God tells Jacob to return
v1 Laban’s sons said, ‘Jacob has taken all that belonged to our father. He has gained all his wealth from our father.’ People told Jacob what Laban’s sons had said. v2 And Jacob saw that Laban was not pleased with him. Laban was not friendly with Jacob as he had been before. v3 Then the *Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the country where your fathers and your relatives have lived. And I will be with you.’
Jacob had left the country that is called *Canaan 20 years before this time. Jacob’s mother Rebekah had promised to tell Jacob when he should return. (See Genesis 27:45.) But she did not tell him. Perhaps she had already died at this time. But God told Jacob that he should return.
v4 So Jacob called Rachel and Leah. They came into the field where his animals were. v5 And Jacob said to them, ‘Your father is not pleased with me as he was before. But my father’s God has been with me. v6 You know that I have served your father with all my strength. v7 But your father has cheated me. He has changed my wages 10 times. However, God did not permit him to have any bad effect on me. v8 Sometimes your father said, “The spotty animals shall be your wages.” Then all the animals that were born were spotty. And sometimes he said, “The stripey animals shall be your wages.” Then all the animals that were born were stripey. v9 So God has taken your father’s animals and he has given them to me.’
If they spoke in the house, someone might hear them. Someone might hear what they said. So they spoke in the field, where nobody else could hear them.
This was only partly true. Initially, Jacob had served Laban well. But for many years, Jacob had served himself more than he had served Laban. And Jacob had cheated Laban.
Jacob complained that Laban cheated him. But Jacob cheated Laban more than Laban cheated Jacob.
‘He has changed my wages 10 times.’ Jacob was not right when he complained like this. Jacob suggested what his own wages should be. (See Genesis 30:31-32.) Laban changed Jacob’s wages only once. (See Genesis 29:26-28. Laban agreed that Jacob’s wages for his first 7 years was marriage to Rachel. Laban changed this and he made it marriage to Leah.)
What Jacob said in verse 8 is not true. But God had shown Jacob how to gain animals from Laban. So what Jacob said in verse 9 is partly true.
v10 And Jacob said to Rachel and Leah, ‘In the season when the animals mate, I saw the animals in a dream. The male goats that mated in my dream were stripey and spotty. v11 Then God’s *angel spoke to me in the dream. He said, “Jacob!” And I said, “I am here!” v12 And he said, “Look! All the male goats that mate are stripey and spotty. I have seen all that Laban has done to you. v13 I am the God of Bethel. Remember Bethel, where you poured oil on a tall stone. There you made a firm promise to me. Now set out and leave this country. Return to the country where you were born.” ’
God showed to Jacob how he could cheat Laban. This does not mean that to cheat is right. But Jacob and Laban were already cheating each other. And God intended that Jacob should gain wives and children and wealth. So God caused this to happen.
God changed Jacob’s character so that he did not cheat. But God did not do this suddenly. He did it slowly during many years.
‘You poured oil on a tall stone.’ Jacob did that during his journey from *Canaan to Laban’s home. (See Genesis 28:18.)
v14 Then Rachel and Leah answered Jacob, ‘We have no place to live in our father’s house. v15 He thinks that we are foreigners. He has sold us. He has spent all the money that belonged to us. v16 All the property that God has taken from our father belongs to us. It belongs to us and to our children. Therefore do whatever God has said to you.’
‘He has spent all the money that belonged to us.’ Jacob had worked for Laban for 14 years. Jacob’s wages were marriage to Leah and to Rachel. So the value of Jacob’s work was the marriage gift. (See Genesis 34:12 and the comment.) Laban should have kept a part of that for Leah and Rachel. But Laban had used it for himself. He cheated his own daughters.
v17 So Jacob put his sons and his wives on camels and he set out. v18 He took all his animals that he had gained. He had gained them while he was in that district, Paddan-aram. He set out and he started to go to his father Isaac. He set out for the country that is called *Canaan.
v19 Laban went out into the field to cut the wool from his sheep. And while Laban was out, Rachel stole her father’s gods. v20 Jacob did not tell Laban that he intended to go away. So he cheated Laban, the man from Aram. v21 He ran away with all that he possessed. He set out and he crossed the river Euphrates. He travelled to the hilly region that is called Gilead.
Jacob did not take animals that belonged to Laban. He took his own animals. He had gained them by his agreement with Laban. (See Genesis 30:34.)
‘Rachel stole her father’s gods.’ These were small models of human shapes. Perhaps they were wooden or perhaps they were like pots. They were models of false gods. Perhaps Rachel thought that the gods would bring good luck to her during the journey. Or perhaps she stole them because they were valuable. She did not tell Jacob that she had taken them. (We know that from verse 32.)
