Genesis 35:5-7 – Letters to Jacob – Part 2

Posted: January 6, 2019 in Genesis, Genesis 35
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Dear Jacob (from last letter), 

Letters to Jacob © Image created by Ross Cochrane

… By the way, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what did you do with the women and children that your sons took captive after the massacre? You mention nothing of them. I am just hoping that they were not buried also.  

You must be afraid of retaliation from the towns around you. Despite these horrific events, I’m glad you are moving. I am praying for your protection. 



Dear Ross,

I must admit I was afraid that the nearby towns might bring violence to us in retaliation and revenge, but as we set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of that area, so no one attacked our family. (Genesis 35:5 NLT). The horrible thing is that they probably feared being murdered too. I suppose it is no wonder they felt fear, after a whole town of men was wiped out by my sons, but this fear somehow seemed different. Terrifying and ominous! 

We do not deserve God’s grace. Now, I leave justice in God’s hands alone for the horrific actions of my sons and my lack of leadership. Only He knows what future awaits us. In the meantime, we have been spared.  

I once built an altar to God near Shechem. Now, however, that altar is associated with the massacre. It stands there as a silent witness, but an undesirable one. People from the towns near Shechem will blame God and be afraid of Him. I know that the “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom” (Psalm 11:10 NLT), but this has not been a healthy fear, but dread. I can only hope their terror turns to reverence and God will bring something good out of all this. 

With sadness, 


P.S. The women and children that were captured are the responsibility of my sons, so you had better ask them about that. 


Dear Jacob, 

So pleased to hear that you have been spared any more bloodshed. It made me realise that as I set out on this new part of my life this year, my prayer also needs to be that God will spare me and let no evil befall me or my family. 

God has been faithful to you, Jacob. What He promises, He will fulfil. All the best for your journey to Bethel.  

I wonder why you didn’t visit Bethel earlier. Afterall it is only 15 kms from Shechem and surely you journeyed to Hebron to see your father. Bethel is in between. Why did you avoid Bethel?  




Dear Ross, 

Your right. I have been avoiding coming here for 10 years and now, finally, we have arrived at Bethel (also called Luz) in Canaan. (Genesis 35:6 NLT). This is the place where God first spoke to me so uniquely from a stairway to heaven.  

You have to realise that I allowed idols into my household and I haven’t exactly obeyed what God told me to do. Avoiding Bethel was an intentionally rebellious thing to do and has proved to be a big mistake. I have compromised along the way and it took tragedy in my family to get my act together.   

I made a choice to stay in Shechem. I now find myself asking“What have I got to show for it all?” My daughter was raped and I did nothing about it. My sons have massacred all the Shechemite males in retaliation and taken the women and children as slaves. They have sacked and looted the village including the pagan idols and still I did nothing.  

I am ashamed to say that all I did was complain that wouldn’t be able to live there any longer for fear of revenge. It doesn’t get much worse. 

But all this has brought me to my knees and to my senses. We are rid of idols and now I am in Bethel as God commanded me. I built an altar there and named the place El-bethel (which means “God of Bethel”), because God appeared to me there when I was fleeing from my brother, Esau (Genesis 35:7 NLT). 

Back on track, 



Dear Jacob, 

Thanks for your very candid letter. You have now done what God called you to do. It is apparent that you are back in touch with God and recognise God’s presence in your life. You marked the spot where God had spoken to you many years ago with an altar. I like this. Your about 10 years late but you got there (Sorry. Couldn’t help taking a dig at you). 

I like the way you changed the name of the place to El-Bethel – God of the House of God. It emphasises God and not the place. That says something to me about your relationship with Him. Bethel was already a place which held great meaning for you but you renamed it so you don’t have to live in the past. You have placed emphasis on God, the One who led you from your past experiences into the present.  

Building an altar is nothing without God. Building a house of God is nothing without worshiping God. It looks like you finally get it – God is now central to all things that have transpired in your life. 

When I read about how you emphasized the Name of God, I found myself praying more for God’s presence in my own life. What will it take to make sure I obey God?  

Of course, building an altar and actually worshiping God alone are two different things. I can’t help thinking of the healing needed in the lives of your children. Tell me, did your sons actually repent and turn from their sins and turn to God? Did they seek God’s forgiveness and worship Him alone? Did your daughter find the healing she needed from her traumatic experience? I know that you finally fulfilled your vow, but did it make a difference in their lives as well?  


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