Genesis Chapter 28: Jacob’s Vision of the Ladder

Feb 26th, 2010 | By | Category: Genesis, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Genesis Chapter 28: Jacob’s Vision of the Ladder

Gen. 28:1 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.

Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and told him not to take a wife of the Canaanite women.

Rebekah had made this suggestion by telling Isaac she did not want Jacob to marry a heathen wife (Gen. 27:46). When Esau married the two Hittite women, he probably acted presumptuously (Gen. 26:34). Esau should have married properly, for surely he would have known about Abraham’s sending Eliezer to get a bride for Isaac from their kindred. The account is silent as to whether or not Isaac had previously instructed his sons in regard to whom they should marry.

Rebekah knew that Esau intended to murder Jacob after their father Isaac’s death (see Gen. 27:41-45). The account does not say whether Isaac was privy to this information. If not, it is likely that Rebekah withheld this information from him because of his age and infirmity.

Rebekah knew Jacob had to flee quickly, and marriage was a good reason (or excuse) to hurry him off. Few details are given about Isaac’s life, so faith must trust God’s choice of him as an Ancient Worthy.

Gen. 28:2 Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.

Gen. 28:3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;

Gen. 28:4 And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.

Gen. 28:5 And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padan-aram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.

Bethuel was Rebekah’s father, and Laban was her brother. The lineage is important, for the account established it twice in five verses. Verse 5 also points out Rebekah’s Syrian heritage.

…………………/ Iscah

………………/ Lot

………./ Haran — Milcah (married Nahor)

Terah — Nahor ……………………………|

……….\ Abram…………………………. Bethuel

…………/……………………………………… / …………\

…….Isaac (married Rebekah)…… RebekahLaban

………………./\……………………………………. |

……………Esau Jacob (married Rachel) …….Rachel

In Isaac’s blessing upon Jacob (verse 3), three times the thought of fruitfulness was mentioned: “fruitful,” “multiply,” and “multitude.” This blessing combines the blessings earlier bestowed on Isaac and Rebekah, who was told, “Be thou the mother of thousands of millions” (Gen. 24:60). Isaac conferred “the blessing of Abraham” (the Abrahamic promise) upon Jacob. Now Isaac was fully in harmony with Jacob’s receiving the Abrahamic promise and birthright. Jacob then departed, his destination being Padan-aram in Mesopotamia.

Gen. 28:6 When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padan-aram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan;

Gen. 28:7 And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padan-aram;

Gen. 28:8 And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father;

Gen. 28:9 Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.

When Esau realized that Jacob had left to get a wife of their kindred, and that his own Hittite wives did not please his father, he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, Ishmael’s daughter.

Esau’s action showed his lack of understanding. To marry Ishmael’s daughter at this point in time may have pleased Isaac to a certain extent, but it was too late. Muddy water was being mixed with pure water. Furthermore, although Ishmael was a son of Abraham, he had been rejected for the chief blessing. And Ishmael himself had married an Egyptian woman selected by his mother Hagar (Gen. 21:21).

Of course God providentially overruled Ishmael’s and Esau’s marriages because of the types involved, but He did not interfere with their free moral agency. Both Ishmael and Esau had natural inclinations and mixed hopes; that is, they did not concentrate on the true Abrahamic spiritual promise.

Gen. 28:10 And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.

Gen. 28:11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

Gen. 28:12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

Gen. 28:13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

Gen. 28:14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Gen. 28:15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

Jacob received wonderfully encouraging words as he set out on his long journey. In the vision of the ladder, he was blessed with, as it were, a direct communication from God that confirmed what Isaac had given him as a birthright. The vision occurred at Luz, which he subsequently renamed “Bethel,” meaning “house of God” or “gateway to God.” The vision occurred on the first or second night as he slept out in the open with stones for a pillow. (Even today some Arabs and/or Bedouin use a stone for a pillow.) This detail indicates that Jacob did not have much with him. He fled with few possessions and had no camels or servants, for example.

In the dream or vision, a ladder that was set up on the earth reached unto God in heaven, and angels ascended and descended upon it. (John 1:51 brings out the thought that the angels ascend and descend before the Son of God.) Thus God talked down to Jacob from His standing position above the ladder. Although God did not explain the ladder, He assured Jacob that His presence would go with him on the trip to Padan-aram and that Jacob would be fruitful. To Jacob, the ladder meant communication with and protection by God, that is, a line of communication between heaven and earth.

