should he deal with our sister as with an harlot? make a whore of her, and then keep her in his house as such? is this to be borne with? or should we take no more notice of his behaviour to our sister, or show no more regard to her than if she was a common prostitute, whom no man will defend or protect? so say the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem,"nor let Shechem the son of Hamor mock at us, or boast and say, as an harlot whom no man seeks after, or no man seeks to avenge her; so it is done by Dinah the daughter of Jacob:''they tacitly insinuate as if Jacob had not that regard for the honour of his daughter and family, and showed his resentment at the wicked behaviour of Shechem, as he ought to have done. It is observed that there is a letter in the word for "harlot" greater than usual, which may either denote the greatness of the sin of Shechem in dealing with Dinah as an harlot, or the great impudence and boldness of Jacob's sons, in their answer to him, and their audaciousness in justifying such baseness and cruelty they had been guilty of. The whole of this history, as related in this chapter, is given by Polyhistor out of Theodotus the poet (q).
(q) Apud Euseb. Evangel. Praepar. l. 9. c. 22. p. 427, &c.
INTRODUCTION TO Genesis 35
This chapter gives an account of Jacob's going to Bethel, and building an altar there by the order and direction of God, Genesis 35:1, where Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died and was buried, Genesis 35:8, and where God appeared to Jacob, confirmed the new name of Israel he had given him, and renewed to him the promises of the multiplication of his seed, and of their inheriting the land of Canaan, Genesis 35:9; all which is gratefully acknowledged by Jacob, who erected a pillar in the place, and called it Bethel, in memory of God's gracious appearance to him there, Genesis 35:14; from hence he journeyed towards his father's house, and on the way Rachel his wife fell in travail, and bore him a son, and died, and was buried near Ephrath, Genesis 35:16; near this place Reuben committed incest with Bilhah, Genesis 35:22, and the names of the twelve sons of Jacob are given, Genesis 35:23; and the chapter is closed with an account of Jacob's arrival at his father's house, of the death of Isaac, and of his burial at the direction of his two sons, Genesis 35:27.
arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there; which is said to be twenty eight miles from Shechem (r); hither he is bid to go in haste, and where, it is suggested, he would be safe, and where it would be right and proper for him to dwell awhile:
and make there an altar to God; and offer sacrifice to him, praise him for salvation and deliverance wrought, pray to him for present and future mercies that were needful, and pay the vows he had there made, even to that God:
that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother; who, resenting his getting the birthright and blessing from him, threatened to kill him; which obliged him to flee from his father's house, and go into Mesopotamia, and in his way thither God appeared to him, at the place called by him from thence Bethel, and gave him many precious promises; and Jacob there made a solemn vow, that if God would be with him, and keep him, and give him food and raiment, and return him to his father's house, the pillar that was then and there set up should be God's house, as well as he should be his God. Jacob had now been nine or ten years in the land of Canaan, and had all done for him he desired, and much more abundantly, and yet had not been at Bethel to make good his vow, either through forgetfulness or neglect; and therefore, as Jarchi thinks, was chastised for it in the affair of Dinah; or rather, for one can hardly think so good a man could forget, or would wilfully neglect such a vow as this, that he wanted opportunity of going thither, or waited for a divine order, and now he had both, which he readily embraced.
(r) Bunting's Travels, p. 72.
and to all that were with him; his menservants and maidservants, and such as remained with him of the captives of Shechem, who might choose to continue with him:
put away the strange gods that are among you; meaning not the teraphim or images of Laban's, which Rachel had stolen from him; for it can hardly be thought that these should be retained so many years in Jacob's family, and used in an idolatrous manner; but rather such as might be among the Canaanitish servants that had been lately taken into Jacob's service, or that were among the captives of Shechem, or taken along with the spoil of that city; and so the Targum of Jonathan calls them the idols of the people, which they brought from the idols' temple at Shechem; and the words may be rendered, "the gods of the strangers" (s), that is, of the Shechemites, who were Heathens and aliens, strangers to the true God, the knowledge and worship of him:
and be clean; either by abstaining from their wives, as some interpret it, from Exodus 19:10; or rather by washing their bodies, as Aben Ezra gives the sense of it; their hands were full of the blood of the Shechemites, and needed to be washed and purified, as the Targum of Jonathan has it, from the pollutions of the slain, before they went to Bethel, the house of God; and these outward ablutions and purifications were significative of inward cleansing by the grace of God, and of outward reformation of life and manners; see Isaiah 1:15,
and change your garments: which might be stained with blood, and therefore not fit to appear in before God, or were old and worn out, or sordid apparel: changing and washing of garments were also emblems of renewing of the mind, and cleansing of the soul, and of the change of heart and life, as well as of pleasure, delight, and cheerfulness in appearing before God.
