Genesis 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.”  And Isaac (recognizing

the wisdom and propriety of Rebekah's suggestion that a bride should now be sought

for him whom God had so unmistakably declared to be the heir of the theocratic

promise) called Jacob (to his bed-side), and blessed him, - in enlarged form, renewing

the benediction previously given (ch. 27:27) - and said unto him, Thou shalt not take

a wife of the daughters of Canaan (compare ch. 24:3). Intermarriage with the women

of the land was expressly forbidden to the theocratic heir, while his attention was

directed to his mother's kindred.


2 “Arise, go to Padanaram, 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.”

Arise, go to Padan-aram (see ch. 24:10; 25:20; 27:43), to the house of Bethuel

thy mother's father; - (see  ch. 24:24). If yet alive, Bethuel must have been very

old, since he was Isaac's cousin, and probably born many years before the son of

Abraham - and take thee a wife from thence - though Isaac's wife was found for

him, he does not think of imitating Abraham and dispatching another Eliezer in

search of a spouse for Rebekah s son. Probably he saw that Jacob could attend to

that business sufficiently without assistance from others - of the daughters of

Laban thy mother's brother (see ch. 24:29). "Isaac appears to entertain no doubt

of Jacob's success, which might be the more probable since the same reason

which kept Jacob from marrying in Canaan might prevent Laban's daughters

from being married in Haran, the worshippers of the Lord being few (Inglis).


3 “And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee,

that thou mayest be a multitude of people;”  And God Almighty - El Shaddai

(see Genesis 17:1) - bless thee, - the Abrahamic benediction in its fullest form was

given by El Shaddai (see ibid. vs. 1-8) - and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee,

 that thou mayest be - literally, and thou shalt become (or grow to) - a multitude

an assembly, or congregation, or crowd called together, from a root signifying to

call together (Gesenius), or to sweep up together (Furst); corresponding to

ἐκκλησίαekklaesiaassembly in Greek - of people.   (I recommend

Genesis 17 – El Shaddai – Names of God by Nathan Stone - # 320 – this website –

CY – 2018)


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.”  (see ch. 17:1-8)  And give thee the Blessing of Abraham, -

i.e. promised to Abraham (see ch. 12:2;  22:17-18). The additions of τοῦ παρός μου

(Septuagint), אביך = τοῦ πατρὸς σου (Samaritan), are unwarranted - to thee, and

to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a

stranger, - literally, the land of thy sojournings (ch. 17:8) - which God gave unto

Abraham - by promise (compare ch. 12:7; 13:15; 15:7,18; 17:8).


5 “And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padanaram unto Laban, son of

Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother.”

And Isaac sent away Jacob (Rebekah only counseled, Isaac commanded): and he

went to Padan-aram unto Laban, son of Bethel the Syrian (see Hosea 12:12),

the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother. The historian here perhaps ]\

intentionally gives the first place to Jacob.



6 “When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram,

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;  7 And that Jacob

obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padanaram;  8 And Esau

seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father;  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 (literally,

and) 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, -

literally, in his blessing him (forming a parenthesis), and he commanded him - saying,

Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan; and that (literally, and)

Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone (or went) to Padan-aram;

and Esau seeing that (more correctly, saw that) the daughters of Canaan pleased not

(literally, were evil in the eyes of) Isaac his father; then (literally, and) went Esau

unto Ishmael (i.e. the family or tribe of Ishmael, aiming in this likely to please his

father), and took unto the wives which he had (so that they were neither dead nor

divorced) Mahalath (called Bashemath in ch. 36:3) the daughter of Ishmael (and

therefore Esau's half-cousin by the father's side, Ishmael, who was now dead

thirteen years, having been Isaac's half-brother) Abraham's son, the sister of

Nebajoth, - Ishmael's firstborn (see ch. 25:13) - to be his wife.



Jacob and Esau, or Diverging Paths (vs. 1-9)




Ø      The path of duty. Entered on in obedience to his mother s wish and his

father’s commandment, it was an evidence of filial piety. It is the token of a

good son that he “hears the instruction of his father, and forsakes not the

law of his mother” (Proverbs 1:8). Sons come to mature age should

respect and, where not inconsistent with allegiance to God, yield

submission to parental authority (ibid. 6:20; Malachi 1:6; Ephesians 6:1-3).


