December 28, 2015

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe

 

PART III: HISTORY OF ISAAC AND JACOB (Gen. 25:19-36:43)

 

Topic #E:  JACOB'S RESIDENCE AT SHECHEM, BETH-EL AND HEBRON. (Gen. 33:18-36:43.)                

 

 


Lesson III.E.6: Jacob's Sons and the Death of Isaac. (Genesis 35:23-29)

 

 

Genesis 35:23-29 (KJV)

 

23 The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun:

24 The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin:

25 And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali:

26 And the sons of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid: Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram.

27 And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned.

28 And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years.

29 And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

 

 

Commentary

 

23 The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun:

24 The sons of Rachel; Joseph, and Benjamin:

25 And the sons of Bilhah, Rachel's handmaid; Dan, and Naphtali:

26 And the sons of Zilpah, Leah's handmaid: Gad, and Asher: these are the sons of Jacob, which were born to him in Padanaram.

 

At this point in the narrative the sons of Jacob are listed.  The purpose is to draw special attention to Reuben’s position in the family and to underline the consequent responsibility that he had so lightly regarded and even despised.  The list of “the sons of Leah,” begins with “Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn”— he is the only one of the 12 to have a comment attached to his name.  His position as the “firstborn” added still further to his sin.  His sin, which resulted in the forfeiture of his birthright, is cited in Genesis 35:22— “And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it” (Genesis 35:22).  Reuben’s act with Bilhah (v. 22) was more than sexually motivated; it was an arrogant and premature claim to the rights of the firstborn—here the right to inherit his father’s headship of the family. Nothing was said, however, about his wicked act.  Reuben’s indictment was to be read out later, when Jacob was on his deathbed, read out publicly, formerly, fearlessly.  His unconfessed and uncleansed sin was to dog his future days. The Book of Chronicles declares that Reuben’s actions cost him dearly, “. . . Reuben the firstborn of Israel (he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel; so he could not be listed in the genealogical record in accordance with his birthright” (1 Chronicles  5:1).

 

You may have noticed that “the sons of Jacob” (v. 22) are listed according to their mothers, not according to their ages.  Also the sons of the wives, “Leah” (v. 23) and “Rachel” (v. 24), are placed before the sons of the handmaids, “Bilhah,” (v. 25) and “Zilpah” (v. 26). 

 

The phrase “which were born to him in Padanaram” (v. 26) has one exception, the story of Benjamin’s birth (35:16-18).  Benjamin was not born in “Padanaram” but near Bethlehem (35:16-18).  Therefore, the statement that Jacob’s twelve sons were born in “Padanaram” must be understood as a general one.

 

 

27 And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned.

28 And the days of Isaac were an hundred and fourscore years.

29 And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

 

“Jacob” had one more funeral to attend—when “Jacob” was bereaved of “his father.”  “Jacob” had left Bethel and had left a lonely marker on the way that led to Bethlehem.  His old nurse was dead, his beloved Rachael was dead, Dinah was nursing her heartache and shame, Levi and Simeon were still in the camp after having shamelessly bragged about their disgraceful deeds, and Reuben had acted worse than a pagan.  So nursing his many hurts “Jacob came” at last to “Isaac,” his blind old “father,” whom he had wronged through deceit many years (30 years) before.  Isaac’s earlier sickness (27:1-2) had not been fatal.  Rebekah had long since passed away.  Old wounds had healed and the homecoming was peaceful.  Isaac’s funeral was also peaceful, for the two brothers, “Esau and Jacob” (v. 29), joined in the burial of their father in the cave of Machpelah{1], near Hebron (49:29-31).

 

The death of “Isaac” is suddenly recorded as though to emphasize that “Jacob” must find his consolation in God and God alone.  He was “old and full of years” we are told; in point of fact, he was 180 when he died; he lived for 12 years after Jacob’s relocation to Hebron.  He shared Jacob’s grief over the apparent death of Joseph, but dies shortly before Joseph’s promotion in Egypt.  Isaac lived longer than any of the other patriarchs; Abraham lived a mere 175 years.

 

“Jacob and Esau buried him.”  There is something fascinating about that.  Here they were, twins by birth but torn apart by disposition, desire, and destiny, united now for the last time to bury their aged dad, which shows how God had wonderfully changed Esau’s mind.

 

Thus God cut the last tie that bound “Jacob” to earth.  He had, as a matter of fact, been set apart for God, a sanctified man.  There were other sorrows in store for him, but those are part of the story of Joseph, who would take over and dominate the last quarter of the book of Genesis.

 

 

 

Notes:

{1] Abraham purchased the cave at Machpelah for a burial place for Sarah.

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