Then let us arise and go to Bethel. I will build an altar there to God, who answered me in my day of distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone."
I. NEGLECTED DUTY IS A HINDRANCE TO APPROPRIATE AND ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP. That Jacob should have been obliged to give such an injunction to his household shows that he had not sufficiently kept before his sons and servants the duty they owed to God. He had allowed himself to strive for worldly success until they might have even imagined that he was no better than the rest of them or their neighbors; but deep down in the heart of this man was a reverence for God and a desire to do his will. His neglect to carefully instruct his sons had borne bitter fruit. Had he instilled into his sons ideas more in accordance with the character of the God he served, they would not have taken such mean methods as are mentioned of revenging themselves on those they had come to dislike. His neglect necessitates the sudden and difficult effort now put forth to induce his sons to seek with him to serve God. He feels that he cannot rightly worship God unless his children and household are with him in spirit. He wishes to foster in them a belief in his own sincerity. To have one in a family looking on indifferently or sneeringly is death to successful worship. Jacob's neglect had led to carelessness by his sons of the Divine service. He could not himself enter heartily on the service until he had discharged, in a measure, his duty as guide and instructor to his family.
II. ANOTHER HINDRANCE IS THE ATTACHMENT TO OBJECTS WRONGLY HELD IN REVERENCE. The sons of Jacob had admitted false gods into their affections. Idolatry was rife among them. Even his wife Rachel had so much faith in her father's idols that she stole them when she left home. The sons caught the spirit of the mother, and indulged in the worship of strange gods. Perhaps they worshipped secretly the gods which Rachel cherished, or they may have given adoration to the idols they found among the spoils of the Shechemites. They may have had little images which they carried about with them, as many superstitious Christians carry the crucifix. Amulets and charms they seem to have worn on their hands and in their ears, all indicating superstition, false worship, and wrong ideas. God is spoken of in the Bible as "jealous." This is with respect to worship given to representations of gods having no existence. The jealousy is right, because it would be an evil thing for man himself to think there were many gods, or to select his own god. When, in after ages, the descendants of these sons of Jacob yielded to the sin of worshipping other gods, ten of the tribes were swept away, and have never been rediscovered. Indeed the stream was tainted in source, and "grew no purer as it rolled along." When Achan brought the Babylonish garment into the camp of Israel, the chosen of God could not stand before their enemies, but when it was removed they were again victorious. So strange gods must be removed from our homes and from our hearts, or we can never be successful in the conflict against sin, or in the acceptability of the worship we offer. It is for each Christian to search his soul, and to see whether there is any desire, habit, or practice which in the least militates against the worship of God. Many who were incorporated with Jacob's household were Syrians, who brought their evil practices with them. When any enter God's Church they must leave behind them the practices of the world; nor possessions nor potation must be the gods then worshipped, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
III. THE HARBOURING OF ANY SPECIAL SIN WILL BE A SURE HINDRANCE. The sons of Jacob had not only outward false objects of reverence, but inward evil propensities. They were treacherous, cruel, lustful, envious, murderous. See how they treated the Shechemites, and in after years their own brother Joseph. What scandalizing, jealousy, and even opposition, are found in some homes! How hard it is to alienate sinful habits from the heart and the home I how hard to get the right tone for devout service in the home I Certain habits of temper, ridicule, sarcasm will chill and check all worship. Jacob urged his sons to be "clean," - pure, - "to change their garments." They had need to do the latter, for they had been spotted with the blood of the men they had murdered. Jacob meant that they were to put on the garments kept for the worship of God. Rebekah had garments by her in which Esau as eldest son worshipped God, and which she put on Jacob. It is probable that it was the practice under the patriarchal dispensation to perform certain ceremonial ablutions prior to entering on the solemn worship. "Cleaniness is next to godliness." It leads to it. The need of purity in the worship or God is thus indicated by ablutions and change of garments. But how easily we may have the outward without the inward. We need cleansing in the holy fountain opened by Christ, and to be clothed by his righteousness.
IV. A great hindrance to successful worship is HAVING LOW IDEAS OF THE DIGNITY OF THE ACT, AND THE MAJESTY AND HOLINESS OF HIM WHOM WE WORSHIP. God must be made to appear great to us. He is "high and lifted up." He made not only these frames of ours, but this vast universe. He is worshipped by worlds of intelligent spirits, and has been worshipped from the depths of eternity. He is holy and full of majesty. Shall we be indifferent as to the duty or the mode of worship? What a marvel that we should be permitted to have fellowship with our Creator I If we have it, it must be in the way and place he appoints. For Jacob it was at Bethel, for the Jews at Jerusalem, for Christians at the cross. To Jacob and the Jews it was by annual sacrifices, to us it is by the offering of Christ "once for all." - H.