Ø      The path of blessing. The benediction already bestowed upon Jacob was

repeated with greater amplitude and tenderness before he left the

patriarchal tent. Happy the youth who enters upon life’s journey carrying

on his head and in his heart a father’s blessing! much more who goes forth

beneath the canopy of Heaven’s benediction! and this is ever the

experience of him who travels by the way of filial obedience. Pious children

seldom fail to come to honor, and never lack the favor of the Lord

(Psalm 37:26; Proverbs 4:20-22; 8:32).


Ø      The path of promise. In addition to his father’s blessing and the

Almighty’s benediction, Jacob carried with him as he left Beersheba the

promise of a seed and an inheritance to be in due time acquired; and in like

manner now has the saint exceeding great and precious promises to cheer

him in his heavenward pilgrimage, promises the full realization of which is

attainable only in the future (John 14:2; I Peter 1:4).


Ø      The path of hope. Sad and sorrowful as Jacob’s heart must have been as

he kissed his mother and bade farewell to Isaac, it was at least sustained by

pleasant expectation. Gilding the horizon of his future was the prospect of

a wife to love as Isaac had loved Rebekah, and to be the mother of the

seed of promise. So the pathway of the children of promise, though often

painful, arduous, and protracted, is always lighted by the star of hope, and

always points to a bright and beautiful beyond.




1. The way of sin. His former wives being neither dead nor divorced, the

conduct of Esau in adding to them a third was wrong.

2. The way of shame. In the selection of Ishmael’s daughter he hoped to

please his father, but was apparently indifferent about the judgment of

either Rebekah or Jehovah. Daring transgressors, like Esau, rather glory in

their shame than feel abashed at their wickedness.

3. The way of sorrow. If not to himself, at least to his pious parents, this

fresh matrimonial alliance could not fail to be a grief. The daughter of

Ishmael was certainly better than a daughter of the Hittites, being almost as

near a relative on Isaac’s side as Rachel and Leah were on Rebekah’s; but,

unlike Rachel and Leah, who belonged to the old family stock (the

Terachites) in Mesopotamia, Mahalath descended from a branch which had

been removed from the Abrahamic tree.


  • LEARN:


1. The care which pious parents should take to see their sons well


2. The piety which children should delight to show to their parents.

3. The connection which subsists between true religion and


4. The inevitable tendency of sin to produce shame and sorrow.

5. The wickedness of violating God’s law of marriage.



Life with, and Life without, God (vs. 1-9)


The divergence of the two representative men is seen in this short

statement of their marriage relations.


1. Domestic life under the blessing of God and apart from that blessing.

2. The true blessing is the blessing of Abraham, the blessing which God has

already provided, promised, and secured.

3. The heir of the blessing must be sent away and learn by experience how

to use it.

4. The disinherited man, who has scorned his opportunity, cannot recover

it by his own devices. Esau is still Esau. Polygamy was suffered, but never

had the blessing of God upon it.


10 “And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.”

And Jacob went out from Beersheba, - in obedience to his father's commandment

to seek a wife (v. 2), but also in compliance with his mother's counsel to evade the

wrath of Esau (ch. 27:43; compare Hosea 12:12. On Beersheba see ch. 21:31; 26:33

and went towards Haran - probably along the route traversed by Abraham's servant

(compare ch. 24:10).


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.”  And he lighted upon a certain

place, - literally, he struck upon the place; i.e. either the place best suited for him

to rest in (Inglis), or the place appointed for him by God (Ainsworth, Bush), or

more probably the well-known place afterwards mentioned (Keil, Wordsworth,

'Speaker's Commentary'). Situated in the mountains of Ephraim, about three hours

north of Jerusalem, it was not reached after one, but after several days' journey

(compare ch. 22:4) - and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; - being

either remote from the city Luz when overtaken by darkness, or unwilling to enter

the town; not because he hated the inhabitants (Josephus), but because he was a

stranger - and he took of the stones of that place, - i.e. one of the stones (see v. 18).

