What does Genesis 35:5 mean?
ESV: And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.
NIV: Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.
NASB: As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.
CSB: When they set out, a terror from God came over the cities around them, and they did not pursue Jacob's sons.
NLT: As they set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of that area, so no one attacked Jacob’s family.
KJV: And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.
NKJV: 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.
Verse Commentary:
In the previous chapter, Jacob's sons had slaughtered the men of the city of Shechem in retaliation for the rape of their sister Dinah (Genesis 34:25–27). They had gathered the Shechemites' wealth, their wives, and their children. Jacob's response was a fearful one: The people of the land of Canaan might decide to band together to destroy him and his household (Genesis 34:30).

Once again, however, God steps in to keep His promises and to protect Jacob and his family from any harm. This time, God's method is to cause "a terror" to fall on the people of the cities in the region. They had no courage to come after Jacob's company. This implies that Jacob was right to be concerned about the people of the region wanting to kill them in retaliation for their attack against Shechem. God had to shut down that impulse by placing a great fear of the Israelites in their hearts.
Verse Context:
Genesis 35:1–15 describes the fulfillment of Jacob's vows made to the Lord some twenty years earlier. Then, Jacob encountered God after fleeing from Esau (Genesis 27:42). Now that Jacob has returned safely to Canaan and resolved the conflict with Esau, God commands him to build an altar at the place of their earlier meeting. Jacob rids his family of all of their false idols and builds the altar. God appears to him, confirming the covenant promises once more. Jacob responds to God's appearance and blessing by building a stone pillar and pouring a drink offering and oil over it. This location is named Bethel, meaning "House of God."
Chapter Summary:
God commands Jacob to build an altar to Him at Bethel. This will fulfill vows Jacob made after encountering the Lord for the first time, as he was fleeing for his life from Esau. Jacob rids his family of all their false idols and travels to Bethel. God appears to him again, reaffirming all the covenant promises. As they travel away, Rachel dies giving birth to Jacob's twelfth son. His first son, Reuben, sleeps with Jacob's servant-wife Bilhah, losing his birthright as a result. Finally, Jacob's father Isaac dies at 180 years old.
Chapter Context:
Recent events have left Jacob fearful of the people of the land. His sons slaughtered an entire town to avenge their sister's rape. However, God apparently uses this bloodshed to inspire fear. Nobody attacks Jacob's family as they travel to Bethel, setting up an altar and renewing their covenant with God. Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin. Jacob's eldest son sleeps with one of his servant-wives, losing his birthright. Isaac dies, and Jacob and Esau bury him in the family burial cave in Mamre. The story then focuses on Jacob's sons, primarily Joseph, as the family finds themselves drawn into Egypt.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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