The God of Bethel

Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 31:3, 11-13, 24[1]

Jacob complicated his life when he added to the promises God made to him at Bethel. Twenty years later, he grew weary of working for Uncle Laban. He had four wives and eleven children. He wanted to return home and provide for his own family. But his unfinished business with God needed to be resolved before God could bless him.

If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth.[2]

After Joseph was born, Jacob told Uncle Laban he wanted to return home. Laban wanted him to stay. He had learned by “divination” that Jacob’s presence brought blessings upon his family. Jacob had worked fourteen years to pay the dowry for Leah and Rachel. His debt satisfied, he was free to leave, but Laban agreed to pay him wages if he stayed. Jacob accepted and requested Laban would pay him with livestock.

God’s promise to be with Jacob never made Jacob’s life perfect. Uncle Laban changed his wages ten times to keep Jacob from prospering. If Laban said, “‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘the streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young.”[3] No matter how many times Laban changed Jacob’s wages, the flocks produced what belonged to Jacob per his agreement with Laban. Jacob grew rich despite being cheated by his uncle because God was with him.

Laban’s sons resented Jacob was becoming richer than their father. Laban was not happy about Jacob’s prosperity either. Jacob knew it would be best to leave. God concurred and sent a message to Jacob.

The first time God spoke to Jacob he identified himself as the “God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.” This time God identified himself as the “God of Bethel where you anointed the pillar and where you vowed a vow to me.” Jacob may have forgotten about the vow, but God did not. He told Jacob to return home, but he also clarified that Jacob needed to keep his vow on the way home.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Deuteronomy 23:21-23

[3] Genesis 31:7

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