The Restored Orchard

Deeper Roots – Genesis 35:16-21

photo of an open book on a tree s roots

A humbled and open heart is fertile soil for God’s seeds of wisdom. Establishing deeper roots requires analyzing God’s word to discover truths, values, and lessons for application to our lives. Periodically, a scripture or passage calls for further exploration, like Genesis 35:16-21.

Leaving Bethel, Jacob and his clan moved on toward Ephrath. But Rachel went into labor while they were still some distance away. Her labor pains were intense. After a very hard delivery, the midwife finally exclaimed, “Don’t be afraid—you have another son!” Rachel was about to die, but with her last breath she named the baby Ben-oni (which means “son of my sorrow”). The baby’s father, however, called him Benjamin (which means “son of my right hand”). So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Jacob set up a stone monument over Rachel’s grave, and it can be seen there to this day. Then Jacob traveled on and camped beyond Migdal-eder.

Genesis 35:16‭-‬21 NLT

Our Deeper Roots passage in Genesis shows how we don’t have to wear the names of situations we’ve been through. Our scripture selection begins after Jacob has buried all of his family’s idols and made an altar to God in Bethel. On their departure trip, Rachel goes into labor and has a difficult birth. The midwife tells Rachel that she has another son. As she lay dying, Rachel named her newborn son, Ben-Oni, but his father, Jacob, renamed him, Benjamin. Then Jacob buried Rachel and traveled towards Migdal-Eder.

Names are significant. They add a deeper layer to the story of Benjamin’s birth. Rachel had difficulty conceiving children. When she had Joseph, she was glad that the shame of being barren was removed. Joseph means ‘the Lord shall add’ and ‘God has taken away my reproach.’ Both give insight into where Rachel’s mindset was at the time. For Benjamin’s birth, the midwife shared that Rachel shouldn’t fear because she had another son. At that time, sons were treasured because they carried on the family name and were a source of protection. But in that moment of dying, Rachel named him, ‘son of my sorrow’ or ‘son of my pain.’ She was in a sad and painful place and that’s how she named him. But Jacob, who had just had his own name changed by God, decided that he would call his newest son Benjamin. Benjamin means ‘son of my right hand.’ Remember, the right hand is a position of honor. At that moment, he chose not to let his son wear the grief of his mother’s death. He gave him a new name with a powerful meaning.

Jacob’s renaming of his son from Ben-Oni to Benjamin shows the power of names. Jacob could have allowed his son to carry the name, Ben-Oni, and the grief associated with it. Yet, he chose to change it into a name of honor. Isn’t that like God? Renaming us as his own children. Not allowing us to wear the shame, guilt, and grief of previous seasons. Setting us next to Jesus Christ who suffered for our sins. As a child of God, we don’t have to wear the names of seasons that we’ve walked through. We are new creatures with new names and we can walk uprightly in that truth.

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