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Jacob's Return To Bethel
Jacob had been at Bethel at least once before, while fleeing north from his brother Esau (see Blessing The Favorites, Why Did Esau Lose The Blessing? and Cain and Esau). It was at that time that Jacob renamed Luz as Bethel.
"28:16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. 28:17 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 [see Heavens Below, Heavens Above].
After his return home over twenty years later (two decades that were hardly free of danger and conflict - see Jacob And Laban's Witness Heap and Dinah and Shechem), the LORD commanded Jacob to return to Bethel and dwell there.
"35:1 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." (Genesis 35:1 KJV)
"Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel"
When Jacob and his family (see Jacob's Family) had fled from Laban, Jacob's wife Rachel had stolen her father Laban's household idols and kept them after Laban's search failed to find them (Genesis 31:19,34). Rachel apparently still had them after they arrived in the land of Israel, but she was not the only one i.e. "35:2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you" (Genesis 35:3 KJV).
"35:2 Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you [see "Thou shalt not make any graven image"], and be clean, and change your garments: 35:3 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 [see Jacob's Vow At Bethel].
Upon his arrival at Bethel (note from the above verses that the LORD was then directly protecting Jacob i.e. "the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob"), Jacob built an altar and named it Elbethel which in Hebrew means God of the House Of God (see El and Beth).
"35:6 So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him. 35:7 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." (Genesis 35:6-7 KJV)
Incidentally, not long after, Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died. Many years before, Deborah had accompanied Rebekah when she left home in Padan-aram to marry Jacob's father Isaac (Genesis 24:59). The time of Rebekah's death is not recorded in the Scriptures.
"35:8 But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth." (Genesis 35:8 KJV)
The LORD then reiterated His promise of blessings for Jacob (not for Jacob's sake, but for the Messianic line that flowed through Jacob - see the Fact Finder question below).
"35:9 And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. 35:10 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 [see The Origin Of 'Israel'].
Fact Finder: (a) Who was "the LORD God" that spoke to Jacob? (b) Is Jacob, who the LORD renamed as Israel, a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ?