Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Genesis
Book: Genesis
Chapter: 35

God commands Jacob to go to Beth-el, He puts away idols from
his family. (1-5) Jacob builds an Altar, Death of Deborah, God
blesses Jacob. (6-15) Death of Rachel. (16-20) Reuben's crime,
The Death of Isaac. (21-29)

1-5 Beth-el was forgotten. But as many as God loves, he will
remind of neglected duties, one way or other, By Conscience or
By providences. When we have vowed a vow to God, it is best not
to defer the payment of it; yet better late than never. Jacob
commanded his household to prepare, not only for the Journey and
removal, but for religious services. Masters of families should
use their authority to keep up religion in their families, Jos
24:15. They must Put away strange gods. In families where there
is a Face of religion, and an Altar to God, yet many times there
is much amiss, and more strange gods than one would suppose.
They must be Clean, and change their garments. These were but
outward ceremonies, signifying the purifying and change of the
Heart. What are Clean clothes, and new clothes, without a Clean
Heart, and a new Heart? If Jacob had called for these idols
sooner, they had parted with them sooner. Sometimes attempts for
reformation succeed better than we could have thought. Jacob
buried their images. We must be wholly separated from our sins,
as we are from those that are dead and buried out of sight. He
removed from Shechem to Beth-el. Though the Canaanites were very
angry against the sons of Jacob for their barbarous usage of the
Shechemites, yet they were So kept back By Divine power, that
they could not take the opportunity now offered to avenge them.
The way of duty is the way of safety. When we are about God's
work, we are under special protection; God is with us, while we
are with him; and if He be for us, who can be against us? God
governs the world more By secret terrors On men's minds than we
are aware of.

6-15 The comfort the saints have in holy ordinances, is not So
much from Beth-el, the House of God, as from El-Beth-el, the God
of the House. The ordinances are empty things, if we do not meet
with God in them. There Jacob buried Deborah, Rebekah's nurse.
She died much lamented. Old servants in a family, that have in
their time been Faithful and useful, ought to be respected. God
appeared to Jacob. He renewed the Covenant with him. I am God
Almighty, God all-sufficient, able to make good the promise in
due time, and to support thee and provide for thee in the mean
time. Two things are promised; that he should be the Father of a
great nation, and that he should be the master of a good land.
These two promises had a spiritual signification, which Jacob
had some notion of, though not So clear and distinct as we now
have. Christ is the promised Seed, and Heaven is the promised
land; the former is the foundation, and the latter the
top-Stone, of all God's favours.

16-20 Rachel had passionately said, Give me children, or else I
die; and now that she had children, she died! The Death of the
body is but the departure of the soul to the world of spirits.
When shall we learn that it is God alone who really knows what
is best for his people, and that in all worldly affairs the
safest path for the Christian is to say from the Heart, It is
the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good. Here alone is our
safety and our comfort, to know No will but his. Her dying lips
called her newborn son Ben-oni, the son of my sorrow; and many a
son proves to be the heaviness of her that bare him. Children
are enough the sorrow of their mothers; they should, therefore,
when they grow up, study to be their joy, and So, if possible,
to make them some amends. But Jacob, because he would not renew
the sorrowful remembrance of the mother's Death every time he
called his son, changed his name to Benjamin, the son of my
right Hand: that is, very dear to me; the support of my Age,
like the staff in my right Hand.

21-29 What a sore affliction Reuben's Sin was, is shown, " and
Israel heard it." No more is said, but that is enough. Reuben
thought that his Father would never hear of it; but those that
promise themselves secrecy in Sin, are generally disappointed.
The Age and Death of Isaac are recorded, though he died not till
after Joseph was sold into Egypt. Isaac lived about forty years
after he had made his will, chap. 27:2. We shall not die an
Hour the sooner, but much the better, for timely setting our
hearts and houses in order. Particular notice is taken of the
agreement of Esau and Jacob at their Father's Funeral, to show
how God had wonderfully changed Esau's mind. It is awful to
behold relations, sometimes for a little of this world's goods,
disputing over the graves of their friends, while they are near
going to the Grave themselves.