After Jacob’s near-miss with Esau, God commands him to return to Bethel. Jacob instructs his group to let go of their other gods. They give Jacob their gods (and the rings from their ears) and he buries them under and oak tree.
God then protected their travel:
5 They set out and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.
God makes his covenant with Jacob, as he had done with Isaac and Abraham before that, and renames him Israel.
This is a sad chapter. We lose Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse. We lose Jacob’s wife Rachel while she gives birth to Benjamin. Then we lose Isaac.
The tread going back to the shocking first covenant with Abraham; where he nearly sacrificed Isaac, is becoming distant. Those who were alive at the time are dying off and now the covenant has been passed down to Jacob.
We are still in a polytheistic world where God is appearing to men and the other gods are falling away. This is likely a common doubt that religious people have wrestled with over the centuries: why does God no longer walk among us?