It is time to move! Simeon and Levi have just decimated the city and Jacob fears retaliation. The land he purchased is not enough to keep him there, especially when God says “move on.”
One of the BEST things that happened in this move is that the tents and the hearts of the people were cleansed. “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments” (verse 2b).
Rachel had stolen the household gods of Laban when they left Paddan-aram but apparently other gods had been acquired by the people in Jacob’s camp. We aren’t told who had them or how long they had them but apparently Jacob knew about them and did nothing until this day.
God hadn’t specified in His command to get rid of the idols. He simply told him to go live at Bethel and to build an altar there. But Jacob knew how holy this place was and he didn’t want to bring any defilement into it. This was “The House of God.” This is where he had his dream about the angels moving up and down into Heaven. This is where God gave him His promise to keep him safe while away and to bring him back to the land of his fathers.
Everyone did as Jacob commanded. They even took their earrings out. Were they a symbol of other gods? I remember stories, that happen later on, where a slave chooses to be a bondservant and his ear is pierced with an awl as a symbol of that choice. Were earrings the same sort of symbol? Either way, the people divested themselves of them and followed Jacob’s commands.
I don’t really like what Jacob did with the idols. I wish he had ground them into powder but he buried them instead. I wonder if someone came back later and dug them up. But that doesn’t happen in our story today.
One of the big reasons Jacob wants to leave the area is because he fears what the inhabitants of the nearby cities would do to his group following Simeon and Levi’s actions. Would they band together and attack them? And what would they take from him if they did? Would they be a vicious as his two sons had been? He didn’t want to stick around and find out.
When they journeyed they would be vulnerable. But God took care of that. “As they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob” (verse 5). NO ONE was willing to attack Jacob’s band. God was fully on his side.
God was answering Jacob once again in his “day of distress.” God had faithfully cared for Jacob ALL his life but Jacob didn’t truly see it until he set off for Paddan-aram. His first visit with God set the tone for the rest of his life. Now he was going back to say “Thank You” for ALL He had done for him. And God’s mercies were not finished for him. God met him again at Bethel. He renewed and expounded upon His promise.
First, God confirmed Jacob’s name change. “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name” (verse 10). He wasn’t kidding when He changed Jacob’s name earlier but He also didn’t insist on him using it until now. This was a new beginning for Jacob/Israel. A recommitment of the promise He made to Abraham and Isaac. Now it was passed down in FULL to Jacob/Israel.
Thank You Father for watching over me. I don’t have as many WOW stories as Jacob/Israel had but the ones I do have are precious to me. You have shown Yourself faithful in my life in so many ways! I would not be alive without Your hand on me. I also would lack purpose apart from You. Yes, I could still be a mother and wife but I would be empty and useless. YOU hold me up. YOU give me the desire to do the things You called me to do. YOU put the songs in my heart. And YOU teach me how to love. THANK YOU FATHER.
Please Lord Jesus, if I have any other “gods” in my life, show them to me clearly so that I too can throw them out. I want NOTHING and NO ONE sharing YOUR throne. My heart belongs to You!