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19He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

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19. And he called the name of that place Beth-el. It may appear absurd that Moses should speak of that place as a city, respecting which he had a little while before said that Jacob had slept there in the open air; for why did not he seek an abode, or hide himself in some corner of a house? But the difficulty is easily solved, because the city was not yet built; neither did the place immediately take the name which Jacob had assigned, but lay long concealed. Even when a town was afterwards built on the spot, no mention is made of Beth-el, as if Jacob had never passed that way; for the inhabitants did not know what had been done there, and therefore they called the city Luz,6060     The word לוז (Luz) signifies an almond-tree, and the town may have derived this name from the fact that almond-trees abounded in the neighborhood. Yet the verb from which it is taken means “to turn away, to depart, to go back;” also “to be perverse, or wicked;” and it is not impossible that this name may have been assigned to it on account of the wickedness of its inhabitants. See the Lexicons of Schindler, Gesenius, etc. — Ed according to their own imagination; which name it retained until the Israelites, having taken possession of the land, recalled into common use, as by an act of restoration, the former name which had been abolished. And it is to be observed, that when posterity, by a foolish emulation, worshipped God in Beth-el, seeing that it was done without a divine command, the prophets severely inveighed against that worship, calling the name of the place Bethaven, that is, the house of iniquity: whence we infer how unsafe it is to rely upon the examples of the fathers without the word of God. The greatest care, therefore, must be taken, in treating of the worship of God, that what has been once done by men, should not be drawn into a precedent; but that what God himself has prescribed in his word should remain an inflexible rule.