Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” Genesis 35:1-3
In returning from Paddan Aram, Jacob encounters Esau, but no trouble occurs. Jacob hangs a right on the road and settles near Shechem. His daughter Dinah is violated by the son of the area’s ruler. In exacting revenge, Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi trick the men of the area to circumcised, then while they are in pain, kill all the men of the city including the son and the ruler. Jacob is scared that the people living in the area will join forces and attack his family. At this point God direct Jacob to Bethel. God sets the terror of God on all the towns around them so no one pursued Jacob going to Bethel.
It may seem strange that Jacob’s household has foreign gods. Yet he knows what needs to be done. They need to repent, get rid of the gods, and cleanse themselves. The only problem is there is no confession to God, and the cleansing is man-made at this point. We don’t know Jacob’s response to God’s command other than the actions he takes. As the book of James says, I will show you my faith by my deeds. Perhaps there was confession at that time and cleansing from the inside out by God. Or perhaps these occurred when Jacob assumedly built the altar in Bethel and sacrificed there. The necessary steps to turning from sin is clear. Like properly cleaning a cut to prevent future infection, take the right steps when dealing with sin.