BACK TO CANAAN
Esau returned to Seir, and Jacob set off to Succoth. "And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan-aram; and pitched his tent before the city" (v. 18).
Remaining in Shechem
God wanted Jacob to go back to his father’s land, but he remained in Shechem. Shechem was only the first stop on the way to Canaan, yet Jacob dwelt in Shechem. First, he built a house in Succoth (v. 17). Then he bought a parcel of a field, spread his tent, and erected an altar in Shechem, and called it "El-Elohe-Israel," which means "God, the God of Israel" (vv. 19-20). He had not reached Bethel nor Hebron yet; he was only in Shechem, and he dwelt there. He not only dwelt there, but he bought a piece of land there. This shows that Jacob was not strong enough and had not learned the lesson properly. He had not reached the state of perfection. God’s dealing with Jacob was gradual. The discipline of God and the constitution of the Holy Spirit were carried out step by step.
Although it was a failure for Jacob to remain in Shechem, he nevertheless built an altar there, called on the name of God, and proclaimed God to be the God of Israel. This was a progression. God was now not only the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, but "El-Elohe-Israel." "El" is God, and "Elohe" is also God. The meaning of the whole word is "The God of Israel is indeed God," or "God is indeed the God of Israel." He could now say such a word. He had indeed made some progress before the Lord.
In chapter thirty-four, Jacob’s daughter was defiled in that land, and two of his sons plotted and killed Shechem and all the males of the city. This put Jacob in a very difficult situation. It was then that God called him to Bethel (35:1). God disciplined him and guided him. He wanted to live in Shechem, but God would not let him live there for too long.
We have mentioned before that Abraham lived in three places in Canaan: Shechem, Bethel, and Hebron. He built altars in all three places. These three places carry the characteristics of Canaan; they are in fact a representation of the land of Canaan. After Peniel, God intended to take Jacob on the path of Abraham, first to Shechem, then to Bethel, and finally to Hebron. Abraham passed through these three places, and God led Jacob through these three places as well. After Peniel, God led him on to Shechem and then to Bethel. Peniel and Bethel match one another. At Peniel God said, "Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel" (32:28), and at Bethel He also said, "Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob" (35:10). In other words, Peniel was the beginning, while Bethel was the completion.
(The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)