Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Genesis Chapter 35 ~ Israel, the Nation of God's Christ

Genesis Chapter 35

God then told Jacob to go to Bethel and settle there, and to make an altar there to the God who appeared to him when he fled from Esau (35:1). Jacob told his household to put away their foreign gods and to change clothes and they did, burying the gods and their earrings beneath a terebinth tree at Shechem. Then they went up to Bethel so that he could, "make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone." (35:3)

As they travelled a terror from God fell on the cities around them causing them to leave Jacob's family alone. Jacob then came to Luz (also called Bethel), in Canaan. He named the place he built an altar El-bethel (meaning "God of Bethel"), because God appeared to him there when he fled Esau. Deborah, Rebekah's nurse died and they buried her under an oak tree there and called it Allon-bacuth (meaning "oak of weeping"). 

God again appeared to Jacob when he came from Paddan-aram and He blessed him. God said this to Jacob: 
"10 Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name . . . 11 I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you."
After this God went up from him, and Jacob set a pillar of stone there, he poured out a drink offering and oil on it, and he called the place Bethel.

Rachel and Isaac Die
They then journeyed from Bethel and while still a distance from Ephrath (also Bethlehem), Rachel went into a hard labor, and her midwife told her not to fear, for she had another son. Then, as Rachel was dying, she called him Ben-oni (meaning "son of my sorrow" or "son of my strength"). Jacob called him Benjamin (meaning "son of the right hand"). Rachel then died and she was buried on the way to Ephrath. Jacob the set a pillar over her tomb, and then journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of EderWhen Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah (Israel's concubine), and Israel heard of this. (35:22)

So Jacob/Israel had 12 sons in Paddan-aram:
  • Reuben (Jacob's firstborn)
  • Simeon
  • Levi
  • Judah
  • Issacar
  • Zebulun
  • Joseph
  • Benjamin
Bilhah (Rachel's servant):
  • Dan
  • Naphtali
Zilpah (Leah's servant):
  • Gad
  • Asher
Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre (also called "Kiriath-arba" or "Hebron"), where Abraham and Isaac sojourned. Isaac lived to 180 years old and he died, and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. Jacob and Esau buried him.

Reflections on Genesis 35
After the events of chapter 34 God reminds Jacob of His command to go to Bethel to worship Him there, and Jacob leads his family in obedience. While traveling the cities around them were afraid of them, because of Yahweh's choice of Jacob's family. Note though, that Jacob, Simeon, and Levi didn't strike this fear into the Canaanites' hearts, God did! Moses recorded it as, "a terror from God." Jacob's family had not become a "stench" to the people as he had feared, but because of God's sovereign choice to bless Jacob's family the people feared God, and were terrified. Jacob's beloved wife, Rachel, dies giving birth to their son Benjamin.

In verses 9 through 11 God appeared to Jacob and re-established His covenant with him. As Isaac dies in this chapter God's covenantal blessing passes on to Jacob, and in the re-establishment of the covenant God reminds Jacob that He has a new name. Not a name that men have given him, but a name that re-orients him to both God and men. Jacob's identity is no longer defined by his striving after his brother Esau and other men. Jacob's identity is no longer defined by what he does or chooses, but by what God has decreed, chosen, and done for him. God is defining Jacob's very being. Jacob doesn't belong to men, he doesn't belong to even himself. No, Jacob belongs to Yahweh, and He is reminding him of this by stamping him with a new name, Israel. It's as if Yahweh is saying, "Jacob, you are mine now. This truth now defines you, this is your identity, 'I AM' your identity!"

Then, after God re-affirms Jacob's new covenantal name He re-establishes one of the covenant obligations that He established in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, "be fruitful and multiply." (vs. 11) Yahweh, then promises Jacob/Israel that nations and kings will come from him, and that Abraham and Isaac's land, Canaan/Israel, will be given to him and his offspring. Ka-Boom! God's Messiah is going to come from the nation of Israel, and somehow God's promised land of Canaan is going to have something to do with it. Nations, and kings will come from Jacob/Israel.

While following the genealogical chain of God's chosen seed to crush the head of the serpent, there have been many times that doubts have arisen that God will make good on His promise. But here, in this re-establishment of God's covenant with Jacob/Israel we see that Jacob/Israel is a type, a new Adam, a new head of the chosen nation, through whom He will bring a Messiah. Israel is more than just a name, it is the beginning of a nation. Jacob is the federal/representative head of a new nation, Israel. God's decree was to bring a Savior through Adam, but he and his posterity fell into sin. God poured out His judgment in the flood, but established Noah as a new father of a people through whom a Messiah would come. In Abraham we saw that God was narrowing down the family through whom the Christ would come, then it narrows even more in Isaac's children, and now in Jacob's. The "Christ" would come through one of Jacob's children, and God is sovereignly choosing Israel to be His people, in this re-establishment. This is also indicated in the listing out of all of Jacob's sons at the end of chapter 35. God is building a nation, Israel; and it is in one of the sons of Jacob (which would be Israel's "tribes") that God will bring His Christ! The rest of Genesis continues to set up this picture of this people through whom God will reveal Himself to the nations and display His glory. Genesis 35 acts as a hinge to this door that is opening up to display the people that God will continue to work out His plan of redemption through.

Jesus Christ is this Messiah, and ultimately He is the true second Adam. Where Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel fail, Jesus succeeds! None of these chosen men could reverse the curse of death and eternal punishment in hell for sin. God's Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, the second person of the Trinity, very God in the flesh; only He could save a people from the world, the flesh, the devil, and the wrath of Yahweh. Praise God that even here in Genesis 35 Yahweh is holding firm to His promise to provide a Messiah, so that by faith in Jesus Christ alone, even I, as a Gentile, can be counted as a son of God. By faith we are Jesus Christ's, and if we are Christ's then we are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:28-29).

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