Genesis 35:1–15, Go up to Bethel. Jacob, twenty years earlier, had left Canaan in disgrace fleeing eastward into exile (as his descendants would do generations later), where in captivity to Laban he pays the price for being a deceiver. In captivity, Jacob prospers and finally is able to return to the Promised Land.
En route westward back to Canaan, he goes through a wilderness experience, as the children of his namesake would do several generations later. What type of individuals does YHVH not permit and permit to enter into the Land of Promise?
The answers are in Hebrews 4:1–11 where the writer speaks of doubt and unbelief, faith, hardness of heart versus resting in YHVH and not in the works of our flesh. (Read it.) To come home, like the prodigal son, to the home of his earthly parents and to that of his Heavenly Father (Beth-el or House of El) what was required of Jacob?
He had to manifest brokenness, humility, a new identity, repentance, and make restitution for past sins committed against others (Gen 34). Will YHVH not similarly break our stiff necks, refine and purify us to become suitable use in his spiritual house?
Are you fighting this process that YHVH is working in your life to prepare you for your spiritual Bethel? Jacob got hit again and again until his carnal will was finally broken, his heart was circumcised. He was forced to die to the willfulness of his flesh and his scheming tendencies to bring YHVH’s will to pass in his life. (Have other notable personages of Scripture tried the same things and had their will broken before they were useful to YHVH? Remember Moses when he murdered the Egyptian? What did YHVH do with him for 40 years?)
Remember, neither the uncircumcised in heart nor flesh will enter into the spiritual house of Elohim (Ezek 44:9), which is the ultimate Promised Land of the saints’ spiritual inheritance.
Where are you in this spiritual process? The Promised Land belongs to those (i.e. the seed of Jacob) who pass the wilderness tests of YHVH (Gen 35:12). Who is that seed? You are if you’re in Yeshua. (Read Rom 4:16; 9:8, 11; Gal 3:7, 9, 14, 28, 29.)
Are the modern saints not following exactly in our father Jacob’s footsteps leaving our exile and captivity in spiritual Babylon (i.e. false religious systems, which contains a mixture of both good and evil, see Rev 18:4), and returning westward across the river Jordan into the land of Promise, to our spiritual inheritance, to the ancient and good paths of the Torah faith (Jer 6:16, 19), which is defined in terms of YHVH’s covenants with Israel (Eph 2:12–14)? Is not YHVH calling out a growing remnant of believers in Yeshua to do just that in our time? Can you see how Jacob’s life is a prophetic road map of what each individual believer must go through to obtain his spiritual inheritance? Jacob’s journeyings back to Beth-El (literally, the house of El) is a prophetic picture of what all Israel, collectively, must go through as well.
Genesis 35:2, Foreign gods [Heb. teraphim]. The necessary prerequisites to coming up to Bethel (v. 1, in Heb. meaning “the house of El”) included the putting away of the pagan idols that were among Jacob’s family members, purifying or cleansing oneself (physically and ceremonially), and changing into clean clothing (v. 2), removing jewelry with any pagan connotations (v. 4). Bethel (i.e. the house of El), in this case, and to be distinguished from two towns by the same name, according to the Jewish sages, was where the Temple of Solomon was eventually built (i.e. on the present day Temple Mount).
Because of this act of consecration, the terror or fear of Elohim came upon the Canaanite inhabitants of surrounding region (v. 5). Because of Jacob’s total act of surrender to the Creator and his unconditional devotion to serve and obey his Heavenly Master, YHVH went before Jacob and his family and protected them.
What else can we learn from what Jacob did? Namely this. When coming into the presence of Elohim, we would be prudent to purify and consecrate ourselves physically and spiritually, for Elohim is in heaven, and we are on earth; therefore, let us be careful not to come into his set-apart Presence carelessly and indifferently and end up offering up the sacrifice of fools (see Eccl 5:1–2). For example, the children of Israel spent two days consecrating themselves at the foot of Mount Sinai in preparation for their encounter with Elohim (Exod 19).
Moreover, the psalmist asks YHVH the question, “Who may abide in your tabernacle, and who may dwell in your holy hill” (Ps 15:1) and again, “Who may ascend unto the hill of YHVH, and who may stand in his holy place?” (Ps 24:3). Not just anyone! Only those who have properly prepared themselves spiritually by cleansing themselves and walking righteously. Therefore, let us walk righteously and cleanly before Elohim, devoid of all pagan appearances and practices, and uncleanliness of all kind both physical and spiritual.