1. Exposition

What is the significance of Bethel in Israel’s history?

Judges 1:22 (ESV)

22 The house of Joseph also went up against Bethel, and the LORD was with them.

Bethel had connections to Israel already in the days of the patriarchs. Abram camped nearby after his arrival in the Promised Land (Genesis 12:8–9). He did so again after returning from Egypt (Genesis 13:3). Jacob was the one who gave the place its name, Bethel (which means, house of God) after his vision at that place, in which the Lord promised to bless him and his descendants with the very land he was currently lying on (Genesis 28:10–22). Later, when Jacob returned to Canaan, God told him to return specifically to Bethel, where God confirmed his earlier promise to make Jacob fruitful and bless his descendants with the land (Genesis 35:1–15). Now, as Israel moved into the land, God’s promise to Jacob was materializing before their very eyes. The taking of Bethel promised success in occupying the entire land, for it was a reminder that the same God who promised was actively with them, just as he had been with Jacob (cf. Judges 1:22b with Genesis 28:15).1

Later on, Bethel took on distinctly negative connotations when it became one of the places where Jeroboam I built his golden calves after the break with Judah (1 Kings 12:25–33).