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Updated: March 7, 2024


The Pain of Death

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Scripture: (Gen 35:16-20 NKJV)  Then they journeyed from Bethel. And when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel labored in childbirth, and she had hard labor. {17} Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, "Do not fear; you will have this son also." {18} And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin. {19} So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). {20} And Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel's grave to this day.

Observation: Chapter 35 of Genesis relates in rapid succession three deaths that impacted the life of Jacob and that of his family:
1. Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse (v.8).  The Bible Knowledge Commentary remarks: “This death seemed to indicate that another stage in the patriarchal narratives was ending. The naming Allon Bacuth (“oak of weeping”) commemorated the weeping over this old nurse, buried under an oak tree.”
Another commentary adds: “Deborah (Hebrew, a “bee”), supposing her to have been fifty years on coming to Canaan, had attained the great age of a hundred eighty. When she was removed from Isaac’s household to Jacob’s, is unknown. But it probably was on his return from Mesopotamia; and she would have been of invaluable service to his young family. Old nurses, like her, were not only honored, but loved as mothers; and, accordingly, her death was the occasion of great lamentation.”
2. Rachel dies during childbirth (v.16-20).  “The dying mother gave this name to her child, significant of her circumstances; but Jacob changed his name into Benjamin. This is thought by some to have been originally Benjamin, “a son of days,” that is, of old age. But with its present ending it means “son of the right hand,” that is, particularly dear and precious.”  The SDABC adds: Benjamin. Literally, “son of the right hand.” Yamin, “right,” connotes happiness and prosperity, and in Arabic, good fortune as well. A true optimist, Jacob felt that his youngest son should have a name expressing courage and hope, a name that would ever remind him of the joy that came to his heart at the birth of his 12th son rather than his sorrow at the loss of Rachel. The one compensated, in part, for the loss of the other.”
3. Issac (v.28-29).  “In the events of chapter 35, Jacob learned that while his return to Canaan was a completion of promises, he could not be complacent for it was also a new beginning. Deborah, Rachel, and Isaac all died, marking the end of an era. Reuben relinquished his right to inherit a blessing (cf. 49:3-4); sin was dealt with. Idols had to be buried and everyone had to be consecrated in order for Jacob’s vow at Bethel to be completed. The nation had to be complete with 12 sons (tribes) in the land. During this great transition faith in God had to be revitalized so that His covenant could be carried forward. For this reason this chapter emphasized Jacob’s vows and God’s promise.”

Application: These three death were the transitional events in the life of Jacob and his children.  While the return to Canaan was a joyful event, these three deaths were a somber reminder of the ups and downs of life.  Death is as much a natural part of life, since the fall of Adam and Eve, as are birth and growing up; nevertheless, it is one of the natural stages of life that has the greatest impact on our lives, particularly if it comes suddenly and unexpectedly.  At the same time, the death of a person presents us with the opportunity to draw closer together for mutual help, support, and encouragement, and families may use such opportunities to heal rifts that might have taken place and to form strong bonds again.  At the same time, I hope we don’t wait until a tragic event for us to come closer together but that we will use every opportunity to heal wounds from the past so there is closeness in the future.

A Prayer You May Say: Father, while death is normal in our lives, it is nonetheless painful.  When the time comes for us to die, may we be ready, and may we rest with the knowledge that You will take care of our loves ones and bring them the comfort they need during those difficult days of adjustment .  May You shelter our children that they may not suffer harm or danger and that we may never experience their death while we, their parents, are still alive.  And as You promise, may we hear the voice of Jesus, at His return, calling us to eternal life.

Used by permission of Adventist Family Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

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