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Monday, March 26 2012

The God Of Bethel

Sometimes, a single occurrence can produce a cascade of events throughout history and prophecy. Numerous effects (such as the birth of all but one of the twelve fathers of the tribes of Israel in Syria, rather than in "Israel") and even places (such as Bethel, the topic of this study) were produced or created by the parting of Jacob and Esau.

Jacob and Esau were twin brothers (fraternal - definitely not identical, in appearance or personality) who were in competition with each other before they were even born. After their birth, the strife was further complicated by parental favoritism i.e. their father Isaac "loved Esau," but their mother Rebekah "loved Jacob."

Jacob and Esau

"25:21 And Isaac entreated the LORD [see Appearances Of The LORD God] for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 25:22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD.

25:23 And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

25:24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25:25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. 25:26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them.

25:27 And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. 25:28 And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob." (Genesis 25:21-28 KJV)

After Jacob had bested Esau for both the birthright and blessing, Esau planned to kill Jacob - or at least provoke a confrontation where he could claim self defense (outright murder would presumably have affected his claim to the birthright and blessing). When their mother Rebekah heard of it, she arranged for Jacob to flee to her hometown and family in Syria (see The Syrian Marriage Wells), where Abraham had lived during his two-stage journey from his native land in Iraq (see The Journey From Ur Of The Chaldees).

"27:41 And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.

27:42 And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. 27:43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran; 27:44 And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away; 27:45 Until thy brother's anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?

27:46 And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?" (Genesis 27:41-46 KJV)

Isaac agreed to Jacob's leaving, while at the same time recognizing that Jacob would return, so "that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham."

"28:1 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan [see also The Sin Of Canaan]. 28:2 Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother. 28:3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; 28:4 And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham. 28:5 And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padanaram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother." (Genesis 28:1-5 KJV)

"I am the God of Bethel"

Jacob had a long journey, from Beersheba in the south of the country that would later be named after Jacob (the LORD at that point hadn't yet renamed him as "Israel"), far north into what is today (and then) called Syria. The journey could not be completed in a single day, so Jacob "lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set." It was there, that night, that Jacob had his famous "stairway to heaven" (or "ladder to heaven") dream. Jacob didn't just see "angels of God ascending and descending on it." The LORD also appeared and spoke to Jacob i.e. "the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac."

Jacob's Dream

"28:10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. 28:11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. 28:12 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.

28:13 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; 28:14 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. 28:15 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." (Genesis 28:10-15 KJV)

The next morning, Jacob established one of the most well-known places of Bible History - Bethel, from the Hebrew compound word which means House of God.

"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.

28:18 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. 28:19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first." (Genesis 28:16-19 KJV)

Jacob then also prayed that the LORD would grant "so that I come again to my father's house in peace." That prayer would be answered in due time, about twenty years later, upon Jacob's return through Bethel.

Syria

"28:20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 28:21 So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: 28:22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." (Genesis 28:20-22 KJV)

Jacob remained with his uncle Laban, the brother of his mother Rebekah, for a little over twenty years. During that time the LORD blessed Jacob with a large family and the necessary means to provide for them. When the establishment of the family (a "nation") that would become a country was completed, the LORD commanded Jacob to return to where Jacob's prayer would be answered: "I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred."

"31:2 And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before.

31:3 And the LORD said unto Jacob, Return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred; and I will be with thee.

31:4 And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, 31:5 And said unto them, I see your father's countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me. 31:6 And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. 31:7 And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me. 31:8 If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstreaked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstreaked. 31:9 Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me.

31:10 And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstreaked, speckled, and grisled. 31:11 And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. 31:12 And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstreaked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee. 31:13 I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred." (Genesis 31:2-13 KJV)

Then, as he was about to cross the Jordan in the area of the Jabbok River, the LORD changed Jacob's name to "Israel" (see the Fact Finder question for a photograph of the area today). It was a fulfillment of a journey that effectively began and ended at "the house of God."

Bethel Map

"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.

35:2 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: 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. 35:4 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. 35:5 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.

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.

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.

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.

35:11 And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; 35:12 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. 35:13 And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.

35:14 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. 35:15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel." (Genesis 35:1-15 KJV)

Fact Finder: Where was Jacob's name changed to "Israel"?
See Where Jacob Became Israel


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This Day In History, March 26

1026: Pope John XIX crowned Conrad II as Holy Roman Emperor (see Emperors and Popes).

1780: The British Gazette and Sunday Monitor, the first Sunday newspaper in Britain, was published.

1799: Napoleon Bonaparte captured Jaffa, Israel (see also A History Of Jerusalem: Constantine and Muhammad).

1827: Ludwig von Beethoven, German composer, one of the greatest composers in history, died. He wrote many of his finest works after he had become totally deaf.

1917: British cavalry fought Ottoman/Turkish forces at the Battle of Gaza (see A History Of Jerusalem: The British Mandate).

1921: The racing schooner Bluenose was launched at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Captained by Angus Walters, it raced 5 times for the North American fisherman's championships and was never beaten. It also served as a working fishing boat. Sold during the Second World War, it was wrecked near Haiti in 1946. It is commemorated on the Canadian dime.

1938: Herman Goering (one of Adolf Hitler's henchmen) warned all Jews to leave Austria.

1942: Under orders from Adolf Hitler (see Presidential Quotes On War, Terrorism, Religion), the Nazis began transporting Jews to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, Poland.

1953: Dr. Jonas Salk announced a new vaccine against polio.

1971: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared East Pakistan the independent republic of Bangladesh.

1973: President Anwar Sadat of Egypt took over the premiership, saying, "the stage of total confrontation [with Israel] has become inevitable."

1979: At the White House, Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt signed the Camp David peace treaty to end 30 years of war between the two countries.

1997: Police in Rancho Santa Fe, California, discovered 39 people (18 men, 21 women) of a cult (see Is Your Church A Cult?) who committed suicide in a rented mansion; indications were that after death they were expecting to be picked up by a spaceship that their leader told them was following Comet Hale-Bopp that was then visible.





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