Genesis (Part 155)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 35: 9-15

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. 10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” 13 Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him. 14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone. He poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it. 15 So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.

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This section should feel familiar. It’s a repeat of the earlier section wherein Jacob is given the name Israel from Genesis 32:28:

28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Picking this up in The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 35:9Genesis 35:10

And God appeared unto Jacob again,—this was a visible manifestation, m contrast to the audible one in Shechem (Genesis 35:1), and in a state of wakefulness (Genesis 35:13), as distinguished from the dream vision formerly beheld at Bethel (Genesis 28:12)—when he came (or had come) out of Padan-aram (as previously he had appeared to the patriarch on going into Padan-aram), and blessed himi.e. renewed the promises of the covenant, of which he was the heir. And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob:—or Supplanter (vide Genesis 25:26). Lange reads, Is thy name Jacob?—thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel (vide Genesis 32:28shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. The renewal of the name given at Peniel may possibly indicate a revival in the spiritual life of Jacob, which had been declining in the interval between the former interview with God and the present (Murphy), but was probably designed as a confirmation of the former interview with God, and of the experience through which he then passed. Cf. the twice-given name of Peter (John 1:42Matthew 16:16-19).

appeared = רָאָה râʼâh, raw-aw’; a primitive root; to see, literally or figuratively (in numerous applications, direct and implied, transitive, intransitive and causative):—advise self, appear, approve, behold, × certainly, consider, discern, (make to) enjoy, have experience, gaze, take heed, × indeed, × joyfully, lo, look (on, one another, one on another, one upon another, out, up, upon), mark, meet, × be near, perceive, present, provide, regard, (have) respect, (fore-, cause to, let) see(-r, -m, one another), shew (self), × sight of others, (e-) spy, stare, × surely, × think, view, visions.

Israel = יִשְׂרָאֵל Yisrâʼêl, yis-raw-ale’; from H8280 and H410; he will rule as God; Jisraël, a symbolical name of Jacob; also (typically) of his posterity:—Israel.

It is interesting that when God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, the text subsequently refers to him as Abraham. However, when Jacob’s name is changed to Israel – twice – he continues to be “Jacob” within the text. Small details like this, and the fact that Jacob’s party seems to harbor sin in a way that his grandfather’s did not, creates a unique impression of the larger narrative of Genesis as a whole. Even in a story about God’s redemption of people through the line of Abraham, there is also an undercurrent within the text that this story is also about a people who drift slowly from the God who is saving them.

Picking up with Ellicott’s Bible Commentary at verse 11:

(11) God Almighty.—Heb., El-shaddai, the name by which God had entered into the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:1).

A company.—Heb., a congregation of nations. (See Genesis 28:3, where it is “a congregation,” or church, “of peoples.”)

From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 35:11Genesis 35:12

And God said unto him (repeating substantially the promises made to Abraham), I am God Almighty:—El Shaddai (cf. Genesis 17:1)—be fruitful and multiply;—”Abraham and Isaac had each only one son of promise; but now the time of increase was come” (Murphy; cf. Genesis 1:28)—a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee (cf. Genesis 17:5Genesis 28:3), and kings shall come out of thy loins (cf. Genesis 17:6Genesis 17:16); and the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac (vide Genesis 12:7Genesis 13:15Genesis 26:3Genesis 26:4), to thee I will give it (cf. Genesis 28:13), and to thy seed after thee will I give the land. The time of their entering on possession was specified to Abraham (Genesis 15:16).

It seems interesting to me that God would tell a man with as many children as had Jacob to “be fruitful and multiply.” The message could be interpreted as an effort to give confidence and a promise of continued provision. This section of verses is also immediate in a way that Abraham’s was not. It is also interesting that Abraham is given a warning about 400 years of future captivity for his offspring while Jacob is not. Continuing on with Ellicott in verse 13:

(13) God went up from him.—This formula, used before in Genesis 17:22Genesis 18:33, shows that this manifestation of God’s presence was more solemn than any of those previous occasions upon which the Deity had revealed Himself to Jacob. It was, in fact, the acknowledgment of the patriarch as the heir of the Abrahamic covenant.

