These are the generations of Esau (that is, Edom). Esau took his wives from the Canaanites: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, Oholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite, and Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter, the sister of Nebaioth. And Adah bore to Esau, Eliphaz; Basemath bore Reuel; and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam, and Korah. These are the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan.
Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the members of his household, his livestock, all his beasts, and all his property that he had acquired in the land of Canaan. He went into a land away from his brother Jacob. For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together. The land of their sojournings could not support them because of their livestock. So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir. (Esau is Edom.) Genesis 36:1-8
Perhaps Rebekkah had been pulling her hair out over Esau’s attraction to pagan women because she knew they could become an enemy nation in just a few generations. At this point, Jacob and Esau are on good terms, but it will be another thing for their decendants. The children of Israel (Jacob) have a promise from God, and will be the recipients of His law. The lines will be drawn between the worshippers of God and those who bow to idols and make human sacrifices to them.
Sharing the same blood is not as important as sharing the same faith. Jesus warns us, “And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household,” in Matthew 10:36.
God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” 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.
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.
There is nothing like a crisis to clarify your loyalty to God. In the last chapter Jacob is afraid that his sons’ vindictive slaughter of Schechem and all the men of his city will cause all the neighboring tribes to unite to kill him and his people. So now is the time to put away the foreign gods and purify yourself.
Let us keep in mind the fact that this is before the ten commandments were given. Rachel had stolen her father’s household goods. They just took possession of an entire tribes women and children, who also probably brought their pagan idols with them. Instead of clinging to the local gods while they are in someone else’s land, Jacob goes all in and goes with his God alone. And his God, the God who promised him and his fathers this land, brings terror upon the local people, and keeps them from attacking.
There are things to which we are devoted, that may not be idols, but claim our loyalty above serving the lord. Just because the Bible does not specifically say, “Do not do x,” does not mean God is pleased with x. A well conditioned godly instinct, or the Holy Spirit, should tell us what things we need to put away if we want God’s presence as our protection.