Gilead is east of the country that is called *Canaan. Gilead is east of the river Jordan.
Laban chases Jacob
v22 Two days later, people told Laban that Jacob had run away. v23 So Laban set out and he took his relatives with him. He pursued Jacob for 7 days. He followed him to the hilly region that is called Gilead. v24 But God appeared to Laban the man from Aram at night. God spoke to Laban in a dream. He said, ‘Do not say anything to Jacob. Do not say good things or bad things.’ v25 And Laban came to the place where Jacob was. Jacob had put his tent in the hilly region that is called Gilead. Laban with his relatives put their tents in the same region.
v26 And Laban said to Jacob, ‘You did not need to cheat me! You should not have carried off my daughters like prisoners that an army takes. v27 You did wrong when you ran away secretly. And you should have told me. I would have sent you away with happiness and songs and music. v28 And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters? I would have said goodbye to them. You have done a foolish thing. v29 I have the power to hurt you. But your father’s God spoke to me last night. He said, “Do not say anything to Jacob. Do not say good things or bad things.” v30 Now you greatly desire to be in your father’s house. Therefore, you have gone away. But you should not have stolen my gods.’
Laban was away from his home because he was cutting the wool from his sheep. That took several days because there were many sheep. Jacob chose this time to set out. So Laban did not know immediately that Jacob had gone. Therefore, Jacob could travel a long way before Laban came to him.
Laban pretended that he was friendly and generous to Jacob. But Jacob did not trust Laban. And Jacob was wise not to trust Laban.
‘I would have sent you away.’ Probably Laban would not have let Jacob take all his wealth and his animals with him. But God let Jacob escape safely. God did two things. He told Jacob to leave secretly. (See verse 3.) And he spoke to Laban in a dream. (See verse 29.)
(For ‘my gods’ see verse 19 and the comment.)
v31 Jacob answered Laban, ‘I went because I was afraid. I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force.’
v32 Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen Laban’s gods. So he said, ‘Search for your gods. If any one has them here, that person shall not live. Show us any of your possessions that we have. Show it to us and take it.’ v33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent. He went into Leah’s tent. He went into the tent of the two maids. But he did not find the gods. And he went out of Leah’s tent and he entered Rachel’s tent.
v34 Now Rachel had put the gods in the camel’s saddle and she sat on them. Laban searched everywhere in the tent, but he did not find them. v35 And Rachel said to her father, ‘Let not my master be angry because I cannot stand in front of you. The thing that happens to women is happening to me.’ So Laban searched, but he did not find the gods.
Jacob did not believe that any of his people had the gods. He did not think that any of Laban’s possessions were in his camp. Otherwise he would not have said, ‘That person shall not live.’
Perhaps what Rachel said about herself was true. Or perhaps she lied to her father Laban.
v36 Then Jacob was angry and he accused Laban. Jacob said to Laban, ‘Tell me what wrong deed I have done. You pursued me as one pursues a criminal. Tell me what my crime is. v37 Now you have searched through all my possessions. You searched for anything that is yours. If you have found anything, put it here in front of my relatives and in front of your relatives. They shall say which of us two is right. v38 For 20 years I have been with you. Your female sheep and your female goats have not lost their young ones. I have not eaten your male sheep. v39 When wild animals killed a sheep or a goat, I did not tell you. The loss was mine. You demanded that I should pay for it. I paid for all that I lost in the day or at night. v40 It was always the same. In the day, I suffered from the heat and at night, I suffered from the cold. I was not able to sleep.’
v41 Jacob continued, ‘For 20 years I have been in your house. I served you for 14 years for your two daughters. I served you for 6 years for your animals. And you have changed my wages 10 times. v42 But God is my father’s God. He is Abraham’s God. He is Isaac’s God. He helped me. If he had not done so, you would certainly have sent me away with no possessions. God saw my trouble and my labour. And he showed his decision to you last night.’
Most of what Jacob said was right. But Jacob had cheated Laban and he did not say that.
‘You have changed my wages 10 times.’ Jacob was not right when he said that. (See the comment on verse 7.)
‘He is Isaac’s God.’ The actual *Hebrew words mean ‘Isaac’s fear’. That means the God who caused Isaac to have fear. God showed his great power to Isaac and therefore Isaac was afraid. Verse 53 uses the same *Hebrew words. That verse says, ‘Jacob made a firm promise by the God of his father Isaac.’ The actual *Hebrew words mean ‘by the fear of his father Isaac’.
