When Jacob runs away from Esau he goes to his uncle at Padam Aram.On his way he passes through the city of Luz and and has a dream at night of angels ascending and descending,God also gives him promises of the land.When he wakes up in the morning he takes a pillar,anoints it and calls the place Bethel

Genesis 28:11-19 NKJV

11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants 19 And he called the name of that place [d]Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously

Some years later when he returns from Padan Aram he passes through the same place.God appears to him at night again and gives him the same promises he had given earlier on.In the morning when he wakes up he takes a pillar ,anoints it and calls the place Bethel

Genesis 35:6-15 NKJV

6 So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him9 Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. 13 Then God went[d] up from him in the place where He talked with him. 14 So Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it. 15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel.

Why does Jacob name the place twice?


There are several reasons for the renaming of Bethel. Here are some suggestions:

  • In the first occasion (Gen 28), Jacob was escaping for his life from his brother Esau. Jacob was alone, frightened and discouraged. When he was given the vision of angels and ladder/stairway, he named the place Bethel. However, because he was alone, probably no one knew about this. When he returned to the same place 20 years later, he was accompanied by his rapidly growing family of 4 wives, 11 or 12 children (at least), probably many servants and shepherds and huge flocks and herds. God appeared the second time (Gen 35:9) and so he recalled the name given previously and renamed the place, "Bethel" for the benefit of his large household so that they knew it as such.
  • Jacob may have partially forgotten he details of the previous experience and upon arriving at Bethel had (incorrectly) named the place "El-bethel" (Gen 35:7). However, when God appeared to Jacob, he correctly named the place, "Bethel" (Gen 35:15).
  • It appears that when Jacob named the place "Bethel" the first time (Gen 28:19) he had made a number of pious vows to God as the sole true God of heaven (Gen 28:20-22). However, with the passing of 20 years on his return, Jacobs resolve to serve YHWH had slipped and idol worship had become common in his household and so when Jacob left Paddan-Aram to return to Bethel as instructed (Gen 35:1), they decided to renew their dedication to the true God and rid themselves of idols (Gen 25:2-4). Thus, Jacob renaming the place where he meets God a second time is a place where he renews his covenant with God (or at least in preparation for going there).

The same conclusions are reached by other interpreters as well. Eg, Ellicott:

Jacob called . . . —See Genesis 28:19. The name had, of course, remained unknown and unused, as what then passed had been confined to Jacob’s own inward consciousness. He now teaches the name to his family, explains the reason why he first gave it, and requires them to employ it.

Barnes also notes:

God appears to Jacob again at Bethel, and renews the promise made to him there Genesis 28:13-14. Again. The writer here refers to the former meeting of God with Jacob at Bethel, and thereby proves himself cognizant of the fact, and of the record already made of it. "When he went out of Padan-aram." This corroborates the explanation of the clause, Genesis 35:6, "which is in the land of Kenaan." Bethel was the last point in this land that was noticed in his flight from Esau. His arrival at the same point indicates that he has now returned from Padan-aram to the land of Kenaan. "He called his name Israel." At Bethel he renews the change of name, to indicate that the meetings here were of equal moment in Jacob's spiritual life with that at Penuel. It implies also that this life had been declining in the interval between Penuel and Bethel, and had now been revived by the call of God to go to Bethel, and by the interview. The renewal of the naming aptly expresses this renewal of spiritual life.

The Pulpit commentary records:

Verse 15. - And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Bethel. This name was first given after the dream vision of the ladder (Genesis 28:19); already on this occasion it had been changed into El-beth-el (ver. 7); now its old name is reimposed.

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