Genesis 35:4 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 35:4, NIV: "So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem."

Genesis 35:4, ESV: "So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem."

Genesis 35:4, KJV: "And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem."

Genesis 35:4, NASB: "So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem."

Genesis 35:4, NLT: "So they gave Jacob all their pagan idols and earrings, and he buried them under the great tree near Shechem."

Genesis 35:4, CSB: "Then they gave Jacob all their foreign gods and their earrings, and Jacob hid them under the oak near Shechem."

What does Genesis 35:4 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jacob's vows to the Lord included a promise to make the Lord his God. The implication was that the Lord would be his only God. To fulfill that promise, Jacob has commanded his household to gather up any "foreign gods" or idols in their possession. This would presumably have included idols, such as the household gods Rachel had stolen from her father Laban (Genesis 31:19).

Now all those idols are delivered to Jacob. This verse also mentions earrings, suggesting they may have been worn in worship to some of those foreign gods. Jacob buries them under a specific terebinth tree near Shechem before the company begins their caravan south to Bethel. Scripture doesn't give an explicit reason why Jacob buried these items, rather than destroying them or reusing the precious metals. Most likely, this act symbolized Jacob's commitment to completely renounce false gods.

The message to Jacob's family would have been clear. Jacob's household would have understood themselves to be completely dependent on God alone with no other foreign gods to fall back on. This was an act of faith for the whole community.