Jacob and Laban agree
v43 Then Laban answered Jacob. He said, ‘The daughters are my daughters. The children are my children. The animals are my animals. All that you see is mine. But I can do nothing to these daughters who are mine. And I can do nothing to their children. v44 Let us make a firm agreement. And let there be a sign of the agreement between you and me.’
v45 So Jacob chose a large stone. He put it so that it stood up. v46 And Jacob said to his relatives, ‘Gather stones.’ So they took stones and they made a heap. And they ate a meal there by the heap.
Laban said that Leah and Rachel and their children were still his. That was not true. And he said that Jacob’s animals belonged to him, Laban. That also was not true. Laban might have said, ‘Your wives were my daughters. Your family came from my family.’ And he might have said, ‘The animals came from my animals. All that you see came from my possessions.’ That would have been true. But these things did not still belong to Laban. When Jacob took things from Laban, he took them with Laban’s agreement.
The tall stone and the heap were signs of the agreement that Jacob and Laban had made. If either of them passed that place (see verse 52), they would see the signs. The signs would remind them about the agreement. Also, when they were far from that place, they would remember the signs. They would remember that they had made the signs. And they would remember the *offering and the meal. (See verse 54.) That too would remind them of the agreement.
v47 Laban called that place Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. v48 Laban said, ‘This heap is now a sign of the agreement between you and me.’ That is the reason why they called it Galeed. v49 Laban called the tall stone Mizpah. He said, ‘Let the *Lord be a guard between you and me, when we are absent from each other. v50 If you do evil things to my daughters, God will see. If you take other wives in addition to my daughters, God will see. Although nobody is with us, God is a witness between you and me.’
‘Jegar-sahadutha’ means ‘the heap that is a sign’. It is in the Aramaic language. The inhabitants of the region that is called Paddan-aram spoke the Aramaic language. Haran, where Laban lived, is in Paddan-aram. ‘Galeed’ also means ‘the heap that is a sign’. It is in the *Hebrew language. These two languages were similar. People who knew one language could usually understand the other language.
‘Mizpah’ means ‘a place to watch’ or ‘a look-out’.
This verse tells us the reason why Laban made an agreement with Jacob. He was anxious about his daughters, Leah and Rachel. He did not know whether Jacob would deal fairly with them. Laban forgot that he himself did not deal fairly with Jacob.
v51 Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘See this heap. See the tall stone that I have put between you and me. v52 This heap is a sign and the tall stone is a sign. I will not pass this heap to go to you for an evil purpose. And you will not pass this heap and this tall stone to come to me for an evil purpose. v53 Let God be a judge between us. He is Abraham’s God and he is Nahor’s God.’ So Jacob made a firm promise by the God of his father Isaac.
Laban said that he set up the heap and the stone. That was not true. Jacob and his relatives set them up. (See verses 45-46.)
Jacob made a firm promise to Laban. And when he made that firm promise, he used the words ‘by God’. Jacob meant that God heard his promise. Jacob had promised to do certain things. And God would know whether Jacob did those things. So Jacob meant that his promise was absolutely firm.
God said a similar thing to Abraham. He said, ‘By myself I have made a firm promise.’ (See Genesis 22:16 and the comment.)
Jesus said that it is better not to make promises ‘by God’. It is better to make ordinary promises. We should always do the things that we have promised. If we do that, we do not need to say ‘by God’. (See Matthew 5:33-37.)
(For ‘the God of his father Isaac’ see the comment on verse 42.)
v54 Jacob killed an animal there in the hilly region. He gave part of it as an *offering to God. And he invited his relatives and they ate a meal. They stayed there for the whole night. v55 Laban got up early in the morning. He kissed his grandchildren and his daughters. Then he blessed them. And he set out and he returned to his home.
Jacob burned part of the animal. That was the part that was an *offering to God. The rest of the animal was the meat for the meal. By the *offering, Jacob thanked God. He thanked God for the things that God had done for him.
Jacob prepares to meet Esau
v1 Jacob continued his journey. God’s *angels met him v2 and Jacob saw them. He said, ‘This is God’s army!’ So he called that place Mahanaim.
v3 Jacob sent some of his servants to take a message to his brother Esau. They went before Jacob to Esau. Esau was in the region that is called Seir. It is in the country that is called Edom. v4 Jacob said to the servants, ‘Say, “This is what your servant Jacob says to my master Esau: I have stayed with Laban until now. v5 I have cows, *donkeys, sheep, servants and maids. I have sent this message to my master so that you may be pleased with me.” ’
v6 And the *messengers returned to Jacob. They said, ‘We came to your brother Esau. He comes to meet you. He brings 400 men with him.’ v7 Then Jacob was greatly afraid. He divided those that were with him into two groups. He divided the people and the sheep and the cows and the camels. v8 He thought, ‘If Esau kills one group, the other group will escape.’
