Gen. 35:1 – "Then God said to Jacob, 'Go up to Bethel and settle there…'"
- Jacob went to Bethel. He built an altar, Rebekah's nurse (Deborah) died and God reaffirmed both His covenant and new name to Israel. But instead of obeying God's command to settle in Bethel…
- Rachel's death was the first of three tragedies that befell Jacob after he left Bethel. I had always imagined Rachel's death as God's punishment for Jacob's sin. But perhaps she died simply because Jacob didn't heed God's practical directive to SETTLE in Bethel because his pregnant wife was on the verge of childbirth. Sometimes God's commands are purely practical in nature. Many Old Testament Laws (Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) were given to establish sanitation and health practices for a nomadic nation. When the Lord lays a command on our hearts, oftentimes His motive is not to squelch our fun or prove His power – but rather to protect us from all sorts of potential harm.
- Consider the grief each person felt at Rachel's loss. Jacob had loved Rachel since the moment he saw her, and imagine Bilhah's grief at the death of her lifelong mistress. Rather than making camp at Ephrath (Bethlehem), Jacob pressed on, moving his family during their grief. Consider this. Would Reuben have slept with Bilhah if Jacob's clan had settled in Bethel as God commanded? Of course, we cannot know the exact circumstances that drew Reuben and Bilhah together, and they are responsible before God for their choice to sin; however, did Jacob's disobedience play a part in their liaison? Maybe Bilhah was despondent at Rachel's death and Jacob, because of his own grief, was insensitive to the needs of others. Perhaps Reuben had simply meant to comfort Bilhah, or maybe as Jacob's firstborn, Reuben saw the opportunity to gain MORE than the firstborn's share and take his father's wife. Sometimes one decision sets into motion a series of dire consequences. Notice Scripture records nothing of Jacob's reaction to the news of Reuben's infidelity. Only a recounting of Jacob's children punctuates the scene, affirming that his family remains – hurting and broken as it was.
- It seems Jacob's search for MORE finally ended when he arrived at his father's side. But his satisfaction was fleeting. Isaac died shortly after Jacob arrived and left him face-to-face with his brother, Esau. Jacob had twelve sons, three wives and the wealth of his household, but at what cost? His father was gone, his beloved Rachel dead, and the brother he had deceived repeatedly stared at him over their father's grave. What MORE could fill Jacob's heart now? Where did he turn to seek new hope for the rest of his days? The desire for MORE must be focused beyond the temporal things of this world.