1 And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Beth-el, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.
After Simeon and Levi’s slaughter of the men of Shechem, things were very precarious for Jacob. For all he knew all of the surrounding clans would retaliate and destroy them. In this difficult moment God appeared to Jacob and told him that it was time to pack everything up and once again leave for a new home.
Previously he had been instructed broadly, telling him to return to the land of Canaan. Now he is instructed specifically, telling him to go to the patch of land where he had the vision of a ladder ascending to heaven. It was there that God had first promised to be with him.
I believe there is an important principle for us here about God’s directions beginning broad and becoming specific. Very rarely do we receive a clear, step-by-step plan from beginning to end. Much more common is that we prove ourselves willing to follow partial instructions, and later receive the fullness. We have to have faith that unaccounted elements will, in time, be accounted for, and they will. Jacob had proved willing to return to the land of his father and face Esau, so now he was entrusted to take the next step, too.
1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
In Abraham’s own words, he was “a stranger and a sojourner,” journeying from place to place throughout his entire life. He had spent much of his time in the valley and mountains of Canaan, but now he left the area of his future inheritance for Gerar.
Earlier, when he went to Egypt, we were told that he was compelled to do so by a famine. Here it is not explained to us whether he was driven by need or by want, and I am very curious to know. I recently noted how Abraham’s living out in the open had meant he was free to follow his own morals, as opposed to Lot who dwelt in a dangerous city where he made compromises with evil. But in the next verses we will learn that Abraham is similarly afraid of the people in the land of Gerar, as he once again tries to conceal the fact that Sarah is his wife. As before, this results in a difficult situation for the two of them. It would seem strange to come to a land that he considers so godless and dangerous as a passing curiosity, but then what was the reason?
In any case, Abraham will eventually have his fears of this land resolved, will make important friends therein, be free to live in honesty, and even his long-promised son Isaac will be born there.