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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

GENESIS – An Expositional Overview of the Beginning of God’s Revelation: Chapter THIRTY FIVE


Contributing commentaries by pastors Sonny Islas, Albert Lopez and James Fire



GENESIS 35 – by James Fire; to watch this teaching on Facebook video, go here.

Introduction: There is no disciple of Christ that goes from the beginning of spiritual rebirth and right into complete sanctification. In fact, there is no disciple who ever reaches complete sanctification during this lifetime; Paul the apostle himself said that even he did not attain perfection (PHIL 3:12). However, we’ll know absolute and complete sanctification when the LORD returns, and we are miraculously transformed at the rapture of the church (1 COR 15:51; 1 JOHN 3:2). 
At the beginning of the Christian’s life there may be much of the old life still apparent, with old sinful habits still entrenched – but that believer, who is intent on following the LORD, is on the Journey of Justification, they are on the Road of Righteousness; they are walking the Street of Sanctification. And as it’s been said, “Every journey begins with the first step”.
We have over these several months watched the lives of Abraham and Isaac, and now we are witnessing the journey of Jacob. And like Jacob, we ourselves find that we revisit former places in our lives of meeting with GOD, where He did His marvelous, miraculous work in transforming us.

Jacob is going to revisit a previous location, where he met with the LORD before and there he is going to erect an altar and pour out offerings, and command his family to put away their strange gods and to change their garments (it could be that they had images of these idols embroidered in them). This is an act of recommitment to the LORD, for there were idols among them and a need to seek the LORD as Jacob did before, when he was fleeing from Esau and made way to Uncle Laban’s place. 

Let us be aware that our walk with the LORD is a step by step process, but also let’s be sure that we are walking forward, with our Good Shepherd Who faithfully goes before us and leads us in the way we are go. If we are not going forward, advancing in our relationship with the LORD – if even we are just standing still, that’s really going backwards, in opposition to what the LORD would have for us, which is to always and in every way make awesome discoveries into the incredible, unsearchable depths of the riches found in Christ Jesus!

GENESIS 35:1-3
1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother. 2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments: 3 And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.

The LORD brings to Jacob’s memory of the event that took place earlier in his life, about two decades before when he first met his Uncle Laban and his future wife, Rachel; where he slept on a rock for a pillow and saw the ladder going into heaven:
GENESIS 28:12-19 
12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. 16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. 17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. 18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
So, we see here in chapter 28 that Jacob set up those stones he slept on as a pillar and he poured oil on it, calling the place Bethel – “the House of GOD”. Jacob did this voluntarily.
In our current study, we witness GOD instructing Jacob to return to Bethel and commands him to build an altar there, and dwell there, and to get rid of all the idols that his family had. GOD reminds Jacob of the commitment he made to Him in GEN 28, and the LORD sees that there is a need for recommitment. Jacob drew near to the LORD when he found himself in trouble with Esau who threatened his life. Now he’s on peaceable terms with Esau and he’s also out from under the conniving influences of Laban his uncle.

Times are relatively good – and yet we see idols in his family. How often it can happen, when things are easier for us, and we can let things slide, allowing sin and compromise to have its way with us. At such times, the LORD calls us to our own Bethel – that sacred meeting place with the Almighty, where we need to commit our lives anew to the LORD our Maker and Savior.

Notice what GOD promised Jacob: That He will give him all the land from the north to the south, to the west and east, to him and his family, and that in his seed all the nations of the world will be blessed. This seed is not Jacob’s descendants in a general sense, though the Jewish people have been a blessing to the people of the Earth in more ways than one, but rather a single seed – a specific offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: the Son of Abraham, the Son of David the LORD JESUS CHRIST (MATT 1:1)!
Notice what else the LORD promises:

GENESIS 28:15 
And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest,

But what does Jacob say to his kin?

GENESIS 35:3
God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.

You see the difference? Jacob mentions that the LORD was with him in the way that he went, to Uncle Laban’s place and back again to Isaac and Rebekah, his parents. But the LORD is saying that He is going to keep him in ALL places where he goes!

This sort of reminds me of the days of the LORD Jesus’ preaching, when He asked Peter to take him away from the shore so that He could teach the people from his boat. And afterwards He told Peter to cast his nets (plural) into the water for a catch of fish. Peter tries to explain that he’s the professional fisherman, and that He is the professional preacher man! They’ve caught nothing all night, but to humor this preacher, he says that he will, at His word, let down the net (singular; LUKE 5:1-5).

How we can limit what the LORD wants to do, because of our small faith! Jacob’s faith is becoming strong, but it isn’t complete yet. Like the entirety of our Christian life, we are on a faith journey, where it’s growing, becoming stronger, more able to grab hold of the promises of GOD! And it’s also the place where we have to weed out those evil influences that hinder that spiritual growth, like Jacob’s family and their idols.

