Get rid of all your idols — Genesis Chapter 35

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” -C.S. Lewis (photo credit: UK Heaven Live)

Read Genesis 35

Where we last left Jacob: After raping Jacob’s daughter Dinah, the young prince Shechem, went with his father to Jacob, to ask for her hand in marriage. Dinah’s big brothers pretended to enter into an agreement with Shechem but then retaliated in a horrific and murderous manner. They were chastised for it by their father Jacob afterwards, but, surprisingly, they remained a part of God’s plan. In Levi’s case, his descendants were even assigned to minister unto God as His priests. We learned from this example, four reasons why God will choose to use you as a part of His plan for the world. (see previous post on Genesis 34) Today we’ll read of Jacob’s conflict and controversy during his travels. Then we’ll answer one of the most important questions that can be asked: “What is the object of your love?”

Genesis 35:

Now, on the heels of this massacre by his sons, Jacob hears from God: Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.

So Jacob says to his entire household, Get rid of any foreign gods you have with you, purify yourselves, change your clothes. We’re going up to Bethel where I’ll build an altar to God — He answered me in the day of my distress and He’s been with me wherever I have gone. So they give Jacob all the foreign gods they have and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buries them under an oak tree at Shechem. Then they start on their journey to Bethel, and the terror of God falls on the towns all around them, so no one pursues them to avenge the massacre they had committed.

Jacob and all who are with him come to Bethel in the land of Canaan. He builds an altar there as the Lord instructed, and he calls the place El Bethel which means, God of Bethel. It was there God revealed Himself to Jacob when he was fleeing from his brother Esau.

Afterwards, Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, dies and so they bury her under the oak outside of Bethel. As Rebekah was Jacob’s mother, Deborah, her nurse, would have been the one who helped raise Jacob. She also would have been a valuable mentor and leader to the women in Jacob’s household. She was obviously well loved for they name the oak tree under which she was buried Allon Bakuth, which means oak of weeping.

After Jacob came back from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. God said, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.”

And God also said to him, “I am God Almighty, be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. The land I gave Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” Then God went up from him.

So Jacob sets up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he pours out a drink offering on it; he also pours oil on it. Jacob calls the place where God had talked with him Bethel.

So they leave Bethel and head for Ephrath. While they’re traveling Rachel begins to give birth but she has difficulty. As she’s struggling in childbirth, the midwife says to her, Cheer up, you’re having another son. But it’s such a difficult birth Rachel is dying, and as she breaths her last she names her son Ben-Oni, which means son of my trouble. But Jacob graciously spares the child from the burden of such a name and names him Benjamin, which means son of my right hand.

So Rachel dies and they bury her on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob sets up a pillar, and to this day (to the time of the writing of the scripture by Moses, some 400 years after these events) that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.

Israel moves on from there and pitches his tent beyond Migdal Eder. While Israel is living in that area, his oldest son Reuben goes in and sleeps with Israel’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel hears about it.

Jacob’s twelve sons:

The sons of Leah:
Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,
Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.

The sons of Rachel:
Joseph and Benjamin.

The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:
Dan and Naphtali.

The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:
Gad and Asher.

These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.

Jacob eventually comes home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (also called Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. Isaac lives a hundred and eighty years. He breathes his last and dies and is gathered to his people, old and full of years. Esau and Jacob, his sons, come together to bury him.

What is the object of your love?

We see in our story Jacob, in response to this tragedy his sons instigated against the entire city of Shechem, institutes a renewal of faith. He tells everyone in his household and every person with him to give up their idols and he buries them. It is truly amazing how during times of prosperity we drift away from what’s important and the idols creep in. Our focus, our time, and our energy become devoted to things other than God. We become distracted. This is what happened to Jacob’s household. We see they have accumulated quite a collection of idols.

In the Bible we see idols defined, not just as the making of little statues depicting strange gods, but also the making of good things into ultimate things. Idol worship is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. When you’re looking to your career, or your marriage, or your romance, or your friends to give you everything you should be looking for in God, you’re looking to idols. Making these good things into ultimate things is a misappropriation of your love. Love your uncreated God designed for you to devote to Him, is given instead to these created things. And the ultimate result is undue anxiety, drivenness, obsessiveness, envy of others, and resentment. It happens this way every time. (excerpts from Keller)

Why put yourself through the emotional instability that comes from directing your love toward those things which are created instead of your God? Do you know that the infidelity of a Reuben or Bilhah might possibly come into your life? Or death, no one escapes the death of loved ones. The death of a Deborah or a Rachel is, with absolute certainty, going to take place in your life. No life escapes death’s touch. Jacob’s father Isaac died and so will yours. In the world, you will have trouble. When these storms come, and they will come, if you’re looking to your career, or marriage, or friends to provide you with strength to stand, you’re in for a disappointment. Instead, have your feet planted solidly in a deep and rich relationship with Christ when these troubles come your way.

There is no replacement for God.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’”

Matthew 22:37


Bible Gateway

Blue Letter Bible

Chuck Smith

Tim Keller

Matthew Henry

Jon Courson

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