And the days of Isaac were a hundred and fourscore years. And Isaac gave up the ghost.
1. He was an only son.
2. His parents were both very old. At atmosphere of antique quiet hung about his life.
3. These two old hearts lived for him alone.
I. Take the EXCELLENCES of his character first. His submissive self-surrender on Mount Gerizim, which shadowed forth the perfect sacrifice of Christ.
2. His tender constancy, seen in his mourning for his mother, and in the fact that he alone of the patriarchs represented to the Jewish nation the ideal of true marriage.
3. His piety. It was as natural to him as to a woman to trust and love: not strongly, hut constantly, sincerely. His trust became the habit of his soul. His days were knit each to each by natural piety.
II. Look next at the FAULTS of Isaac's character.
1. He was slow, indifferent, inactive. We find this exemplified in the story of the wells (ver. 26:18-22).
2. The same weakness, ending in selfishness, appears in the history of Isaac's lie to Abimelech.
3. He showed his weakness in the division between Jacob and Esau. He took no pains to harmonize them. The curse of favouritism prevailed in his tent.
4. He dropped into a querulous old age, and became a lover of savoury meat. But our last glimpse of him is happy. He saw the sons of Jacob at Hebron, and felt that God's promise was fulfilled.
(S. A. Brooke, M. A.)
II. IT WAS A TIME FOR REVIVAL OF MEMORIES OF THE PAST,
III. IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF ANOTHER AND A HIGHER LIFE.
(T. H. Leale.)
Homilist.I. THAT HIS DEATH WAS PEACEFUL.
1. Because his spirit was given up to the rightful owner.
2. Because the soul's earthly activities had come to an end.
3. Because his soul's temporal purposes had been gained.
II. THAT HIS LIFE WAS WELL SPENT.
1. His soul's interests had not been neglected.
2. Society had been benefited.
3. God had been served.
III. HE WAS BELOVED AND HONOURED BY HIS FAMILY. This is intimated to us —
1. By his being buried with his people.
2. By his sons attending his funeral.
(Homilist.)1. God brings at last His Jacob and Church to their desired place in their pilgrimage.
2. God makes good His word in making Jacob successor to Abraham and Isaac in their sojourning (ver. 27).
3. The blessing of long life God grants to His servants, when and where it may be beneficial to His Church (ver. 28).
4. Expiration and dissolution are the appointed conditions of saints in order unto glory.
5. Saints in dissolution go out of the world unto their own people.
6. Old age or fulness of days is given here sometimes to God's saints, i.e., days full of work, as well as many.
7. Nature and grace agree to evince and perform the duty of burial.
8. It is piety to parents deceased so to order their burial and interment that it may be comely and honourable.
9. The death as well as the life of saints God recordeth for His Church's instruction, and to point out distinct periods (ver. 29).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
(M. Dods, D. D.).
Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom.I. WE SEE HOW THE PROMISES OF GOD CONCERNING ESAU WERE FULFILLED. Temporal prosperity.
II. WE LEARN WHAT IS THE PRINCIPLE UPON WHICH OLD TESTAMENT HISTORY IS WRITTEN. This chapter is a kind of leave-taking of Esau and his posterity. The stream of sacred history leads on to the Messiah, the flower and perfection of our human race. Scripture history is written upon this principle — that it was God's design throughout to bring His only begotten Son into the world, and, therefore, that family alone in which He is to appear shall have a prominent record.
III. WE LEARN THAT THE ENEMIES OF GOD MAY BE DISTINGUISHED BY GREAT WORLDLY GLORY AND PROSPERITY. Three times in this chapter we meet with the phrase, "This is Edom"; and once "He is Esau, the father of the Edomites" (vers. 1, 9, 19, 43). They were the bitterest enemies of Israel. Esau is the father of persecutors. Yet Esau was prospered in his lifetime more than his brother. Thus the believer is taught that he must toil slowly upwards, and must not envy the rapid and joyful prosperity of the children of this world. His record and his reward are with the Most High. His prosperity may be late and remote, but it is permanent.
IV. WE LEARN HOW GOD WORKS IN THE FORMATION OF PEOPLES AND NATIONS. The subjugation of the Horites by the Edomites, and the fusion of both under one kingdom, is an instance of the manner in which peoples and nations are formed and consolidated. This has often occurred in history. We have examples in the rise of the Samaritans, and in the formation of the Roman people. And in modern times, we have a similar instance in the subjugation of the Gauls by the Franks. We see that the footsteps of God are to be traced throughout all human history. These nations which lay outside the covenant people were yet under the care and control of that Divine providence which appointed the bounds of their habitation, and watched over their growth and development (Acts 17:26).