"The track (of pilgrims) winds through an uneven valley, covered, as with

gravestones, by large sheets of bare rock; some few here and there standing up

like the cromlechs of Druidical monuments" (Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 219;

and put them for his pillows, - literally, and put for his head-bolster, the word

signifying that which is at the head of any one (compare I Samuel 19:13; 26:7,11,16;

I Kings 19:6) - and lay down in that place to sleep (compare ch. 19:4; I Samuel

3:5-6, 9).


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.”

And he dreamed. This dream, which has been pronounced "beautifully ingenious,"

"clever" and "philosophical," the work of a later Hebrew poet and not of Jacob

(De Wette), was not wonderful considering the state of mind and body in which he

must have been - fatigued by travel, saddened by thoughts of home, doubtless

meditating on his mother, and more than likely pondering the great benediction

of his aged and, to all appearance, dying father. Yet while these circumstances

may account for the mental framework of the dream, the dream itself was Divinely

sent. And behold a ladder - the rough stones of the mountain appearing to form

themselves into vast staircase (Stanley, Bush) - set up an the earth, and the top

of it reached to heaven: - symbolically intimating the fact of a real, uninterrupted,

and close communication between heaven and earth, and in particular between God

in His glory and man in his solitude and sin - and behold the angels of God - literally,

the messengers of Elohim, i.e. the angels (Psalm 103:20-21; 104:4; Hebrews 1:14) –

ascending and descending on it - see John 1:51, which shows that Christ regarded

either the ladder in Jacob's vision as an emblem of Himself, the one Mediator

between God and man (Calvin, Luther, Ainsworth, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Murphy),

or, what is more probable, Jacob himself as type of him, the Son of man, in whom the

living intercourse between earth and heaven depicted in the vision of the angel-trodden

staircase was completely fulfilled (Hengstenberg, Baumgsrten, Lange, Bush).




A Stairway to Heaven (v. 12)


“And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it

reached to heaven.”  Jacob in fear of his life leaves home. The last kiss of his

mother is taken. During the day Jacob goes forward cheerfully. Night

comes on at length. The path is no longer distinct. The wind moans sadly.

A sense of loneliness creeps over him. Fear of Esau haunts him. He sees

the figure of his brother behind this shrub and that rock. Had Esau outrun

to murder him in that lonely spot? He trembles at every shadow, and

shudders at every sound. He thinks of the God of his father and mother,

and prays. He lies down in the desert; a furze-bush is his only shelter, and a

stone his hard pillow. He looks up into the dark vault all glittering with the

silent stars. More intense becomes his loneliness, for the stars have no

voice for him. Plotting and far-seeing Jacob had deep home-longings,

mystic inquirings, and a wealth of affection in his nature. Of such God can

make something; to such God can reveal something. To idolatrous, carnal

Esau’s how little can God make known. Selfishness hinders. Here in the

desert Jacob draws his camel-hair robe more tightly over his feet, and

dreams of parents and home, and heaven and God. It might surprise us that

he could have such sweet dreams when he was fleeing from the one whom

he had undoubtedly wronged. God would over-rule the wrong, and

therefore sent him this vision.


  • ALL HAVE DREAMS OF A HEAVEN. A heaven is that for which all

men are seeking, whether sought in the way of business, or pleasure, or

politics, or literature. Even skeptics have their heaven in their doubt and

intellectual pride. That which is our highest object is our heaven. As water

cannot rise above its level, so the heaven of some cannot be above their

thoughts. There will be a future state answering to the highest longings

of the believer, a place of existence in glory far beyond anything here.



author (Hazlitt) says, “In the days of Jacob there was a ladder between

heaven and earth, but now the heavens are gone further and become

astronomical.” True science opens up an infinite number of worlds and

densely-peopled spaces. Material discoveries lessen the sense of spiritual

realities. It need not be so. If the universe is great, how great also is the

soul, which can embrace in its thoughts the universe! And it is in the soul

that God can and does reveal heaven. Peace, hope, love is the spirit of

heaven, and that is revealed by Christ. Purify the spirit and heaven comes

near.  (James 4:8)



COMMUNICATION WITH HEAVEN. In the dream of Jacob he saw a

picture of his own struggling ascent in life. Angels might flit up and down,

but man had to struggle and put forth earnest effort to maintain the union.