God’s *angels did not give any message to Jacob, but Jacob saw them. So Jacob knew that God was guarding him. ‘Mahanaim’ means ‘two armies’ or ‘two camps’. Perhaps he meant God’s army and his own people. His own people were not strong enough to defend themselves against Esau. But if God’s army camped round him, he was safe.
Many years after this time, Elisha saw God’s army. He too knew that God was guarding him. (See 2 Kings 6:15-17.)
‘Edom’ was another name for Esau. ‘Edom’ also means Esau’s *descendants. And it also means the country where they lived. This country is south and east of *Canaan.
Jacob did not know whether Esau was friendly to him or not. Perhaps Esau was bringing 400 men so as to kill Jacob and all his people.
v9 And Jacob said, ‘God of my father Abraham! God of my father Isaac! You said to me, “Return to your country and to your relatives. I will do good things to you.” v10 I do not deserve any of the great love that you have shown to me, your servant. When I crossed this river Jordan, my only possession was my stick. But now because of your care I have become two groups of people and animals. v11 Please save me from my brother Esau. I am afraid of him. I am afraid that he will kill us all. He will kill the mothers and the children. v12 But you said, “I will do good to you. I will make your *descendants as many as the sand of the sea. The sand is many tiny pieces and nobody can count them.” ’
Jacob was greatly afraid. (See verse 7.) But he had learned to trust God. So he prayed. These are the parts of his prayer. We might use them as a pattern for our own prayers.
· He speaks to God. He says, ‘My father’s God’. We might say, ‘Our father in heaven’.
· He repeats God’s promise. (See the end of verse 9.)
· He tells God that he does not deserve anything. (See verse 10.)
· He thanks God for his gifts. (He says, ‘your care’, in verse 10.)
· He asks God for what he needs. (He says, ‘Please save me’, in verse 11)
· He repeats God’s promise again. (See verse 12.)
‘You said to me, “Return.” ‘ (See Genesis 31:3.)
God said these words to Abraham. (See Genesis 22:17.) He said a similar thing to Jacob but he mentioned dust instead of sand. (See Genesis 28:14.) But the meaning is the same.
v13 So Jacob stayed there that night. And he chose from his possessions a gift for his brother Esau. v14 He took 200 female goats. He took 20 male goats. He took 200 female sheep. He took 20 male sheep. v15 He took 30 female camels and their young camels. He took 40 female cows and 10 male cows. He took 20 female *donkeys and 10 male *donkeys. v16 These animals were in separate groups. He gave them to his servants. And he said to his servants, ‘Go on before me. Let there be a space between one group and another group.’
Jacob chose the gift after he had prayed. That was the right thing to do. We should pray before we decide. Perhaps God will answer our prayer by helping us to make the right decision.
Jacob believed that God would protect him. But he also did sensible things so that Esau would accept him. These were the effects of the gifts.
· They showed to Esau that Jacob wanted to be friendly.
· They showed to Esau that Jacob respected Esau. Notice that Jacob used the words ‘master’ and ‘servant’ in verse 18.
Jacob behaved to Esau as one behaves to an older brother. Jacob had taken from Esau the right of the oldest son. (See Genesis 25:33.) Jacob had also taken from Esau his father’s *blessing. (See Genesis 27:27.) But these gifts showed to Esau that Jacob was not proud. Jacob did not say, ‘I was the younger son but I became the oldest. My father made me the head of the family. So I am better than Esau.’ Instead, he showed that he respected Esau.
v17 Jacob *commanded the servant who had the first group. He said, ‘Esau my brother will meet you. He will ask you, “Whose servant are you? Where do you go? And whose are these animals that are in front of you?” v18 You shall say, “They belong to your servant Jacob. He has sent them as a gift to his master Esau. And your servant Jacob is behind us.” ’
v19 Jacob said the same words to the servants who had the second and the third groups. And he said the same words to all those who followed the animals. He said, ‘You shall say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. v20 And you shall say, “And your servant Jacob is behind us.” ’ Jacob thought, ‘I may make him pleased with me by this gift. The gift goes before me and afterwards I shall meet him. Perhaps he will be friendly with me.’
v21 So the animals that were a gift went on in front of Jacob. And Jacob himself stayed in his tent that night.
Jacob’s servants gave messages to Esau. The messages told Esau that Jacob was friendly to him. And Esau had enough time to think about those messages before he met Jacob.