V. WE LEARN, ALSO, THE IMPORTANCE OF THE INDIVIDUAL ELEMENT IN HISTORY. The personal or individual element appears in all history, but in a most marked manner in sacred history. We see how nations are stamped with the character of their ancestor.
(T. H. Leale)1. The genealogy of the wicked God records for His own ends in His Church.
2. God's record of the wicked's line is but to brand them to those who read it (ver. 1).
3. Godless hearts take strange wives — Hittites, Hivites, Ishmaelites — whatever God says against it (ver. 2, 8).
4. Providence doth vouchsafe progeny to wicked and multiplied matches, though He like them not (ver. 4, 5).
5. In God's own time He moveth the hearts of wicked enemies, to turn aside from straitening His Church (ver. 6).
6. Outward portions to the wicked satisfy them in and for their departing from God's Church (ver. 7).
7. Mount Seir pleaseth Esau better than the land of promise, because he is Edom (ver. 8).
8. The reproach of a profane Esau God maketh to rest upon his posterity (ver. 9).
9. Multitudes of wives and children and offspring God may grant unto the wicked.
10. God hath recorded the wicked End their progeny to distinguish them from His Church (ver. 10-14).
11. Dukedoms and dignities in the world is only the ambition of the wicked. The saint's is of another kind (2 Corinthians 5-9).
12. Dignities can never blot out the stain of sin from God's presence. The Dukes are Edomites still (ver. 15-19).
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
2. Horites, Hittites, and Hivites are the national titles of the same sort of sinful people.
3. Uncleanness and unnaturalness are recorded in the wicked's line to make them stink.
4. A numerous progeny with dignity may be the portion of the wicked here below.
5. Affinity with persons that are wicked, usually bring souls to affinity with their sins.
6. God suffers and orders the wicked to join so in affinity, in order to the destroying of each other. So it was with Seir and Edom (ver. 20-30.)
(G. Hughes, B. D.)1. Worldly men are ambitious of the highest titles of honour. Kings and dukes.
2. Earthly kingdoms God may order to the wicked (a settled government) before His Church (ver. 31).
3. Stinted are the numbers of kings and dignities by God in the world.
4. God maketh some notable for exploits above others. Hadad vanquisheth Midian.
5. Kings and queens are sometimes recorded for their shame by God's Spirit.
6. God overturneth and changeth states and government at His pleasure.
7. Profane fathers and profane children are branded by God's Spirit together, where mention is made of them.
(G. Hughes, B. D.)
(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
PeopleAllon, Aram, Arba, Asher, Benjamin, Benoni, Bilhah, Dan, Deborah, Eder, Ephrath, Esau, Gad, Isaac, Issachar, Jacob, Joseph, Leah, Levi, Mamre, Naphtali, Rachel, Rebekah, Reuben, Simeon, Zebulun, Zilpah
PlacesAllon-bacuth, Bethel, Bethlehem, Canaan, Eder, El-bethel, Ephrath, Hebron, Kiriath-arba, Luz, Mamre, Paddan-aram, Shechem
TopicsAltar, Answering, Arise, Bethel, Beth-el, Build, Distress, Rise, Trouble, Wherever
Outline1. God commands Jacob to go to Bethel.
2. He purges his house of idols.
6. He builds an altar at Bethel.
8. Deborah dies at Allon Bacuth.
9. God blesses Jacob at Bethel.
10. Jacob Named Israel.
16. Rachel travails of Benjamin, and dies in the way to Edar.
22. Reuben lies with Bilhah.
23. The sons of Jacob.
27. Jacob comes to Isaac at Hebron.
28. The age, death, and burial of Isaac.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesGenesis 35:3
7384 household gods
LibraryFebruary the Eighth Revisiting Old Altars
"I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress." --GENESIS xxxv. 1-7. It is a blessed thing to revisit our early altars. It is good to return to the haunts of early vision. Places and things have their sanctifying influences, and can recall us to lost experiences. I know a man to whom the scent of a white, wild rose is always a call to prayer. I know another to whom Grasmere is always the window of holy vision. Sometimes a particular pew in a particular church …
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year
Our Last ChapterConcluded with the Words, "For Childhood and Youth are Vanity"...
The Death of Abraham
The Trials and visions of Devout Youth
The National Oath at Shechem
And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, too little to be among the thousands of Judah
Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
The Birth of Jesus.
Gen. xxxi. 11
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