2 years and younger. Even then it is recorded in the gospel of Matthew that Rachael wept for her children. Because Israel would not want to recall the death of Rachael every time he called his son changed Benoni’s name to Benjamin.
Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob born of Rachael. Rachael was the younger daughter of Israel’s uncle Laban whom he had originally worked for seven years to marry. But Laban had tricked Israel and he actually had work to marry Rachael’s sister Leah. Israel worked for his father in law Laban another seven years in order to marry Rachael. Rachael was barren for most of their marriage but God opened up her womb and she bore Joseph and later she died giving birth to Benjamin.
Joseph’s ten older brothers considered him their father Israel’s favorite. For this reason they conspired against Joseph and sold him to Ishmaelite traders who took him to Egypt. Joseph had been inspired by dreams from God and this gave him strength and confidence and he endured through the trials that he faced in Egypt.
The Ishmaelite’s took and sold Joseph to one of Pharaoh’s officers and Joseph served him dutifully. The officer’s wife was attracted to Joseph and tried to seduce him but Joseph rejected her. In her anger she went to her husband and lied about Joseph and he was thrown into prison. The prison keeper befriended Joseph and learned of his ability to interpret dreams.
The Pharaoh had a dream that troubled him greatly and Joseph was called to interpret this dream for him. Joseph correctly interpreted the dream to mean there would be a time of plenty followed by a time of famine in Egypt. For this ability Pharaoh rewarded Joseph with charge of all the lands of Egypt. During the times of plenty Joseph stored up the abundance to be used in the time of famine.
It was in the time of famine that Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to find food for the family of Joseph’s father Israel. They did not recognize Joseph as their brother and he ordered them to return to Canaan and return with their younger brother Benjamin. When the brothers returned with Benjamin Joseph revealed his identity to them and they suffered the remorse of their deeds towards Joseph and he forgave them. As a result Joseph’s family moved to Egypt and was saved from starvation. Joseph’s years of steadfast reliance on God brought about not only reunion but his high position so that he was able to save a nation from starvation.