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Summary: God is calling each of us back to our Bethel. In doing so it will impact us and others for God and His kingdom.

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Return To Bethel

Gen 35:1-3

[JAY cub] (a supplanter)-one of the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. The brother of Esau, he was known also as Israel (Gen 32:28).

Jacob was born in answer to his father’s prayer (Gen 25:21), but he became the favorite son of his mother (25:28). He was nicknamed Jacob because, at the birth of the twins, "his hand took hold of Esau’s heel" (25:26). According to the accounts in Genesis, Jacob continued to "take hold of" the possessions of others-his brother’s birthright (25:29-34), his father’s blessing (27:1-29), and his father-in-law’s flocks and herds (30:25-43; 31:1).

The pattern of Jacob’s life is found in his journeys, much like the travels of his grandfather ABRAHAM. Leaving his home in Beersheba, he traveled to Bethel (28:10-22); later he returned to Shechem (33:18-20), Bethel (35:6-7), and Hebron (35:27). At Shechem and Bethel he built altars, as Abraham had done (12:6-7,8). Near the end of his life Jacob migrated to Egypt; he died there at an advanced age (Gen 46-49).

The most dramatic moments in Jacob’s life occurred at Bethel (Gen 28:10-22), at the ford of the River Jabbok (32:22-32), and on his deathbed (49).

The experience at Bethel occurred when he left the family home at Beersheba to travel to Haran (a city in Mesopotamia), the residence of his uncle Laban (28:10). On the way, as he stopped for the night at Bethel, he had a dream of a staircase reaching from earth to heaven with angels upon it and the Lord above it. He was impressed by the words of the Lord, promising Jacob inheritance of the land, descendants "as the dust of the earth" in number, and His divine presence. Jacob dedicated the site as a place of worship, calling it Bethel (literally, House of God). More than 20 years later, Jacob returned to this spot, built an altar, called the place El Bethel (literally, God of the house of God), and received the divine blessing (35:6-15).

The experience at the ford of the River Jabbok occurred as Jacob returned from his long stay at Haran. While preparing for a reunion with his brother, Esau, of whom he was still afraid (32:7), he had a profound experience that left him changed in both body and spirit.

At the ford of the Jabbok, "Jacob was left alone" (32:24). It was night, and he found himself suddenly engaged in a wrestling match in the darkness. This match lasted until the breaking of the dawn. The socket of Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he struggled with this mysterious stranger, but he refused to release his grip until he was given a blessing. For the first time in the narrative of Genesis, Jacob had been unable to defeat an opponent. When asked to identify himself in the darkness, he confessed he was Jacob-the heel-grabber.

But Jacob’s struggling earned him a new name. For his struggle "with God and with men" in which he had prevailed, his name was changed to Israel (literally, Prince with God). In return, he gave a name to the spot that marked the change; it would be called Peniel-"For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved" (32:30).


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