The vision of Jacob’s ladder reminds us of Jesus’ initial conversation with Nathanael in John 1:45-51. Jesus indicated that he knew Nathanael had been praying under the fig tree in secret.

Realizing that Jesus had supernatural knowledge and could answer prayer—and thus was the Messiah—Nathanael worshipped him. Jesus said, “Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these…. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open [in the Kingdom], and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man [to answer prayer]” (John 1:50,51). In other words, “Nathanael, this experience you had of answered prayer will occur a millionfold in the Kingdom. Just as Philip was an ‘angel,’ or human messenger, telling you about Messiah, so in the Kingdom, angels will communicate and answer prayer for the world of mankind.”

Let us consider further the antitype for the vision of Jacob’s ladder. God said to Jacob, “Thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth,” thus identifying Jacob with the earth as a picture of the Ancient Worthies, the earthly connection in the Kingdom. Jesus and the Church will be the heavenly connection, and the Great Company will operate as spiritual messengers or go-betweens in the Kingdom arrangement, ascending up and down the “ladder.” Having no authority in themselves, the Great Company will carry messages and be able to materialize and dematerialize like the angels before the Flood, who communicated with man. The law (the instruction, the command) will go forth from (or out of) Zion, the spiritual phase of the Kingdom, and the word of that law will go forth from Jerusalem, the earthly phase (Isa. 2:3).

As divine beings, The Christ will judge the earth through the Ancient Worthies. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be in the Kingdom, sitting with authority on the thrones of the 12 tribes of Israel, and in back of them will be the upper connection, pictured by God at the top of the ladder (Luke 13:28; Matt. 8:11; 19:28).

Gen. 28:16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

Gen. 28:17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

Gen. 28:18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

Gen. 28:19 And he called the name of that place Beth-el: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.

Gen. 28:20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,

Gen. 28:21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:

Gen. 28:22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

As a result of this experience, Jacob called the place Bethel and made a vow unto God. Bethel is only about 12 miles north of Jerusalem. Jacob built a pillar monument of his stone pillow—like an altar—to be a memorial of that which he had experienced in having the vision, or dream.

The stone had been under his head, guiding his mental faculties. Incidentally, this purported stone, the Stone of Scone, was put under the chair of the King of England when he was crowned. Not the actual stone, it was used like a relic.

Awed by the communication from God, Jacob poured oil on the stone he had used for a pillow and made a vow. If God would bless him as promised and give him food and clothing so that he would return eventually to his father Isaac’s house in peace, he would give one tenth of all he got to the Lord. Jacob’s vow reveals that he had departed in haste from Isaac as soon as possible after the blessing, leaving possessions behind for fear that Esau would find out and kill him and taking few or no provisions with him. What little oil he took, he now poured out on the stone pillow. (He may have taken flour and oil, intending to knead and make cakes.) Jacob was in a perilous situation in trying to get to his destination. In anointing the stone, Jacob used what little he had to honor the situation. Similarly, Spikenard Mary anointed Jesus. Probably the oil was all Jacob had of worth, so he used it to show his appreciation.

Comment: The situation was even more poignant because Esau was a hunter, and Jacob was not used to living off the land. It took faith for Jacob to flee, and the journey was long.

Evidently, this was a low period in Jacob’s life. He was fleeing for his very life with the barest of necessities. Had he been able to stay with Isaac, he had the potential for blessings and riches. In his depression, Jacob was told by God, “I am with thee, and will keep thee” (Gen. 28:15). This assurance renewed Jacob’s spirit. He had desired the spiritual blessing earlier, and now his spirit was revived. Christians, too, have highs and lows, and so did Jesus—Gethsemane was a low, for example. In pouring the oil, Jacob made the stone an altar. Jacob gave his little all.

Before the Law, Jacob promised a tithe to God in appreciation. Here, for the second time, a tithe is mentioned in the Book of Genesis. As read earlier, Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20). This tithing, prior to the Law, would have been based on something else that is not mentioned, of which we have no idea. Similarly, there was a tabernacle before the one we are familiar with. No details are given, but the earlier one was outside the camp, whereas the regular Tabernacle was in the midst of the camp.

(1987–1989 Study)

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