1 Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.”
2 And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments.
3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.”
4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which were in their hands, and the earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree which was by Shechem.
5 And they journeyed, and the terror of God was upon the cities that were all around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.
6 So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him.
7 And he built an altar there and called the place El Bethel, because there God appeared to him when he fled from the face of his brother.
8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the terebinth tree. So the name of it was called Allon Bachuth.
Bethel (v.1) was about 15 miles south of Shechem and 1,000 feet higher in elevation. It was the place where God had confirmed the Abrahamic covenant to Jacob (Genesis 28:10-19).
El Bethel (v.7) = the God of Bethel. Compare Genesis 28:19, where it was the place, as the scene of the ladder-vision, which impressed Jacob. He called the place “Bethel,” i.e. the house of God. Now it is the God of the place, rather than the place, and he calls it “El-Bethel,” i.e. the God of the house of God. — Scofield, pages 50-51.
God reminded Jacob of his encounter with Him at Bethel, and of his promises there, and commanded him immediately to move onto Bethel. With a broken and repentant heart, Jacob did what he should have done long ago: he required his family and servants to abandon all remnants of idolatry; discard their images, earrings, and other amulets; put away their “foreign gods” and even the garments they had been wearing; then wash themselves clean and put on fresh clothing symbolic of the pure worship of Jehovah. … All these remnants of the “old life” were buried under the “oak” of Shechem, quite possibly the same terebinth tree that had been noted by Abram (Genesis 12:6) as he entered Canaan. — Morris, pages 518-519.
The surrounding Canaanite tribes were far superior to [Jacob’s household] numerically, but nevertheless became so fearful of them that they refrained from attacking them. … Jacob and his company therefore arrived safely at the little community of Luz, which he had renamed Bethel, and he immediately proceeded to build the altar and its associated house of worship there. He had named the place Bethel, and now he named the altar El-Bethel (“The Strong God of the House of God”).
It was at this time and place the Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died. … She was well loved and revered by the family, and there was sincere grief at her departing, as indicated by their naming the place of her burial “The Oak of Weeping.”
Jacob had known Deborah all his life. She had come with Rebekah from Mesopotamia when Rebekah had left to marry Isaac (Genesis 24:59), and no doubt had cared for Jacob from the time he was born. She had not … accompanied him when he fled from Esau to Haran … The record does not say when she rejoined Jacob, but it [may have been] the occasion of one of his visits to see Isaac while he was living at Shechem. In fact, her presence in Jacob’s household is one of the reasons we [think] he visited his father during those years. Furthermore, the fact that she was now with Jacob [is a strong indicator] that Rebekah herself was dead. — Morris, page 520.