Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Genesis Post 54 - Back to the House of God (Chapter 35)

The last post dealt with the crazy story of Dinah.  Remember how chapter 33 ended with the worship of God?  He remained behind the scenes in chapter 34.  Now, in chapter 35, He is mentioned right off the bat.

The events of Shechem have just happened, and Dinah has been dragged from the house of Shechem by her brothers.  (What does Dinah think of all this?  We are not told. But the whole account is a good reminder to choose your close friends wisely.)

This chapter opens up with directions from the LORD to Jacob - go to Beth El - the house of God.  Jacob is going to head to the place where he first encountered the LORD... back to where it all started in Genesis 28:15 when the LORD said,
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”

Jacob acknowledges this promise in verse 3:
Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.”

Jacob must have been eager to get away from the slaughter scene wrought by his sons at Shechem.  Embarrassed is probably a gross understatement.

Maybe Jacob should have gone to Beth-El first, and avoided all the trouble in Shechem.

Before heading out, Jacob cleans house.  The message of the last chapter was, don't mix!  No idolatry~  Jacob is making sure any and all mixing is eradicated.  He commands that all the foreign gods among them be put away - probably acquired during the pillaging of Shechem.  They ditch their soiled garments and jewelry, too - probably more of the spoils of Shechem.  The earrings themselves were said to be amulets.

Jacob buries everything under the terebinth tree near Shechem before heading out.  Notice, he does not destroy them.  Perhaps this is a "root" of the problem when idolatry occurs in the future among the children of Israel, particularly in the northern kingdom which eventually splits from the south.

Terebinth tree

In my last post, I noted that Simeon and Levi did not get a rebuke from the LORD regarding their actions in Shechem.  And indeed, in verse 5 we see the LORD actually protecting the whole family!
And they journeyed, and the terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.

Though the Israelites are small in number at this point, the LORD sees to it that the surrounding people leave them alone.

What comes next almost sounds like a repeat of chapter 28, when Jacob first encountered the LORD at Bethel (House of God).  Remember his somewhat shallow prayer back then?  If you do this for me, God, then I will serve you and even tithe to you.

Well, God has answered Jacob's prayer big time.  Jacob returns to this original spot over 20 years later, having been blessed with many children, much wealth, and a new name given to him from the LORD.

The LORD reminds Jacob of his new covenant name - Israel - and He reaffirms the Abrahamic Covenant to Jacob.  And Jacob repeats an action that he did so many years ago... only this time he has a much greater understanding.  Here is the second encounter at Bethel, starting with verse 10:

Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him.  And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel.  Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.”  Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him.  So Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it.  And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel.

Once again, in the very same place, Jacob sets up a stone pillar and anoints it with oil - a picture of Messiah, our Anointed One who would die in that very spot.  However, this time there is a difference:  Jacob also anoints the stone with a drink offering, which could have been either water or wine.  Yeshua - the one chosen and anointed with oil - becomes our living water through His death and resurrection.  And wine is a symbol of His shed blood.  Both are deeply symbolic.

In chapter 28 I wrote about this of this company of nations that was promised to Jacob.  The word used for company is qahal, the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word ekklesia.  Today's worldwide body of believers is part of this qahal, or congregation.  Notice how the passage  says, a nation and a company of nations?  

To the Jew first, and then to the rest of the world.  It is God's perfect order of things throughout the scriptures.

(Side note: Beth-El means House of God.  There is also a Bethel in the north of Israel, which became the center of idol worship under Jeroboam in the divided kingdom.  This House of God is the true House of God in Jerusalem - the only geographical place in scripture where God has chosen to put His name.  I believe Jacob was standing on the Mount of Olives overlooking the future city of Jerusalem.)

Now I need to back up to verse 8, which I was tempted to skip since it seemed to be random, out of context, and confusing.
Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the terebinth tree. So the name of it was called Allon Bachuth (Terebinth of Weeping).  

Looking through commentaries on this verse, I found that the following adjectives were used by the various commentators regarding this verse:
Strange, intrusive, most intrusive, overbearing, perplexing, curious, puzzling, tantalizingly unexplained, troubling, and surprising.

Very few women have their deaths mentioned in the Tanach... not even Rebekah herself.  So why her nurse?  This nurse was unnamed as she departed Haran with her mistress back in chapter 24, and here she is called by her name, Deborah, which means honeybee.

Before moving on and simply skipping over this perplexing verse, I sent up a quick prayer for clarity.  Almost instantly, the LORD put a verse in my head, which explained the whole thing for me.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 says,
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Yeshua Messiah.

Paul was quoting both Hosea and Isaiah when he said those words.  And on the very spot where Yeshua defeated death, Deborah the honeybee prophetically has her "stinger removed" in death, and is buried.  The location of the Honeybee's grave is a prophetic picture of what Yeshua accomplishes and overcomes for us all.

What happens to a honeybee when it stings someone.
Sorry, kind of gross.

Suddenly, verse 8 is beautifully in context.

But most commentators don't think Yeshua was crucified on the Mount of Olives, which explains their perplexity.

I don't know how Rebekah's nurse came to be in the company of Jacob.  Perhaps Isaac sends her to Shechem when he hears that Jacob is back in the land.  But one way or another, God makes sure she gets there - he wants to paint a picture for us!

Click here for part two of this chapter.

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