Jacob fights with God
v22 During the night, Jacob got up. He crossed the stream that is called the Jabbok. He took his two wives. He took his two maids. He took his 11 children. v23 And he made them cross the stream. He made everything that he had cross the stream. v24 Then Jacob remained alone. And a man struggled with him until the day came.
v25 The man saw that he did not win against Jacob. So he touched the side of Jacob’s leg. Jacob discovered that he could not use his leg. But he continued to struggle. v26 Then the man said, ‘Let me go, because the day is near.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ v27 And the man said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ v28 Then the man said, ‘You shall not be called Jacob. You shall be called Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men. And you have won.’ v29 Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But the man said, ‘You do not need to ask my name.’ And there the man blessed Jacob.
The Jabbok is a stream that flows into the river Jordan from the east. It is shallow and one can cross it easily. It divides the region that is called Gilead in two parts.
This was God, who appeared as a man. We know that from verse 28 (‘struggled with God’) and from verse 30 (‘seen God’s face’).
‘The man saw that he did not win.’ God is powerful. He can do anything. But he did not overcome Jacob, because he used only a man’s strength.
‘Jacob’ may mean ‘one who cheats’. (See Genesis 25:26 and the comment.) ‘Israel’ probably means ‘God struggles’ or ‘he struggles with God’.
God said to Jacob, ‘You shall be called Israel.’ But after this time he had two names. He was sometimes called Israel and he was sometimes called Jacob. And even God called him Jacob. (See Genesis 46:2.) It was different for Abraham. He was initially called Abram. God said to him, ‘Now your name shall not be Abram. Your name shall be Abraham.’ (See Genesis 17:5.) And after that time he was only called Abraham. He was not called Abram.
v30 Jacob said, ‘I have seen God’s face. But I did not die.’ So he called that place Peniel. v31 The sun rose as Jacob passed through Penuel. He walked with one weak leg, because the man had touched his leg.
v32 Therefore even today Jacob’s *descendants do not eat the meat that is at the side of the leg. That is the place where the man touched Jacob’s leg.
God had appeared as a man. See the comment about verse 24. Many Bible students believe that it was Jesus who met Jacob.
‘Peniel’ and ‘Penuel’ are both names of the same place. They both mean ‘God’s face’.
‘Penuel’ became the usual name of that place but its meaning is not quite clear. The meaning of ‘Peniel’ is clear, but it is not the usual name of the place.
To understand this, use English words to make the name. Imagine that the place was called ‘Godface’. Then these 2 sentences would be like this. ‘So he called that place “God’s Face”. The sun rose as Jacob passed through Godface.’
Esau and Jacob meet
v1 Jacob saw that Esau approached. And 400 men came with him. So Jacob divided the children into 4 groups. Leah and Rachel and the 2 maids took care of the groups. v2 Jacob put the maids with their children in front. After them, he put Leah with her children. Rachel and Joseph followed after all the other people. v3 Jacob himself went in front of them. He bent himself down to the ground 7 times, until he came near to his brother. v4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob. He hugged him and he kissed him. They both wept.
v5 And Esau looked and he saw the women and the children. He said, ‘Who are these that are with you?’ Jacob said, ‘These are the children that God has kindly given to your servant.’ v6 Then the maids came near and they brought their children. They all bent themselves down to the ground. v7 Leah also came near with her children. They also bent themselves down. After them, Joseph and Rachel came near and they bent themselves down.
v8 Esau said, ‘Why did you send these animals that I met?’ Jacob answered, ‘I sent them so that you, my master, would be friendly with me.’ v9 But Esau said, ‘I have enough possessions, my brother. Keep your own possessions for yourself.’ v10 Jacob said, ‘No, I ask you to do this. If you are pleased with me, accept my gift. Your face is to me like God’s face because you greeted me so kindly. v11 Please accept my gift that I have brought to you. God has dealt kindly with me and so I have enough possessions.’ So Jacob urged Esau and Esau took the gift.
Jacob greeted Esau in a very polite way. He started his greeting before they came close to each other. Esau did not delay so as to be polite. Instead, Esau ran to meet Jacob.
Esau refused Jacob’s gift. Then Jacob insisted. Then Esau accepted. That was the custom. If Esau accepted the gift immediately, that would be an insult. But when Jacob insisted, then Esau accepted it. That showed to Jacob that Esau was genuinely friendly to him.
v12 Then Esau said, ‘Let us travel on our way. I will go before you.’ v13 But Jacob said to him, ‘My master knows that the children are weak. I must take care of the young animals. If they travel too fast for one day, all the animals will die. v14 Let my master go before his servant and I will follow slowly. I will travel at the right speed for my animals. I will go at the speed of the children. And I will come to my master in Seir.’
v15 So Esau said, ‘I have men with me. Let me leave some of them to guard you.’ But Jacob said, ‘There is no reason that my master should help me in that way.’ v16 So Esau returned at once to Seir. v17 But Jacob travelled to Succoth. There he built a house for himself. He made shelters for his cows. Therefore, the place is called Succoth.
