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