A lot happens in this chapter. You find the journey of Jacob that takes place, and you see how God has blessed him and goes with him wherever he goes. You see that for a second time God changes his name. First, when Jacob was under duress wrestling with the “man” and now, a second time, when things seemed to have calmed down. But no sooner has God spoken to him again and changed his name, that his beloved wife, Rachel, dies in childbirth. The child, Benjamin, makes it and his role in the Israel story is fairly significant. But somehow I had forgotten that Rachel died while she gave birth to Benjamin.
Notice that Rachel’s naming of this son means Son of my sorrow. Jacob, or Israel rather, was quick to change that to Son of the right hand, or son of the south.
Also thrown in this chapter is Reuben’s act of sleeping with his father’s concubine. We don’t hear of any repercussions or how Jacob reacts to this, just that it, well, happened. Remember Reuben is the eldest of the sons. Now, we do see in other places of Scripture where it does seem that he pays a price. If you look at I Chronicles 5:1 you see that his birthright is given to the sons of Joseph because he defiled his father’s bed. So Joseph ends up with the birthright. We also see in Jacob/Israel’s blessing in Genesis 49:3-4 that Reuben is told that he will excel no longer because he mounted his father’s couch. So one little sentence in this chapter leads to a whole myriad of repercussions that come up later on.
I love how both Jacob and Esau were present to bury their father…together. What a great sign of reconciliation.