Esau lived in the region that was called Seir. (See Genesis 32:3 and the comment.) Jacob’s home was the country that was called *Canaan. He wanted to go there. He did not want to go to Seir. And Jacob was afraid that Esau might not always be friendly. Esau had said, 20 years earlier, that he would kill Jacob. (See Genesis 27:41.) Esau might still do that. Therefore, Jacob wanted to separate from Esau. So he said that he needed to travel slowly because of his animals. He said that he would meet Esau in Seir. That was not true. He did not intend to go to Seir. And Jacob and Esau probably did not meet again until they met to bury their father Isaac. (See Genesis 35:29.)
Jacob did not want Esau’s men to guard him. They would expect that he would go towards the south to Seir. But actually, Jacob went west. He crossed the river Jordan and he went to Shechem. (See verse 18.)
‘Succoth’ means ‘shelters’.
v18 So Jacob had come from Paddan-aram. He arrived safely at the city that was called Shechem. Shechem is in the country that is called *Canaan. And he put his tent in front of the town. v19 He bought the piece of land where he had put his tent. He bought it from the sons of Hamor, who was Shechem’s father. He paid for it 100 pieces of money. v20 There he built an *altar and he called it El-Elohe-Israel.
‘Shechem’ is the name of a city and it is a man’s name. In verse 18, it is the name of a city, but in verse 19 it is a man’s name.
‘El-Elohe-Israel’ means ‘God is Israel’s God’.
Shechem wants to marry Dinah
v1 Now Dinah was Leah’s daughter and her father was Jacob. Dinah went out to visit the women who lived in *Canaan. v2 And Shechem, who was Hamor’s son, saw her. Hamor was a Hivite and he was the prince of the district. Shechem seized Dinah. He had sex with her and he made her ashamed. v3 And Shechem loved Dinah, who was Jacob’s daughter. He loved her and he spoke gently to her.
‘Shechem’ was the name of the town. (See Genesis 33:18.) And ‘Shechem’ was also a man’s name. In this chapter, it is a man’s name. The Hivites were one of the *tribes that lived in Canaan before Abraham went there.
v4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor. He said, ‘Get this young woman for me. She shall be my wife.’ v5 Now Jacob heard that Shechem had spoiled his daughter Dinah’s honour. But Jacob’s sons were with his animals in the field. Therefore, Jacob did nothing until his sons came back. v6 And Hamor, who was Shechem’s father, went to Jacob. He went to speak with Jacob.
v7 Jacob’s sons heard about this and they came in from the field. They were very sad and very angry because Shechem had sex with Jacob’s daughter. Shechem had done a very wrong thing against Israel. That is a thing that nobody ought to do.
v8 But Hamor spoke with them. He said, ‘My son Shechem greatly desires your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. v9 Make marriages with us. Give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves. v10 You shall live with us and the country shall be open to you. Make this country your home. Do your business in it and get property in it.’ v11 And Shechem also spoke to Dinah’s father and to her brothers. He said, ‘Please be friendly to me. I will give to you whatever you ask. v12 You may make the marriage present and the gift very large. I will give to you whatever you say. But give the young woman to me so that she shall be my wife.’
The marriage present was a present that the man’s family gave to the woman’s father. The gift was a present from the man’s family to the woman. So what Shechem said meant this. It meant, ‘Give Dinah to me as my wife. And I will give to you as much wealth as you ask.’
Jacob’s sons defend Dinah
v13 Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor. They decided to tell lies to them, because Shechem had spoiled their sister Dinah’s honour. v14 They said to Shechem and to Hamor, ‘We cannot do this thing. We cannot give our sister to one who is not *circumcised. That would take away our honour. v15 We will do this only if you will obey our demand. You must become as we are. Every male person who is among you must be *circumcised. v16 If you will do this, we will give our daughters to you. And we will take your daughters to ourselves. And we will live among you and we will become one nation. v17 But perhaps you will not listen to us. Perhaps you will not become *circumcised. If so, we will take our daughter and we will go away.’ v18 Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem.
Jacob’s sons decided to tell lies so that they could kill the inhabitants of Shechem. They could not kill only Hamor. If they did that, all the other inhabitants would attack Jacob’s family. So they decided to kill all the inhabitants and not only Hamor. Jacob did not agree to this plan. We know that he did not agree from verse 30 and from Genesis 49:6.
For ‘*circumcised’ see Genesis 17:10-12 and the comment.
This was a lie. It was a part of the brothers’ plan. Jacob and his family were not willing to marry *Canaanites. (For the question of marrying foreign women, see the comment on Genesis 38:2.)
Jacob’s sons called Dinah ‘our daughter’. She was not their daughter. She was their sister. They might have meant that she was the daughter in their family.
