a. The death of Deborah. Verse 8 is another one of those sentences that seem to appear out of nowhere. We have Jacob arriving at Bethel and all of a sudden we are told that Deborah died and was buried at Bethel under an oak tree. Who’s Deborah? We are told that Deborah was Rebekah’s nurse. If you go all the way back to Genesis 24:59, we find her mentioned there, not by name, but just as Rebekah’s nurse. When Rebekah left home with the servant sent by Abraham her nurse went with her. She stayed with the family all of these years and must have been an integral part of the family. So much so that her name is recorded, which is an important honor, her death is mentioned, which even Rebekah’s isn’t, and the location of her grave is recorded. Jacob even names the location. This is another sign of how important Deborah was. The place was called Allon-bacuth which means oak of weeping. It is easy to see by this memorial name what Deborah meant to them. b. The death of Rachel. Sometime later, Jacob decides to move his household from Bethel. As they are on their journey, just a couple of hours distance from Ephrath or Bethlehem, Rachel went into labor with her second son. The labor was difficult, but Rachel gave birth to a healthy boy. Remember that Rachel named her first son Joseph and said may the Lord add to me another son. And now she has had him. The midwife tried to encourage her with the news that she gave birth to another son. However, Moses tells us that her soul was departing from her body because she was dying. This is what happens at death. The soul leaves the body and departs. It is not destroyed but merely departing for somewhere else. In the case of those who were justified by faith in the Old Testament, their souls departed and found their way to Abraham’s side. Before Rachel dies, she names her son Ben-oni, son of my sorrow. But Jacob renames his son, as the father had the right to do, and names him “son of my right hand”. Benjamin’s name could have been a constant reminder to Jacob of the loss of his beloved wife but he changes his name to show that Benjamin would be a help to him in his old age. Jacob buries Rachel there on the way to Bethlehem and sets a pillar over her tomb. At the time Moses was writing this, Rachel’s pillar was still over her tomb. At the end of 22 through 26 we have the record of the twelve sons of Israel. Moses began this book for the Israelites with the creation of all things. He traced the family line through Noah and Shem to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He has shown where all people come from and, specifically, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob came from. And now, we have the twelve tribes of Israel and their origin. Now those that are about to go into the Promised Land know how their 12 tribes came about. Beginning in chapter 37 we have the final section of this book of beginnings which tells the story of how the twelve tribes ended up in Egypt. One more thing before we move on. I skipped over the first part of verse 22 which tells us of Reuben’s sin. Again, it seems that this verse just comes out of nowhere with a little tidbit of information. Why do we need to know about Reuben and Bilhah and the fact that Jacob knew that it happened? Again, another one of Moses’ foreshadowing. Genesis chapter 49 records for us the blessing of Jacob on his sons. Verse 3 and 4 address Reuben. Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the first fruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch!” There you have it. Moses records the event in the timeline so that when we arrive at verse 49 we know why Reuben will lose his birthright and place as the firstborn. It was this sin that Jacob had heard about. c. The death of Isaac. Jacob finally makes his way to his father’s house at Mamre where Abraham and Isaac both had lived. The recording of Isaac’s death here is more thematic than chronological. His death would occur after Joseph was sold into Egypt but Moses chooses to mention this here in conjunction with the other deaths. Isaac died at 180 years old living way beyond when everyone thought he would die, even himself, back when Jacob stole the blessing. Isaac’s death is described like those before him. He was old and full of day and was gathered to his people. We know that he was buried in the family cave at Machpelah with Abraham and Sarah. And we are told that Esau and Jacob were both there to bury him. The animosity between the two brothers was still pacified at this point. Esau does not try to exact his revenge as he promised himself around 40 years before. With this last mention of Esau, Moses naturally in the next chapter, records the descendants of Esau, which we will look at next time.