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What Does Beit El Mean in the Bible? | Abram in Beit El

Beit El appears in the Bible by the name Bethel “House of God.” Bethel in the Bible, was an ancient city located in Palestine, close to Jerusalem. In the Old Testament, the city is associated with Abraham and Jacob. Bethel is one of those locations mentioned in the Bible that is filled with important events.

It was originally called Luz or, in modern times, Baytin. It was recently suggested by the American School of Oriental Research and the Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary that Bethel was the actual place where the events detailed in the Old Testament took place. But not in the ancient city of Ai.

Bethel was made the main sanctuary of the northern kingdom of Israel in the 10th century BC. As previously mentioned, Bethel was previously named Luz, but Jacob built an altar for God there and renamed the place “Beit el” or “El Bethel” because that was where God revealed Himself to him.

“Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.” (Genesis 35:14-15)


What is Jacob’s Story in the Bible?

Jacob is a beloved character in the Bible who symbolizes the power and grace of God to renew. When we first read about him, he is mostly deceitful; he is blessed with a new name and a new life by God after a battle between the two. The first time the Bible mentions Jacob is in Genesis 25.

Here we find a pregnant Rebekah, who was wondering why the babies in her womb, Jacob and his twin brother Esau, were constantly fighting. God then explains to her that Esau will grow to serve his twin younger brother Jacob, and Jacob will be the “forefather of Israel.”

For most of Jacob’s life, we see him as “a trickster.” For example, there is a mention of him trying to blackmail his brother with a bowl of soup when Esau is starving for the birthright as the firstborn. “Once, when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.

He said to Jacob, [Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!] Jacob replied, [First, sell me your birthright.] [Look, I am about to die] Esau said. [What good is the birthright to me?] But Jacob said, [Swear to me first.] So, he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.”

On his way to Harran, Jacob stopped in Luz, later Beit El, for the night and rested. He dreamt about a stairway that was resting on the Earth and ascending to Heaven. “Early the next morning, Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.” (Genesis 28:10-19)

beit el

Why Did God Forgive Jacob?

It is important to understand that Jacob was not a bad person. He was, however, struggling with his inner self. It is not that Jacob did not want a relationship with God or vice versa; it is that God knew their relationship would not be possible if Jacob did not realize his deceitful self was taking him nowhere.

And because Jacob refused to see this and surrender, the Almighty Lord wrestled him. Finally, a simple touch from God was enough for the young Jacob to admit his defeat and pledge his love and need for God. Then and there, God blessed him and allowed him to live under a new name – Israel.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” (Genesis 32:28). With this new identity, Jacob could finally leave his trickster days behind, and start anew, full of love, life, and God’s blessings.

And to remind the young boy of their encounter, God gave him a permanent limp. “The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.” (Genesis 32:31-32)

The story of Jacob is relevant to this day for Christians all over the globe. Because, once again, it shows God’s undying love for us. Even though we might deny it at first. He is the only one who can truly know if we have a pure soul or not. However, Jacob had lived his life as a trickster and a deceitful boy. Nevertheless, God knew he had potential and decided to give him another chance. And He even revealed Himself to Jacob at Beit El.


What Did Abram Do at Beit El?

Another important biblical figure that is associated with Bethel, as they often call it in the Bible, is Abram. Genesis 12:8 shows us that this city is where Abram decided to set his tent and build an altar for God. An entire location is a place of communication with the Lord.

Beit El is also important in the Holy Book because it is shown as the opposite of Egypt. There was no altar for God in Egypt. Therefore, the people “connection to God” was “lost.” To serve God. They had to take a three-day journey from Egypt (Exodus 8:25-27).

If you are wondering why they could not build an altar for God in Egypt, that is because God forbade them from doing so. “And he [Abram] went on his journeys from the south [Egypt was in the south] even to Bethel. Unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai. And also at the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first. And there Abram called on the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 13:3-4)

We can observe here that Abram traveled to Beit El just so he could properly communicate with his Lord. Returning to his original place because that is where he first connected to God.