Jacob has heard the call of GOD, to return to Bethel and settle down – to build an altar to the LORD and worship – but to get rid of the idols at the same time. The LORD doesn’t want us, His children to be bound to other gods, to other loves, to other affections, to other pursuits that capture our passion – when it comes to the LORD GOD, He doesn’t want to be number One on a list of ten, He wants to be number One ON A LIST OF ONE!

Here is a lesson that had to be burned deeply into the heart of Jacob and his descendants – to have no false gods alongside the LORD, to be worshiped and served.

We know that the nation of Israel is going to be severely judged by GOD for this very thing: they didn’t for most of their history stop worshiping the LORD GOD of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – they just added a few extras … and it brought the wrath and judgment of GOD upon them!

When we seek for satisfaction elsewhere – in a career, in a relationship, in some other pursuit that we think is necessary in order for us to know fulfillment, that would take the place of our seeking GOD for satisfaction and fulfillment – that is an idol, and it must be struck down. Careers, relationships and the pursuit of other things aren’t sinful in themselves in most cases, but are they number 2, 3 and 4 after GOD is number 1? In the category of fulfillment, of godly purpose, of a life committed to the LORD GOD, there can only be One on that kind of list. Everything else goes on a separate list that is subordinate to this list of One – the LORD our GOD!

GENESIS 35:4-5
4 And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. 5 And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.

Not only were the gods discarded, buried in the earth, under an oak tree, but their garments – and their earrings (these also probably bore images of idolatry). This was the end of their time at Shechem where Jacob’s family’s conduct was far less than exemplary. But reformation is happening; these offenses are being buried under this oak tree, and this represents our sin being brought to Calvary’s tree, the cross of Christ, and these things are buried there and we consider ourselves dead to them, and they are dead to us – buried and forgotten as the dead things that they truly are. Sin always brings forth death – not only physical death, but destruction to our lives. These things need to be buried; the cross of Christ needs to stand over them in victory!

Notice that it’s after they recommit their lives anew to the LORD, that the inhabitants of the land, potential enemies to Jacob and his kin, were terrified of this man of GOD; while they witnessed the enormity of Jacob’s wealth as he crossed the land, they didn’t dare attempt to confiscate any of it or apprehend him and his family. We’re seeing the shield that the LORD spoke about here!

GENESIS 35:6-8
6 So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him. 7 And he built there an altar and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother. 8 But Deborah, Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth (“the oak of weeping”).

El Bethel, “the GOD of the House of GOD”. Saints, when GOD is truly GOD in the house of the LORD – and here I’m speaking to all the churches across this land, it is a blessing beyond any compare. However, when GOD is not GOD in the house of the LORD, it is an abomination! How can any church claim to be a spiritual El Bethel, when they downplay, disparage, discredit and disobey the very Word of GOD that He exalts above His own holy name?

How can you and I claim to be members in right standing, of El Bethel if we downplay, disparage, discredit and disobey the Word of GOD? Let us examine our hearts and lives and see if there is need to bury idols, things we treasure that are opposed to the holy will of GOD!

We see here this dear elderly lady, Deborah who was Jacob’s mother’s nurse, who was well beloved of Jacob and his family and passed away in Bethel and she likewise was buried under an oak tree, but here we see a foreshadowing of the hope of the resurrection after the cross, the hope of the promised seed that GOD made to Abraham, Isaac and now Jacob,

GENESIS 35:9-11
9 And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. 10 And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. 11 And God said unto him, I am God Almighty [El Shaddai]: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins:

The LORD once again pronounces a name-change for Jacob, saying that his name is now Israel (Remember He did this previously in Chapter 32). 
It’s interesting that GOD often will change people’s names in Scripture: Abram becomes Abraham (GEN 17:5), Sarai becomes Sarah (GEN 17:15); Simon Peter is renamed Cephas (JOHN 1:42); Saul becomes Paul the apostle (ACTS 13:9) and once the name is changed, it usually sticks – except in Jacob’s case. 

Look through the Scripture after GENESIS 32 and 35 and for the most part, he is still called Jacob, and occasionally he is referred to as Israel; the point is, when this man is operating in the flesh, he is Jacob, and when he is following after GOD by the Spirit he is called Israel; also when the LORD is preparing to do a work in this man – and his descendants, the name used is Israel (See 1 KINGS 18:36; 1 CHRON 29:18; 2 CHRON 30:6)!

Note in verse 11: there is a foretelling by GOD that not only will “a nation and a company of nations” will proceed from Jacob, but also kings – those would be the kings of Israel and Judah – but also the KING of Kings – and LORD of Lords! The promised seed that is Jesus, the son of Abraham, the son of David (MATT 1:1)!

GENESIS 35:12-15
12 And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.13 And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him. 14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon. 15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel.

