Genesis 28 (NRSV)
Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, “You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women. 2Go at once to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father; and take as wife from there one of the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and numerous, that you may become a company of peoples. 4May he give to you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your offspring with you, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien—land that God gave to Abraham.”
So Isaac passes on to Jacob the covenant promise that God gave to Abraham: land, descendants, blessing.
5Thus Isaac sent Jacob away; and he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.
Jacob will never see his parents again.
Esau Marries Ishmael’s Daughter
6Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he charged him, “You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women,” 7and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. 8So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please his father Isaac, 9Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael, and sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.
Jacob’s Dream at Bethel
10Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11He came to a certain place and stayed there for the 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. 12And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
13And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, 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; 14and 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; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15Know 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.”
Jacob stole the birthright and Isaac’s blessing from Esau; those belonged to someone else. It should be a comfort to him to know that now he is blessed in his own name; this blessing is truly and legitimately his.
16Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!”
17And 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.”18So 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. 19He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.
The name Bethel means house of God. On his return to Canaan twenty years later, Jacob sets up an altar here (see Genesis 35:6-7). Bethel became an important sanctuary during the time of the judges and was one of the leading centers for worship in the Northern Kingdom of Israel from the time of King Jeroboam I to the reign of King Josiah, some 300 years. The stone is a “spiritual milestone.”
–Linda B. Hinton
If God is present at every point in space, if we cannot go where He is not, cannot even conceive of a place where he is not, why then has not that Presence become one of the universally celebrated facts of the world? The patriarch Jacob saw a vision of God and cried out in wonder, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I knew it not.” That was his trouble and it is ours. Men do not know that God is here. What a difference it would make if they knew.
–A. W. Tozer
What physical markers (like Jacob’s pillar) can you put in your surroundings to remind yourself that God is here?
20Then 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, 21so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one tenth to you.”
Romans 8:31-39 (New International Version)
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Music: Stairway or Ladder?
The NIV and New Living Version call what Jacob saw in his dream a stairway. The NASB and the English Standard Version call it a ladder. We have a song for each word!
Led Zeppelin’s beautiful “Stairway to Heaven,” 1971, is the most requested and most played song on FM radio stations in the United States. THIS is an eight minute clip.
HERE Paul Robeson sings “We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” at the Mother Zion Church in New York, 1958.
Other Jacob’s Ladders!
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.