Jacob’s dream (Gen 28:10-28:22)

“Jacob left Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.  He came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.  He dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven.  The angels of God were ascending and descending on it.  Yahweh stood beside him and said, ‘I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.  The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.  Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south.  All the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land.  For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’”

On his way to Haran, Jacob spent one night sleeping on a stone, where he had a dream about a ladder that reached to heaven, with angels going up and down on this ladder.  This Yahweh story is often referred to as Jacob’s ladder.  Once again, Yahweh appeared to tell Jacob, that he is the God of Abraham and Isaac and will give him all this land with many offspring.

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely Yahweh is in this place.  I did not know it.’  He was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’  So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.  He called the name of that place Bethel.  But the name of the city formerly was called Luz.  Then Jacob made 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 clothing to wear, so that I can come again to my father’s house in peace, then Yahweh shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house.  Of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.’”

When Jacob woke up, he was afraid because he felt that Yahweh was in this place.  So he took the stone he had slept on and built a pillar, pouring oil on it and called this a holy place, God’s house, Bethel, a stairway or ramp.  Abraham also had been in Bethel in chapter 12, one of the first places he stopped at.  In fact Abram built an altar there also.  Luz and Bethel may have been the same place or at least near each other.  This idea of a sacred place with stones and oil was common among the Canaanites and other Middle Eastern inhabitants.  This is somewhat like a conversion experience for Jacob as he feels that God will be with him wherever he goes. This is the first instance of tithing, giving one-tenth to God.  Obviously, this idea of tithing, like the story itself, represents the biblical author’s beliefs.


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