Genesis 35 Chapter Summary: God Commands Jacob to Travel to Bethel to Build an Altar


Genesis 35 Chapter Summary: God Commands Jacob to Travel to Bethel to Build an Altar

Genesis 35 Chapter Commentary: God Commands Jacob to Travel to Bethel to Build an Altar


In Genesis Chapter 35, Jacob seeks counsel from God and travels with his family to Bethel under God’s protection. During their journey, Rachel, Deborah, and Isaac die, while Jacob’s youngest son, Benjamin, is born.

After his sons kill Hamor and Shechem, God commands Jacob to travel to Bethel to build an altar. Jacob tells his family and others living with him that they are going to Bethel to worship God. He instructs them to change their clothes and gather all their idols, which he then hides.

In Bethel, Jacob builds an altar to God and renames the place El Bethel. While there, Deborah dies, and Jacob buries her under an oak tree. God appears to Jacob, blesses him, and changes his name to Israel, promising him kings and the land of Abraham and Isaac.

Israel builds a stone pillar and pours wine and oil on it, naming the place Bethel. Rachel dies while giving birth to Benjamin, and Israel buries her in Bethlehem. Israel then travels to Mamre and returns to his father’s city, where Isaac dies and is buried by Israel and Esau.


What’s the Main Point?


Jacob instructs his family to put away their pagan idols and become pure after receiving a divine command to return to Bethel and erect an altar to God. Reuben’s behavior with Bilhah and the embarrassment it causes to Jacob’s family serve as more examples of the repercussions of sin and disobedience in this chapter.


What Can We Learn from This Chapter?


From Genesis 35, we can learn some important lessons.

The significance of following God’s instructions: Jacob followed God’s instructions to go back to Bethel and construct an altar, and he gave his family the instruction to remove their pagan idols and purify themselves. This highlights the necessity for us to obey God’s instructions and live a holy and pure life.

The repercussions of sin and disobedience: Jacob’s family suffered greatly as a result of Reuben’s behavior with Bilhah. This serves as a reminder that sin can hurt both ourselves and other people and has consequences.

The truth of death: Rachel dies during childbirth, highlighting the necessity of being ready for death.

The faithfulness of God’s promises: God reiterates His commitments to Jacob and his line of ancestors, including the promise of land ownership. This serves as a reminder of God’s steadfastness to His Word, even in the midst of trials and tribulations.




Thank you for the lessons we can learn from Genesis 35. Help us to be obedient to your commands, and to live lives of holiness and purity. May we be mindful of the consequences of sin and disobedience, and seek to avoid them.

Remind us of the reality of death, and the need to prepare for it by living a life that honors you. And finally, help us to trust in your faithfulness to your promises, even in the face of difficulties and challenges. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.



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Featured image attribution:

Jacob at Bethel as in Genesis 28:10-22, illustration from a Bible card published 1900 by the Providence Lithograph Company. This image is in the public domain. Cropped from original.


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