(s) "deos alenigenarum", Pagninus; "alienigenae", Montanus, Schmidt; "alieni populi", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.
I will make there an altar unto God; as he has directed, and sacrifice to him, and worship him, and give the tenth unto him, and so make it a Bethel, an house of God indeed, as he had vowed, Genesis 28:22,
who answered me in the day of my distress; on account of his brother Esau, from whose wrath he fled:
and was with me in the way which I went; from his father's house to Padanaram; in which journey he was alone and destitute, and exposed to many difficulties and dangers, but God was with him, and preserved him, and directed and brought him to Laban's house in safety.
and all their earrings which were in their ears; not the earrings that women wore in common, such as Abraham's servant gave to Rebekah, and which Jacob's wives might wear, for such were not unlawful; but either which were worn in the ears of the strange gods or idols; for such used, it seems, according to some writers, to be decorated and ornamented after that manner; or rather in the ears of the idolaters themselves, worn by them in a superstitious way, having the images of these idols on them: so the Targum of Jonathan,"and the earrings which were in the ears of the inhabitants of the city of Shechem, in which were formed the likeness of their idols:"
and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem; that is, the idols, which, after he had broke to pieces, perhaps, he dug a hole under an oak, and there buried them, that they might be no more made use of in an idolatrous way; and he chose to put them under an oak, because it is a tree which often stands many years before it is cut down, and besides was used for religious purposes, and had in great veneration, and therefore seldom felled. Those idols seem not to be made of anything valuable, perhaps of wood or stone, for had they been of gold or silver, Jacob would doubtless have melted them, and converted them to other uses, and not have buried them under ground. The Jews (t) say, that the idol Jacob hid under the oak was in the form of a dove, which the Samaritans after some time found, and set it on the top of Mount Gerizim. Some take this oak to be the same with that mentioned in Joshua 24:26; but of that there can be no certainty, since Jacob, as it is highly probable, laid these images alone, and never intended any should know anything of them where they were.
(t) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 3. 2.
and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them; an exceeding great panic seized the inhabitants of the cities of the land of Canaan, all about Shechem, which was from God himself impressing it on their minds, through what the sons of Jacob had done to that city:
and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob; as it might have been thought they would, and take revenge on them for their ill usage of the inhabitants of a neighbouring city; but instead of this, they were afraid they should be used in the same manner; wherefore Jacob and his family journeyed in safety, and came to Bethel in peace.
he and all the people that were with him; wives, children, servants, or whoever else came from Shechem, these all came safe to Luz without any molestation or loss.
and called the place Elbethel; the God of Bethel; a title which God takes to himself, Genesis 31:13; or rather the sense is, that he called the place with respect God, or because of his appearance to him there, Bethel, confirming the name he had before given it, Genesis 36:19; see Genesis 35:15; as the following reason shows:
because there God appeared; or the divine Persons, for both words are plural that are used; the Targum of Jonathan has it, the angels of God, and so Aben Ezra interprets it; but here, no doubt, the divine Being is meant, who appeared
unto him; to Jacob in this place, as he went to Mesopotamia, and comforted and encouraged him with many promises:
when he fled from the face of his brother; his brother Esau, who was wroth with him, and sought to take away his life, and therefore was forced to flee for it.
and she was buried beneath Bethel; at the bottom of the hill or mountain on which Bethel stood:
under an oak; of which there were many about Bethel, 1 Kings 13:14 2 Kings 2:23; and it was not unusual to bury the dead under trees, see 1 Samuel 31:13,
and the name of it was called Allonbachuth; the oak of weeping, because of the weeping and mourning of Jacob's family at her death, she being a good woman, an ancient servant, and in great esteem with them. The Jews have a tradition that the occasion of this weeping, or at least of the increase of it, was, that Jacob at this time had the news of the death of Rebekah his mother; so the Targum of Jonathan,"there tidings were brought to Jacob of the death of Rebekah his mother, and he called the name of it another weeping;''and so Jarchi.