Early in life the ascent seems easy. A mountain never appears so far to its

summit as it is in reality. As we go on we become more conscious of the

difficulties in the way of maintaining the open communications. Often we

find ourselves with heads between our hands, pondering whether we shall

ever overcome the evil and attain to the good.




Jacob. A promise of guidance and support was given. Christ in His

conversation with Nathaniel shows us how all good comes through Him. In

Christ all goodness centers. All heaven rays out from Him in the pardon and

reconciliation He has brought. He is the Word made flesh. He is the Divine

voice from above. Through him the Holy Spirit is given, and that Holy

Spirit shows us things to come, makes heaven plain, and the way direct.

One day we shall be called to follow the way the angels go, and after death

shall ascend that stairway which “slopes through darkness up to God.”


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;”  And, behold, - "the dream-vision is so glorious that

the narrator represents it by a threefold הִגֵּה (Lange) - the Lord stood above it, - the

change in the Divine name is not to be explained by assigning vs. 13-16 to the

Jehovistic editor (Tuch, Bleek) or to a subsequent redactor (Davidson), since without

it the Elohistic document would be abrupt, if not incomplete (Kalisch), but by recalling

the fact that it is not the general providence of the Deity over His creature man, but the

special superintendence of the God of Abraham and of Isaac over his chosen people,

that the symbolic ladder was intended to depict (Hengstenberg) - and said, I am the

Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: - thus not simply proclaiming

His personal name Jehovah, but announcing Himself as the Elohim who had solemnly

entered into covenant with his ancestors, and who had now come, in virtue of that

covenant, to renew to him the promises He had previously given them - the land

whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed - given to Abraham,

ch. 13:15; to Isaac, ch. 26:3.   (I recommend a study of Elohim and Jehovah,

names of God – excerpts from Names of God by Nathan Stone – see:


Psalm 19 – Names of God – Elohim – by Nathan Stone - # 1268

Psalm 19 – Names of God – Jehovah – by Nathan Stone - # 1269


this website – CY – 2018).


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.”  And thy seed shall be as the

dust of the earth, - promised to Abraham, ch. 13:16; to Isaac, under a different

emblem, ch. 26:4 - and thou shalt spread abroad (literally, break forth) to the west,

and to the east, to the north, and to the south: - (compare ch. 13:14-16; Deuteronomy

12:20). In its ultimate significance this points to the world-wide universality of the

kingdom of Christ (Murphy) - and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families

of the earth be blessed (see Genesis 12:3;  18:18;  22:18 (Abraham); 26:4 (Isaac).


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.”  And, behold, I am with thee, -

spoken to Isaac (compare ch. 26:24); again to Jacob (ch. 31:3); afterwards to

Christ's disciples (Matthew 28:20) - and will keep thee in all places whither thou

goest, - literally, in all thou goest - in all thy goings (compare ch. 48:16; Psalm

121:5, 7-8) - and will bring thee again into this land; - equivalent to an intimation

that his present journey to Padan-aram was not without the Divine sanction, though

apparently it had been against the will of God that Isaac should leave the promised

land (see ch. 24:6, 8) - for I will not leave thee, - a promise afterwards repeated to

Israel (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8), to Joshua (Joshua 1:5), to Solomon (1 Chronicles

28:20), to the poor and needy (Isaiah 41:17), to Christians (Hebrews 13:5) –

until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of - compare Balaam's testimony

to the Divine faithfulness (Numbers 23:19), and Joshua's (Joshua 21:45), and

Solomon's (1 Kings 8:56). It is impossible, in connection with this sublime theophany

granted to Jacob at Bethel, not to recall the similar Divine manifestation vouchsafed

to Abraham beneath the starry firmament at Hebron (see ch. 15:1).



God’s Providential Care (v. 15)


“Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou

goest.” Among things believed; but not sufficiently realized, is the truth of

God’s constant overruling care. We can trace cause and effect a little way,

then lose the chain, and feel as if it went no further, as if events had no

special cause. This a common evil in the life of Christians. Its root, walking

by sight more than by faith. Jacob — what made him try craft? Did not

trust God fully. Had no habit of faith. But God had not forgotten him. And

as he slept on the stone at Bethel the reality of God’s presence was made

known to him (Isaiah 43:2; Matthew 28:20) and recorded for our learning.



not a new thing; it had existed always. The vision showed what exists

everywhere (II Kings 6:17). The ladder shows the truth which should

stamp our lives. GOD IS LOVE and love means care. This is for all. It is

not our love that causes it. Our love, trust, and life spring from that truth.

