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In what form does the Lord appear to Jacob at Beth-el (Gen 35:9-13)? Was it similar to the form in which he appeared in Gen 32 (assuming the wrestler was, indeed, God)? Regardless, why does he appear to Jacob again?

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  • This does read like history and systematic theology rather than hermeneutics.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 9:29
  • Surely they all run together in Bible interpretation and exegesis? The meaning of a text is indeed sometimes historical, sometimes geographical, sometimes doctrinal, sometimes even philosophical — and let’s not forget devotional—and the issues raised are sometimes philological, sometimes apologetical (e.g., resolving seeming contradictions). Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 14:33

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Probably, the form in which the Lord, or his representation, took was important in distinguishing this visitation; his self-description was, in any event. When he told Jacob to leave Haran, a short four chapters but about ten years prior, “the angel of God spake unto me in a dream” (Gen 31:11); he added, “I am the God of Beth-el.” (31:13)

By clear contrast, the “man” (32:24) with whom Jacob wrestled was never self-identified. Indeed, he specifically refused to give his name: “And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?” (32:29) But it was this same God (“of Beth-el”) who told him to return to Beth-el and make an altar there.

Finally Jacob has arrived back where he started, where God himself sent him off with a blessing and a vow. At this place, Jacob met the same God with whom he wrestled. This is something, interestingly, that Hosea specifically attests to: “Yea, he [ Jacob] had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he [the angel] found him [ Jacob] in Beth-el, and there he spake with us” (Hos 12:4). Thus, note, when God spoke with Jacob, Hosea interprets that as as meaning that God “spake with us”—the Hebrews.

Now at Beth-el, God calls himself “God Almighty” (El Shaddai), but probably not because he has demonstrated his power in bringing Jacob home safely. Safe homecoming would certainly be a good reason for a thanksgiving offering, but the Lord’s past providence is a fact in evidence. Probably the real point of emphasizing the power of God to Jacob and his sons is to impress this point on them: “be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.” (35:11-12) This is an injunction to seize power—no, not immediately, but eventually—backed up by the Lord’s own power. This is a different blessing from that at Gen 32, and one essential to the Abrahamic covenant. This, and the reiteration of Jacob’s new name, Israel, are the reasons for the Lord’s visit.

Finally, notice that “God appeared unto Jacob again” (35:9), apparently in a bodily or otherwise visible form, because afterward, dramatically, “God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.” (35:13)

The latter Hebrew word is עלה or alah, glossed “to go up, ascend, climb”. The word is translated an astonishing variety of ways, with a very strong flavor of “rising” throughout. The same word, and same KJV translation, was used in a similar situation: “God went up from Abraham.” (17:22) So, again, some sort of theophany seems to have appeared bodily, or at least visibly, to Jacob, and after the encounter, the Lord appeared to ascend into heaven, as Jesus was said to do (Luke 24:51, Acts 1:9). This was not a mere dream, because the place of ascension is described: “the place where he [God] talked with him [Jacob].” (35:13)

The visit was, as with Jacob’s Ladder, no doubt deeply impressive, and meant to be: it refreshed the commitment of Jacob and, through him, his twelve sons to their covenant mission.

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