Here is the first mention of what’s known as “a drink offering”. From GOTQUESTIONS.org we have the following article
“Drink offerings were also included with burnt and grain offerings in God-ordained sacrifices, including the morning and evening sacrifices of EXOD 29:40. One-quarter hin, (about one quart), of wine was poured out into the altar fire for each lamb sacrificed (NUM 15:4-5). A ram sacrifice required one third of a hin (NUM 15:6), and a bull required one half (NUM 15:10).

“It has been speculated that the offering of an animal, grain, oil, and wine—the smoke making a “soothing aroma to the LORD”—is a metaphor for providing food for God, an important cultural requirement in the Middle East. What we do know is that the pouring out of a drink offering is a metaphor for the blood Jesus spilled on the cross. Jesus spoke to this directly in LUKE 22:20 when He instituted the New Covenant. He picked up a cup of wine and said, “This cup which is poured out [“shed”] for you is the new covenant in My blood.” Jesus’ sacrifice fulfilled the need of a drink offering, His blood literally pouring out when the soldier pierced His side with a spear (JOHN 19:34).”

I would like to point out that in such an offering, a lamb or a ram was slain – and the LORD Jesus is our LAMB of GOD (JOHN 1:29, 36) ; the grain is also offered up in sacrifice and the LORD Jesus spoke of Himself being the seed that falls into the ground and dies, so that He may bring forth much fruit (JOHN 12:24), the oil which obviously is a type of the Holy Spirit (ZECH 4:2-6) as is the fire (HEB 12:29) that the sacrifice is made upon; and the wine, representative of the blood of Christ (MATT 26:28).

GENESIS 35:16-18
16 And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath*: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. 17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. 18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni [“son of my sorrow”]: but his father called him Benjamin [“son of my right hand”].

Ephrath will come to be known as Ephratha-Bethlehem, the place where the LORD Jesus was born, the same place where Benjamin is here born. Both of them were the “son[s] of sorrow” and the “son[s] of my right hand”. The LORD Jesus was indeed a man of sorrows, Who alone carried our burdens of sin and shame (ISAIAH 53:3), but because He so humbled Himself, even to the cross, the Father exalted Him above every name (EPH 1:20-23; PHIL 2:8-10), and indeed is the SON of HIS RIGHT HAND!

Interesting fact is that there were two Bethlehems when Jesus was born. So, which one was it?  The most famous Bethlehem is located in the hill country (approximately 2,500 feet above sea level) of Judah. Situated on the main highway to Egypt (which came in very useful just after the birth of Jesus Christ), it was known variously as Ephrath (GEN 35:16), Bethlehem Ephratah (MICAH 5:2), Bethlehem-Judah (1 SAM 17:12), and “the city of David” (LUKE 2:4). (King David was born in Bethlehem-Judah).
Bethlehem-Judah is in the south while the other Bethlehem is in the north near Nazareth.  Very interesting how God orchestrated this all together.
MICAH 5:2  
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
GENESIS 35:19-21
19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. 20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day. 21 And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar.

Note here the name change spoken of earlier: it states here that “Israel journeyed” indicating that he is walking as the spiritual man that GOD intends for him. Edar means “a tower over the flocks” – and this is the place of blessing for Jacob and his flock, that is his family. When we are following after the LORD His blessings and protection are ours; He is our shield, our high tower, our refuge – He is our Savior!
2 SAMUEL 22:2-4  
2 And he said, The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; 3 The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence. 4 I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
GENESIS 35:22-25
22 And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve: 23 The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun [6]: 24 The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin [2]: 25 And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali [2]: 26 And the sons of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid: Gad, and Asher [2]: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram.

Reuben attempted to usurp Jacob’s place as the patriarch of the family by taking Bilhah his father’s concubine, but the attempt failed – and more so, Jacob when pronouncing prophecies over his children later on, on his deathbed has some serious statements of demotion upon Reuben, who was legally his first born but was not honored by his father!

Looking over the children of Jacob, we see that half of them came from Leah, and only two from Rachel – on par with the two handmaids Bilhah and Zilpah (two each). Of all these children, the most notable are Judah, Levi and Joseph. Judah, because from him will proceed the ruling tribe of kings of Israel, and particularly Jesus, the son of Mary, the Son of David; Levi, because from him will proceed the priesthood of the Tabernacle and the Temple; Joseph, because from him we learn of all the ways in which he, by biblical type, represents Christ; there are dozens of examples of this comparison between Joseph and Christ!

GENESIS 35:27-29
27 And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned. 28 And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years. 29 And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

So, we see the end of the life of Isaac, the end of Abraham’s life before him; Jacob and Esau are now getting on in years and in a couple more chapters the focus on the Scriptures will shift from Jacob to Joseph – and that focus will continue to the end of the book of GENESIS 50. Jacob at the end pronounces various prophecies over all twelve of his sons, which will direct our focus on to many subjects that are found throughout Scripture.

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