Been reading through Genesis, and I am assuming it is something simple that I'm missing...

Genesis 28:19 says, "He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at first."

BUT, back in Genesis 12:8 during Abraham's lifetime it says, "From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on west and Ai on the east."

So years prior to Jacob "renaming" Bethel, Abraham already called it Bethel? I thought it was Luz? What am i missing here?

2 Answers 2


Recall that Genesis was written (or more likely, edited) by Moses well after the events described in the book of Genesis; see appendix below.

Thus, when writing about a place, he might (and often does) use the place name at the time of writing rather than the name it had when the event took place. The OP has quoted a perfect example of this in Bethel.

There are other examples such a "Rameses" (Gen 47:11, Ex 1:11, 13:17) which was well-before it was known by that name.

APPENDIX - Genesis Structure

Almost all commentators now structure the literary form of the book of Genesis around the “Toledoths” – a Hebrew word that is variously translated as, “the generations of”, “the history of”, “the account of”, “the record of”, etc. The debate in Genesis concerns the function of these Toledoths – do they form a heading (for what follows) or a colophon (footnote and “signature” of what has preceded)? Wiseman suggested, after studying Akkadian documents, that these Toledoths were colophons containing the identity of the author, and created an elaborate Tablet theory about Genesis. What are the facts? The 11 Toledoths in Genesis are:

  1. Gen 2:4 toledoth of Heavens and Earth
  2. Gen 5:1 toledoth of Adam
  3. Gen 6:9 toledoth of Noah
  4. Gen 10:1 toledoth of Shem Ham and Japheth
  5. Gen 11:10 toledoth of Shem
  6. Gen 11:27 toledoth of Terah
  7. Gen 25:12 toledoth of Ishmael
  8. Gen 25:19 toledoth of Isaac
  9. Gen 36:1 toledoth of Esau
  10. Gen 36:9 toledoth of Esau in Hill Country
  11. Gen 37:2 toledoth of Jacob

If the Toledoths are intended as a Colophon (footnote containing the author’s “signature”) to each section, then:

  • The last third of Genesis has no author
  • Some sections were written by people who did not witness the events or were antagonistic to the events and people, eg, most of the last 5 except Gen 36:9.
  • The first section was written by the heavens and the earth (!?!)

By contrast, if each Toledoth is a section heading:

  • Each section is about what the heading states without exception
  • Gen 1:1 – 2:3 is clearly written separately and in a very different style, verging on poetic. See “Creation”.

This leads to a simple idea about the likely origin of the book of Genesis. It is probable (in agreement with Wiseman) that each Toledoth was written by a different (unstated) person (NOT the person in the Toledoth), and later, Moses collected and collated them, edited and arranged them, with an added introduction about creation, to create the book of Genesis, essentially as we now have it.


Remember, Jacob had a dream! And in a dream it has already happened or is about to happen. In Genesis 12:1 Yahweh said I will show thee, he didn't say how he will show him or when he will show him. The Lord Yahweh appeared unto Abram again in Genesis 12:7 and said unto thy seed will I give this land. In the dream Jacob had it revealed the name of the land to him .

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