(u) R. Moses Hadarsan. (w) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 5. sect. 2.
when he came out of Padanaram; or returned from thence:
and blessed him; with the same blessings as before, renewing and confirming them. Jarchi says, with the blessing of mourners, because of the death of his mother, and her nurse.
thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name; not Jacob only, as Aben Ezra and Ben Melech interpret it, but Israel also, and that more commonly and frequently, and not only he himself personally, but his posterity also:
and he called his name Israel; confirmed the name he had before given him, Genesis 32:28; and by this confirmation of it signifying, that as he had prevailed over his brother Esau, and escaped his hands, so he should prevail over all that rose up against him, and opposed him, even as he had power with God, and prevailed: though some think this name was only promised him before, but now actually given him; but then they take the angel that appeared wrestling with him in the likeness of a man to be a created angel, and that what he promised in the name of God was now made, good by God himself; there is great reason to believe that that angel was the increased one, the Son of God, as here also.
be fruitful and multiply; which carries in it a promise or prophecy that he should increase and multiply, though not he himself personally, he having but one son born after this, yet in his posterity:
a nation, and a company of nations, shall be of thee; the nation of Israel, called so after his name, and the twelve tribes, which were as so many nations, of which the above nation consisted:
and kings shall come out of thy loins; as Saul, David, Solomon, and, many others, who were kings of Israel and of Judah, and especially the King Messiah; yea, all his posterity were kings and priests, or a kingdom of priests, Exodus 19:6.
and to thy seed after thee will I give the land; and not only make a grant of it to them, but put them into the possession of it, as in process of time he did.
in the place where he talked with him; whether it was over him, or by him; thence he removed from him, and ceased talking with him; for communion with a divine Person is not constant and uninterrupted in the present state.
(x) "desuper eum", Montanus.
even a pillar of stone; made of several stones hewed and polished, and well put together; whereas the former was but a single stone, rude and unpolished, though it is probable it was one of these:
and he poured a drink offering thereon; of wine, of which drink offerings under the law were, thereby consecrating it to the worship and service of God. Aben Ezra says it was either of water or of wine, with which he washed it, and after that poured oil on it; and the Targum of Jonathan says, he poured a drink offering of wine, and a drink offering of water:
and he poured oil thereon; as he did before; See Gill on Genesis 28:18.
(y) "erexerat", Vatablus; "et statuerat", Piscator; so Aben Ezra.
and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath; or Bethlehem, as it was also called, Genesis 35:19; a mile off of it, according to the Targums of Onkelos and Jerusalem; or about a mile, as Saadiah Gaon; for it was not a precise exact mile, but something less than a mile, as Ben Melech observes; and so Benjamin of Tudela, who was on the spot, says (b), that Rachel's grave is about half a mile from Bethlehem. Ben Gersom thinks the word here used signifies cultivated land, and that the sense is, that there were only fields, vineyards, and gardens to go through to the city, see Genesis 48:7,
and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour; the time of childbirth was come, and which came suddenly upon her, as travail does, even while journeying, which obliged them to stop; and her pains came upon her, and these very sharp and severe, so that she had a difficult time of it: pains and sorrow in childbearing are the fruit of sin, and more or less attend all in such a circumstance; but, in some, labour is more painful than in others, and more at one time than at another, and is the most painful in women than in other creatures.
(z) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 1.((a) Bunting's Travels, p. 72. (b) Itinerar. p. 47.
that the midwife said unto her, fear not; for Rachel big with child, it was necessary to take a midwife with them in the journey; and perhaps this might be one that was always kept in the family, and had been assisting to all Jacob's wives and concubines at their labours; and this seems probable from what follows, since she not only bids her be of good courage, and not fear, comforting her under her pains, giving her hopes they would soon be over, and that she would have a safe delivery, and do well: but this she assures her of:
thou shalt have this son also; as she had one before, at whose birth she said, "the Lord shall add to me another son"; and therefore called his name Joseph, Genesis 30:24; this the midwife remembered, and endeavours to comfort her with the accomplishment of it.
