Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jacob Goes to Shechem -- Genesis 33:18-20

Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. And he bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent, from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe-Israel.

In verse 17 of this chapter we read about Jacob building a house and booths for his animals in Succoth. Then in verse 18 we learn he had arrived in the “city of Shechem”. There is no mention as to why he left Succoth, except to be heading ever closer to his original goal of returning to the land of his father and mother.

Paddan-aram, is also mentioned again in this text as the place from where he had originally started his journey home after living Laban, Rachel’s father. This was the location of Rachel’s family home. It was also the place where his mother, Isaac’s bride, Rebekah, who was also Laban’s sister, came from.

Here is what we know about Shechem. It was situated in a narrow valley, abounding with springs, between Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, having the former on the north, and the latter on the south. It is a distance of ten miles from Shiloh, and 34 from Jerusalem. It became the capital of Samaria, after the ruin of the city of that name. But who was the person “Shechem”? Searching the literature, I learned that he was the son of Hamor, the chieftain of the Hivites who lived in the city Shechem named after him, and were occupying it at the time of Jacob's arrival.

It was from the sons of Hamor, and the family of Shechem that he bought this property. One would assume that he had planned to stay there for some time. It is not specified what the actual unit of money used was, but we can assume it may have been gold or silver, certainly something weighed out in some manner.

The first thing that Jacob does after purchasing the land upon which he had erected his lodgings was to build an altar to God. And it is interesting that he assigns the name of El-elohe-Israel to either the altar he erected or the location where he erected the altar. Perhaps it was both. The actual word, El-elohe-Israel, is translated as “the mighty God of Israel”. Jacob was making it known to all who learned of the name, that he believes “personally” in the “mighty God” and that mighty God is his. Remember to this point, Israel was simply the new name that God had given Jacob. [In case there may be some confusion, this renaming is first told in Genesis 32 but is referred to again later in Genesis 35.] What a testimony Jacob had. Oh, that we would be so proud and open about our personal relationship with God. Can you image naming our cottages, homes, boats, cars, farms, businesses, acreage, whatever we owned or erected, “the mighty God of Ken” or “the mighty God of Sally”? What an impact that would make on our community, our city, our country, if we all did something like that? I believe the day is coming, and perhaps is already here, when more and more Christians will be sharing their own testimony of their personal relationship with God more openly. May it be so with each of us even today.

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