13 And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him.

14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon.

15 And Jacob called the name of the place where God spake with him, Beth-el.

I find this passage confusing. In the previous verses we heard about Jacob making a new altar, speaking with God, having his name of Israel reaffirmed, and renaming the place from Beth-el to El-beth-el. But here we hear of him making another pillar, having another conversation, being called Jacob once more, and the place is called Beth-el again.

Are today’s verses calling back to Jacob’s original visit to this land, back when he was fleeing his father’s household? Are they saying that Jacob set up two different pillars in two parts of the land and called those regions by two different names? Is this a clerical error? Is it two separate accounts of the same event being blended together?

I’m really not sure, but I lean towards the last of those options. We have to remember that the Bible is a compiled book, the work of different prophets and scribes, written in isolation and later combined and translated into a single package. It is a work of divinely approved scripture, but also a product of human quirks. Thankfully, small moments of uncertainty like this don’t get in the way of us understanding Jacob’s story as a whole.

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