Jacob’s sons kill the *Canaanites
v19 Shechem had more honour than all the other members of his family had. He did not delay, because he had delight in Jacob’s daughter. He did what Jacob’s sons said. v20 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city. They spoke to the men from their city, who were at the gate. They said, v21 ‘These men are friendly with us. Let them live in this country. Let them do their business here. There is enough room in this country for them. Let us take their daughters as our wives and let us give our daughters to them. v22 The men will live with us and we will become one nation. They will do this if we obey their demand. Every male person who is among us must be *circumcised. We must be *circumcised as they are *circumcised. v23 Their cows and their property will be ours. All their animals will be ours. Let us do what they say. If we do that, they will live with us.’
v24 Everyone who went through the gate of the city listened. They heard what Hamor and his son Shechem said. And every male person who went through the gate of the city was *circumcised.
There was a wall round the city. So anyone who entered or left the city had to go through the gate. Therefore, people often met each other at the gate. And the gate became the place where people sat and talked. And people might meet there to make decisions. So the gate was the best place to speak to the men from the city.
These things were not true. They were the lies that Jacob’s sons had told to Hamor and Shechem. (See the end of verse 16.) And Hamor and Shechem believed them. But Hamor and Shechem were lying to the men of the city. They said that these things were the reason to *circumcise themselves. And the true reason was that Shechem wanted to marry Dinah.
v25 On the third day the men were very sore. Then Simeon and Levi took their swords. Simeon and Levi were Jacob’s sons and they were Dinah’s brothers. They went to the city. The inhabitants of the city did not expect them to come. Simeon and Levi killed all the male inhabitants of the city. v26 They killed with their swords Hamor and his son Shechem. They took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and they went away.
v27 And all Jacob’s sons came to the city where the men were dead. They took away all the goods that they could find. They did this because Shechem had spoiled their sister’s honour. v28 They took the sheep and the cows and the *donkeys. They took everything that was in the city. They took everything that was in the field. v29 They took all the valuable things. They took all the women and they took all the children. They took all that was in the houses. They took all these things and they made them their own.
v30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble to me. The people who live in this country will hate me. The *Canaanites and the Perizzites will hate me. We are only a few men. Perhaps they will gather themselves together and they will attack me. If they do that, they will kill me and all my family.’ v31 But Simeon and Levi said, ‘He would have made our sister into a woman who has sex for money.’
‘On the third day’ does not mean 3 days later. The *Hebrews counted the first day and the last day. So the 3 days were:
· The end of the day when they *circumcised the people
· One whole day
· The early morning of the next day
That makes about 2 nights and a day.
What Simeon and Levi did was an evil deed. Jacob said that it was wrong (in verse 30). He said that because he was afraid of the other *Canaanites. However, we know that the deed was evil from Genesis 49:5-7. In that verse, Jacob is giving his *blessing to his sons. The *blessing was true, because Jacob’s words came from God. And because Simeon’s and Levi’s deeds were wicked, their *descendants would not receive land with the other *tribes. It was wrong to kill all the men in the city because Shechem had done an evil thing.
Jacob moves to Bethel
v1 God said to Jacob, ‘Move away from here. Go to Bethel and live there. Make an *altar there for me. I am God. I appeared to you when you ran away from your brother Esau.’ v2 So Jacob spoke to his relatives. And he spoke to all who were with him. He said, ‘Hide the foreign gods that are among you. Make yourselves clean and put on clean clothes. v3 Then we will set out and we will go to Bethel. There I will make an *altar for God. He answered me when I was in trouble. He has been with me wherever I have gone.’
v4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had. They gave to him the rings that were in their ears. And Jacob buried these things under the big tree that was near to the city of Shechem. v5 And as they travelled to Bethel, God protected them. He made the inhabitants of the cities that were near to them afraid. Therefore, those people did not pursue Jacob’s sons.
Jacob was afraid of the *Canaanites who lived near to Shechem. (See Genesis 34:30.) He might be safer if he moved away from Shechem. Perhaps that was the reason why God told Jacob to move away from Shechem. But that was certainly not the main reason.
Jacob had met God at the place that he named ‘Bethel’. (See Genesis 28:16-19.) That name means ‘God’s house’. So God was saying to Jacob, ‘Go to the place where you met me. Go to my house. Build an *altar there. Use the *altar to bring *offerings to me. When you met me at Bethel for the first time, you were alone. Now you have wives and children and servants. Bring them with you. They too must come to my house.’
God did not tell anyone else in Genesis to build an *altar. People built *altars when they wanted to give *offerings to God. But on this occasion God said, ‘Make an *altar.’ This caused two changes for Jacob’s family.