The Pulpit Commentaries views “went up from him” as evidence of a physical manifestation of God:

Genesis 35:13

And God went up from him—showing this to have been a visible manifestation (cf. Genesis 17:22)—in the place where he talked with him.

up from him = מָקוֹם mâqôwm, maw-kome’; or מָקֹם mâqôm; also (feminine) מְקוֹמָה mᵉqôwmâh; or מְקֹמָה mᵉqômâh; from H6965; properly, a standing, i.e. a spot; but used widely of a locality (general or specific); also (figuratively) of a condition (of body or mind):—country, × home, × open, place, room, space, × whither(-soever).

In verse 14, in the aftermath of this encounter, Jacob sets up a pillar. From Ellicott:

(14) Jacob set up a pillar.—In doing this Jacob was imitating his previous action when God manifested Himself to him in his journey to Haran, Genesis 28:18. This consecration of it by pouring on it oil, and offering to God a drink-offering, was in itself natural and right. But as these memorial pillars were subsequently worshipped, they were expressly forbidden by the Mosaic Law, the word correctly rendered “pillar” in this place being translated standing image in Leviticus 26:1, and image in Deuteronomy 16:22.

Verse 15 concludes this section. From The Pulpit Commentaries:

Genesis 35:15

And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel. This name was first given after the dream vision of the ladder (Genesis 28:19); already on this occasion it had been changed into El-beth-el (Genesis 35:7); now its old name is reimposed.

I mentioned above that it interests me that despite being given the name Israel, twice, Jacob retains the name Jacob. Dr. Rabi Tzemah Yoreh provides a potential explanation for this in an article titled Jacob Is Renamed Israel (Twice): Why Does the Name Jacob Remain? and I will include some excerpts therefrom below:


Critical scholars have long argued that each of these name changes derives from different sources. The source of the second renaming, in ch. 35, is easy to identify as Priestly, since it refers to Jacob’s arrival from Paddan-aram, the name used in Priestly texts.[1]

The first renaming of Jacob, in ch. 32, after he wrestles with the angel, likely derives from the E source.[2] This is evident from the use of the word Elohim in the explanation of the name, which is the standard name for God in this source, as opposed to in J, which uses YHWH. The J source, then, does not include a renaming story.

[…]

Both the E and P stories seem clear: Jacob is no longer going to be called Jacob, only Israel. And yet, even after these renaming episodes, the patriarch is still referred to as Jacob in E, J, and P texts.

This contrasts with how the name change functions in the story of Abram and Sarai, both of whom are renamed in chapter 17:

[…]

Genesis Rabbah (78) actually records a debate about the exact the relationship between these two names:

תני לא שיעקר שם יעקב אלא כי אם ישראל יהיה שמך, ישראל יהיה עיקר ויעקב טפילה

It was taught: It isn’t that the name Jacob was to be uprooted, “rather Israel will be your name” – Israel will be the main [name] and Jacob will be secondary.

ר’ זכריה בשם ר’ אחא מכל מקום יעקב שמך אלא כי אם ישראל יהיה שמך, יעקב עיקר וישראל מוסיף עליו.

R. Zechariah in the name of R. Acha said: “Jacob is certainly your name, “rather Israel will be your name” – Jacob is your main name and Israel is added to it.

This solution is elegant, but unfortunately does not comport with what the text says: The texts in Genesis 32 and 35 never say or imply that Israel is an extra name; they both state clearly that the name Jacob is replaced by Israel.

[…]

E is unique among the Pentateuchal sources, having been composed in the Northern Kingdom, which was called Israel. J, in contrast, was composed in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, as was P and most of the Bible. [13] For E, Jacob/Israel is the most important patriarch. But for J, Abraham, the patriarch of the south, was the most important ancestor.


I recommend reading the entire article at the link provided above. The source critical evaluation of Genesis makes a certain amount of sense but it is also not without its own problems. As always, I encourage reading widely and deeply to develop an informed opinion.

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