Jacob Returns to Bethel as God Asked; Isaac and Rachel Die
The whole massacre at Shechem is a sad story. It could all have been avoided if Jacob obeyed God's direction to go insteat to Bethel, a safer place to raise his family. Instead, his daughter was violated and his sons committed murder. How often do we go where we know God would not want us to go -- to drugs, to people who will drag us down, to gangs that will cause us to do evil, to another man or woman who leads us to adultery. Place is important because it leads us directly to good or evil.
Fathers and mothers have a huge responsibility. If we are not with God then our children will almost certainly fall away, as well.
Jacob finally, it seems, got right with God. He commanded all the households he had captured to get rid of their gods (idols) and their clothing ... a new start, a born again relationship with God was underway. It is amazing that God just did not leave Jacob in his sins and find someone else more capable of leading his family and the Hebrew nation to righteousness. But God saw something in Jacob worthy of working on, molding him like sculpting in clay. We can all take comfort in God's grace and mercy; when we fail, He lifts us back up.
When Jacob returns to Bethel and builds an altar to God, the relationship is reestablished. Born Again.
Now the story turns sad again. Rachel, the woman he loved from first sight, dies in childbirth. The child, Benjamin, lives but Jacob must bury his true love.
The story saddens again when while Jacob is away, Reuben (Jacob's first son) has sex with Jacob's concubine. This now left Jacob with Simeon, Levi and now Reuben who have failed God's love. It will be the fourth son (not the first) who carries the nation forward.
And again the story saddens. Jacob returns one last time to be with his father Isaac, who is old at about 180 years, and dying. He takes his last breath. Jacob and Esau, now brought back together by God's hand, buried their father.
Rachel’s tomb has been mentioned by Jewish travelers since about 1300 CE. The actual tomb consists of a rock with 11 stones; one for each of the sons of Jacob. Over the centuries, the rock was covered by a dome supported by four arches. In 1841, Sir Moses Montefiore was granted permission by the occupying Ottoman Turkish empire to restore the tomb. He funded the construction of the large two room building seen today.