· From this time, Jacob had one special place where he would give *offerings to God. Many years later, God’s people had a special place where God met them. After they left Egypt, this place was a tent. (See Exodus 4:2.) And, many years later than that, it was a building that king Solomon built. (See 1 Kings 9:1-3.) So God was beginning to prepare his people for those later ages.
· From this time, Jacob’s family and his servants had to approach God, in addition to Jacob. That was the reason why they needed to hide their foreign gods. (See verse 2.)
Probably these foreign gods included the gods that Rachel had stolen from Laban. (See Genesis 31:19 and the comment.)
This is the answer to Jacob’s fear. (See Genesis 34:30.) They were safe because God protected them.
v6 And Jacob came to Luz, which is also called Bethel. It is a city in the country that is called *Canaan. Jacob and all the people who were with him came there. v7 And Jacob built an *altar there. He called the place El-bethel. At that place, God had shown himself to Jacob when Jacob ran away from his brother.
v8 Deborah, who was Rebekah’s nurse, died. They buried her under a big tree below Bethel. So that place was called Allon-bacuth.
‘El-bethel’ means ‘God of Bethel’ or ‘God of God’s house’.
‘God had shown himself.’ (See Genesis 28:13.)
‘Allon-bacuth’ means ‘the tree of weeping’.
God appears to Jacob
v9 God appeared to Jacob again, when Jacob came from Paddan-aram. And God promised good things to him. v10 And God said to him, ‘You are called Jacob. But you shall not be called Jacob. You shall be called Israel.’ So he was called Israel. v11 And God said to him,
‘I am God who can do anything.
You shall have a large family and you shall have many *descendants.
Your family shall become a nation and it shall become a group of nations.
Some of your family shall be kings.
v12 I will give to you the land that I gave to Abraham and to Isaac.
And I will give the land to your *descendants who shall live after you.’
v13 Then God left him. v14 And Jacob set up a tall stone in the place where God had spoken with him. And Jacob poured wine on the stone as an *offering. And he poured oil on it. v15 So Jacob called the place, where God had spoken with him, Bethel.
Before this time, God spoke to Jacob at this same place, Bethel. (See Genesis 28:13-15.) And when Jacob returned to Bethel, God spoke to him again (in these verses). God repeated some of the things that he had said earlier. He repeated Jacob’s new name, Israel. (For ‘Israel’ see Genesis 32:28 and the comment.)
‘Bethel’ means ‘God’s house’. Jacob had already named this place ‘Bethel’. (See Genesis 28:19.) So ‘Bethel’ was not a new name. But Jacob had just met God there. So he called the place Bethel again. He might have said, ‘When I was here 20 years ago, I named this place “God’s house”. Now I have met God here again. So it is truly God’s house.’
Rachel and Isaac die
v16 Then they travelled away from Bethel towards Ephrath. Before they reached Ephrath, Rachel struggled to produce her baby. She suffered much and she had great pain. v17 And the nurse who helped at the birth spoke to her. She said to her, ‘Do not be afraid. Now you will have another son.’ v18 Rachel called her son Ben-oni and then she died. But his father called him Benjamin. v19 So Rachel died, and they buried her on the way to Ephrath, which is also called Bethlehem. v20 Jacob set up a tall stone on her grave. The stone is called ‘the stone of Rachel’s grave’. It is still there today.
‘Ben-oni’ means ‘son of my pain’.
‘Benjamin’ may mean ‘son of my right hand’.
v21 Israel travelled on and he put his tent beyond Migdal-Eder. v22 While Israel lived in that district, Reuben had sex with Bilhah. Bilhah was an extra wife of Reuben’s father. And Israel heard what Reuben had done.
Now Jacob’s sons were 12.
v23 Leah’s sons were
Reuben (Jacob’s oldest son), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
v24 Rachel’s sons were
Joseph and Benjamin.
v25 Bilhah’s sons (Bilhah was Rachel’s maid) were
Dan and Naphtali.
v26 Zilpah’s sons (Zilpah was Leah’s maid) were
Gad and Asher.
These were Jacob’s sons who were born to him in Paddan-aram.
Most of these sons were born in the district that is called Paddan-aram. But Benjamin was not born in Paddan-aram. He was born in the country that is called *Canaan. These verses do not name the sons in the order of their birth. The order of their birth was this:
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, Benjamin.
v27 And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre. Mamre is near to Kiriath-arba, which is also called Hebron. Abraham and Isaac had both stayed at Mamre. v28 Isaac’s life was 180 years v29 and then he died. He died when he was very old. So he went to be with his fathers. His sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
‘His fathers’ means his father and his grandfather and those who had lived before them.