A Daily Genesis

Genesis 35:13-16a

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†. [/COLOR]Gen 35:13-14 . . God parted from him at the spot where He had spoken to him; and Jacob set up a pillar at the site where He had spoken to him, a pillar of stone, and he offered a libation on it and poured oil upon it.[/B]

The pillar that Jacob erected on this same site back in Gen 28:18 received a somewhat different treatment. In that instance, Jacob poured only oil on it. In this instance, he added a libation. The precise recipe is unknown, but could have been a forerunner of the libation rituals that would come later in Israel's history-- typically an alcoholic beverage made from grapes. (e.g. Ex 29:40, Lev 23:13)

Wine is an ingredient in a formal Temple offering called the daily burnt offering (Ex 29:38-46) whose recipe lists a lamb, a paste made of flour and oil, and some wine. The entire offering is totally destroyed; incinerated by fire. The residing priests, serving at the Temple, arranged this offering every day during the course of their duties; including the Sabbath day; which normally would be illegal since it's against the law to kindle a fire on the Sabbath. (cf. Ex 36:3, Mtt 12:5)

Some have interpreted the libation as representing the offerer's life's work; which in the case of the daily burnt offering, would be the life's work of the entire nation of the people of Israel; and of course including the priests themselves. So that every twenty-four hours, the whole nation's every-day activities went up in smoke.

We could interpret Jacob's libation as a formal act of dedication-- not of the pillar; but of Jacob himself. Right after his first encounter, on this very spot, with the God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac, a good thirty years ago; Jacob vowed to dedicate himself to Yhvh if only He would fulfill certain stipulations.

Jacob's vow at that time included a promise to make Yhvh his god-- implying his only god --and to give God a tithe of "all that You give me". Jacob's libation implies that, from here on in, its his sincere intent to start living up to his new name, and to make good on those promises.

This is a really huge event, and marks a serious milestone in Jacob's spiritual life. And I believe it's important to point out that Jacob didn't take this turning point when he was living at home with ma and pa. Too many people are in their parents' religion just because they were born into it. Jacob chose a spiritual path for himself long after he became an adult.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 35:15 . . Jacob gave the site, where God had spoken to him, the name of Bethel.[/B]

That could look back in time to Gen 28:10-22; or it could just simply mean that Jacob decided that the name Bethel would not just be a pet name of his own: but knowing (and believing) that this land would one day be inhabited by his progeny, Jacob willed it to be on the map as the town of Bethel when such a time as his progeny took actual physical possession of Canaan later on in the book of Joshua.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 35:16a . .They set out from Bethel; but when they were still some distance short of Ephrath,[/B]

This is the very first mention of Ephrath; which is actually Bethlehem (Gen 35:19, Gen 48:7). Apparently this area wasn't yet on the map as either Ephrath or Bethlehem in Jacob's day, but later during the author's day. It's not uncommon for Bible authors (or later scribes and/or editors) to give the contemporary name as well as the ancient name of a city or town so that his readers knew where to look in their own day for those old-time places.

Ephrath can also be spelled Ephratah. The founder of Bethlehem was a Jewish man named Ephratah, and his name became attached to Bethlehem so that you could refer to it in compound form as Bethlehem Ephratah; or Bethlehem of Ephratah (e.g. 1Chrn 4:4, Mic 5:2). Ephrath is apparently the female spelling (1Chrn 2:19) and Ephratah is the male version.

The next incident didn't actually occur in Bethlehem, but "some distance" from it. Other than Gen 48:7 (which is a citation of the section we're in now), the only other place the phrase "some distance" is used again in the entire Old Testament is 2Kgs 5:19; where some feel it indicates a distance about equal to that required for a runner on foot to catch up with a chariot on the move; but the true meaning is lost in antiquity.

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