2 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. 3 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.” 4 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. 
35:2–4 / Responding to God’s orders, Jacob immediately instructed his household and others who had joined him to prepare themselves for a religious pilgrimage to Bethel. Careful preparations had to be made to protect everyone from the possibility of God’s breaking forth against anyone who was not ritually pure. Specifically Jacob commanded those of his house to get rid of the foreign gods, indicating that some continued to worship various deities. Some gods or idols may have been brought from Haran; others might have been taken from the pillage of the Shechemites. The report of this command accounts for the removal of the teraphim Rachel had stolen from her father’s house (31:19). Jacob also ordered his company to purify themselves so that they could be in the presence of God without danger. Ritual purification included bathing, shaving, and putting on clean clothes. It symbolized the removal of all that was unclean and sinful. In an exhortation Jacob told his entire household that they were going up to Bethel, where he would build an altar to God, who had helped him in his distress and who had been present with him throughout his long journey. The mention of God’s being with Jacob establishes a connection to the vow he had made at Bethel long ago (28:20).
The people responded willingly by giving Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears. These earrings must have had religious significance; possibly they were amulets. Jacob disposed of all the idols and rings he had collected by burying them under the oak at Shechem.
2 But Jacob was as prompt as Abraham (cf. 22:3), and he immediately instructs them to prepare for pilgrimage. Worship of other gods was always incompatible with serving the God who said, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod 20:3). Ps 24:3–4 asks, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?” and answers, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false” (i.e., idols).
And other texts record the putting away of foreign gods in the context of renewed devotion to God (Josh 24:14, 23–24; Judg 10:16; 1 Sam 7:3–4). Worship, which brings one into the presence of a holy God, demands inward and outward purity, the latter being seen as an expression of the former. Purification usually took the form of bathing the body, washing the clothes, and shaving (Lev 14:8–9; Num 8:7). Before the Sinai revelation, all the people were told to wash their clothes and abstain from sexual intercourse (Exod 19:10–15). Here Jacob insists that they change their “outer garments,” the poncho-type wrapper used as coat and blanket (Exod 22:25–26 [26–27]). Their change of clothes represents a new and purified way of life (cf. 41:14). Elsewhere in the Pentateuch, sexual intercourse and the spilling of blood in war are seen as polluting (Num 31:19; Lev 15:18; 18:24–29). So this command to purify themselves probably looks back to the pollution produced in chap. 34.
3 “My time of crisis” is a common phrase, especially in the Psalms (e.g., 20:2 ; 50:15). Here Jacob is harking back to his flight from Esau, as the reference to the vow he made then, “If God will be with me, guard me on the journey I am undertaking” (28:20), makes clear. When the prayer offered as a vow was answered, the votary was duty bound to fulfill the promise he had made. Now Jacob implies he is about to do that.
4 The family members respond as requested, putting away their foreign gods and also their earrings. The significance of this last point is elusive. On two later occasions, earrings were used to make objects of idolatrous worship, the golden calf and an ephod (Exod 32:2–4; Judg 8:24–27). It could be that burying the earrings along with the foreign gods expressed their complete determination to dispose of the idols and also any material that could be used to replace them. A comparison with Num 31:48–54 suggests a quite different possibility. After the battle with the Midianites, the Israelites had to purify themselves (Num 31:19–20). Part of their purification process included donating to the sanctuary booty consisting of “articles of gold, armlets and bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and beads, to make atonement for ourselves before the Lord” (Num 31:50). This suggests that the rings removed by Jacob’s sons may well have been part of the booty captured by them from the Shechemites; indeed it is possible that the outer garments and the foreign gods (gold-plated idols?) were part of the spoil (cf. Num 31:20; Josh 7:21; Deut 7:25). We have already noted the close parallels between Gen 34 and Num 31:1–9 (see Comment on 34:27–29). These further parallels strengthen the case for reading all of 35:1–4, not merely v 5, in the light of chap. 34. 35:5 is not a late gloss or extract from a different source, but it flows naturally out of the preceding verses.
“Terebinth” (אלה): probably the Atlantic terebinth according to M. Zohary (Plants of the Bible, 110–11).
35:2–4 Put away the foreign gods. Moving to Bethel necessitated spiritual preparation beyond the level of an exercise in logistics. Possession of idolatrous symbols such as figurines, amulets, or cultic charms (v. 4, “rings … in their ears”) were no longer tolerable, including Rachel’s troubling teraphim (31:19). Idols buried out of sight, plus bathing and changing to clean clothes, all served to portray both cleansing from defilement by idolatry and consecration of the heart to the Lord. It had been 8 or 10 years since his return to Canaan and, appropriately, time enough to clean up all traces of idolatry.
35:2–3 Jacob’s instructions are intended to prepare his household for entering God’s presence; Bethel (v. 3) is the “house of God.” They must rid themselves of foreign gods (v. 2). As emphasized later in the first prohibition of the Ten Commandments, those who worship the Lord must not have other gods (see Ex. 20:3). Rachel’s theft of her father’s household gods suggests that polytheistic beliefs existed within Jacob’s household. These must be eradicated. The members of Jacob’s household must purify themselves (Gen. 35:2). While no details are given here, later Israelite tradition emphasized the importance of purification rituals, some of which involved the washing of clothes. This may explain Jacob’s final instruction to change garments (v. 2; see Ex. 19:10). who answers me in the day of my distress (Gen. 35:3). The present tense, “answers,” here indicates that God has consistently responded to Jacob in every time of trouble.
35:4 the rings that were in their ears. It is not clear whether these earrings were worn by the people or by the foreign gods; some ancient Near Eastern evidence indicates that idols could have earrings. Jacob probably buried these cultic objects so that their location would not be easily discovered.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 35:2–4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
 Hartley, J. E. (2012). Genesis. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (pp. 298–299). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Wenham, G. J. (1998). Genesis 16–50 (Vol. 2, pp. 323–324). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ge 35:2–4). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 110–111). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.