Jacob Returns to Bethel (Genesis 35:1)

Share the Post:

When Jacob left his father’s tent after stealing Esau’s birthright, he was a lost, lonely individual. Sure, he had the guidance of his parents to go and “take a wife from the daughters of Laban” (Genesis 28:2), but everything outside of that was up to him.

One of the stops he made on his way to Haran was for a simple night’s rest under the stars. He took a rock for a pillow and subsequently had a vision of angels ascending and descending from Earth to Heaven.

Even then, Jacob recognized the significance of that moment. He took the same stone that he used as a pillow, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on it. He named that place Bethel, which means “house of God” (Genesis 28:18-22).

One of the reasons he named it Bethel was because of a vow he took in this place: “If God will go with me and will keep me on this journey I take…then the Lord will be my God.”

Now, after more than 20 years of working in Laban’s house, running from (and reuniting with) Esau, and growing a large family, God tells him to return to Bethel. For good.

The scenes could not be more different. The first time, Jacob travelled by himself. This time, he had a family and entourage so large and powerful that nearby families didn’t even try to rob them (Genesis 35:5).

One more thing had to change. In addition to removing all the household idols from his camp, he also decided to make a proper altar for God. The reason was simple, yet ties into the vow he made all those years ago: “God has answered me in the day of my distress and has been with Me wherever I have gone.”

Jacob wasn’t perfect, but one thing he did right was remember his vow. He promised that if God would be with him on his journeys, the Lord would be his God. Jehovah fulfilled his promise to keep Jacob, and now Jacob is keeping his.

Every once in a while, we’ll come up on “Bethels” in our own life. We’ll pass by a landmark or meet an old friend that reminds us of a turbulent time in our life. We’ll remember how our faith was tested in those moments and now, prayerfully, how it is firmly rested in God.