that she called his name Benoni; which signifies "the son of my sorrow", having borne and brought him forth in sorrow, and now about to leave him as soon as born, which might increase her sorrow; or "the son, of my mourning"; as Aben Ezra and Ben Gersom interpret it; or "the son of my strength", all her strength being exhausted in bringing him forth:
but his father called him Benjamin; that is, "the son of the right hand", being as dear to him, and as beloved by him as his right hand; or who would be as the right hand to him, his staff and support in his old age; or else as being the son of her who was as his right hand, dear and assisting to him. Some render it, "the son of days", or years, that is, the son of his old age, as he is called, Genesis 44:20; Jarchi and Ben Gerson interpret it, "the son of the south"; the right hand being put for the south; and they think this son was so called, because he only was born in the land of Canaan, which lay, they say, to the south with respect to Mesopotamia, where the rest were born; but be the etymology of the word as it will, the change of the name seems to be made by Jacob, because that which Rachel gave her son would have perpetually put Jacob in mind of the sorrow of his beloved Rachel, and therefore gave him a name more pleasant and agreeable. The Jews say (c) he was born the eleventh of October, and lived one hundred and eleven years.
(c) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 4. 1.
(d) Apnd Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 21. p. 424.
that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day; it continued to the times of Moses, the writer of this history, and to the times of Samuel, as appears from 1 Samuel 10:2; and even travellers of late times affirm it to be seen still, to the north of Bethlehem, on the right hand of the way as you go from Bethlehem to Jerusalem; but the present sepulchral monument, as Mr. Maundrel says (f), can be none of that which Jacob erected, for it appears plainly to be a modern Turkish structure. Near the grave are found some little black stones, which strangers pick up, and are fancied to be helpful to women, to give them an easier birth, the same the above traveller says resemble peas. The Jews that pass by it were used to engrave their names on the stones, of the pillars (g).
(e) ltinerar. p. 47. (f) Journey from Aleppo, &c. p. 87. (g) Benjamin. Itinerar. ib. Adrichom. Theatrum Terrae Sanct. p. 19. Bunting's Travels, p. 75.
and spread his tent beyond the tower of Eder; which was a place of pasturage, and fit for his flocks, see Micah 4:8; it was about a mile from Bethlehem to the south (i), and is supposed to be the place where the shepherds were watching their flocks, when the angel reported to them the birth of Christ, Luke 2:8; pretty remarkable are the words added here in the Targum of Jonathan,"the place from whence the King Messiah will be revealed in the end of days.''
(h) Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 5. 2.((i) Bunting's Travels, p. 76.
that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine; his concubine wife; she was the maid that Rachel gave him, and this added to his affliction, and made it double, to lose Rachel by death, and to have her favourite maid, his concubine, defiled by his own son, and whom it is highly probable he abstained from hereafter. This, though a very heinous sin of his son's, yet might be suffered as a chastisement to Jacob, for making use of concubines:
and Israel heard it; though the crime was committed secretly, and was thought it would have been concealed, but by some means or other Jacob heard of it, and no doubt severely reproved his son for it; and though nothing is here related, as said by him on this occasion, it is certain it gave him great offence, grief and trouble, and he remembered it to his dying day, and took away the birthright from Reuben on account of it, Genesis 49:3; an empty space here follows in the original text, and a pause in it, denoting perhaps the amazement Jacob was filled with when he heard it; and the great grief of his heart, which was such, that he was not able to speak a word; the Septuagint version fills up the space by adding, "and it appeared evil in his sight":
now the sons of Jacob were twelve; who were the heads of twelve tribes, Benjamin the last being born, and Jacob having afterwards no more children, they were all reckoned up under their respective mothers, excepting Dinah, a daughter, from whom there was no tribe, in the following verses.
these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram, all excepting Benjamin; and because they were by far the greater part, even all but one, that were born there, this is said in general; and there having been given in the context such a particular account of the birth of Benjamin, and of the place of it, them was no need for the historian particularly to except him, since the reader would be in no danger of being led into a mistake.
unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron; Mamre was a plain, so called from the name of a man, a friend and confederate of Abraham, Genesis 13:18; where, or near to which, stood a city, called Kirjath Arbah, or the city of the four, Arbah and his three sons; so that it might be called Tetrapolls, and was later called Hebron:
where Abraham and Isaac sojourned; lived good part of their days, see Genesis 13:18; it was about twenty miles from Bethlehem, and the tower of Eder (k), where Jacob was last.
(k) Bunting's Travels, p. 72.