The living God is close to us. His hand touches our life at every point.

How is it that we are unconscious of this?


  • GOD’S WORKING IS HIDDEN AND SILENT. Jacob was startled to

find Him near. Because year by year the world goes on as before,

unbelievers deny God’s active presence, worldly men think not of it,

(Psalm 10:4; 36:1; Romans 3:18) and even godly men sometimes forget,

for we cannot see the top of the ladder. But God is there and directs all.



Many angels, messengers (Psalm 104:4; Hebrews 1:14); natural

agents, the elements, &c.; human agents, men good and bad alike carrying

out His will; spiritual beings (Psalm 91:11). How often those who pray

for spiritual blessings forget that common things also are ruled by God.

Thus a great door of communion IS CLOSED!



often cannot trace God’s hand. How often is trust confounded, wise

schemes frustrated, earnest self-denial in vain; prayers, real and intense,

without apparent answer. Nay, these are but seeming confusions, to teach

the lesson of faith. Through all these, by all these, God’s purposes are

surely carried out. One great truth is the key of all — the love of God

revealed in Christ. This is the ladder from which He proclaims, “Lo, I am

with thee” (compare Romans 8:32; John 16). He who wrought out redemption,




sense of the word, giving us the victory over evil. God was with Jacob. He

had been from the first, though not recognized. He was so to the end. Not

giving uninterrupted prosperity. Many a fault and many a painful page in

his history; but through all these he was led on. The word to each who will

receive it“Behold, I am with thee.” Not because of thy faith, still less of

thy goodness. Oh that every Christian would practice trust (Psalm 5:3);

hearing our Father’s voice, “Commit thy way unto the Lord,” and gladly

believing “the Lord is my Shepherd.”


16 “And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this

place; and I knew it not.”  And Jacob awaked out of his sleep (during which he

had seen and talked with Jehovah), and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place;

and I knew it not. Jacob does not here learn the doctrine of the Divine omnipresence

for the first time (Knobel), but now discovers that the covenant God of Abraham

revealed Himself at other than consecrated places (Rosenmüller, Keil, Lange,

Murphy); or perhaps simply gives expression to his astonishment at finding that

whereas he fancied himself alone, he was in reality in the company of God

so plus adeptum ease quam sperare ausus fuisset (Calvin).


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.”  And he was afraid, - so were:


Ø      the children of Israel at Sinai (Exodus 20:18-19),

Ø      Job (Job 42:5-6),

Ø      Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5),

Ø      Peter (Luke 5:8),

Ø      John (Revelation 1:17-18),


at similar discoveries of the Divine presence - and said, How dreadful is this place!

i.e. how to be feared! how awe-inspiring! φοβερὸςphoberosfearful; terrible

 (Septuagint), terribilis (Vulgate) - this is none other but the house of God, and

this is the gate of heaven. Not literally, but figuratively, the place where God

dwells, and the entrance to His glorious abode (Keil); the idea that Jacob was

"made aware by the dream that he had slept on one of those favored spots

singled out for a future sanctuary, and was fearful that he had sinned by

employing it for a profane purpose" (Kalisch), being fanciful.


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.”

And Jacob rose up early in the morning (compare ch. 19:27; 22:3), and took the

stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar - literally, set it up,

a pillar (or something set upright, hence a statue or monument); not as an object

of worship, a sort of fetish, but as a memorial of the vision (Calvin, Keil, Murphy;

compare ch. 31:45;  35:14; Joshua 4:9, 20; 24:26; I Samuel 7:12) - and poured oil

upon the top of it. Quasi signum consecrationis (Calvin), and not because he

regarded it as in itself invested with any degree of sanctity. The worship of

sacred stones (Baetylia), afterwards prevalent among the Greeks, Romans,

Hindoos, Arabs, and Germans, though by some (Kuenen, Oort; vide 'The Bible

for Young People,' vol. 1. p. 231) regarded as one of the primeval forms of

worship among the Hebrews, was expressly interdicted by the law of Moses

(compare  Exodus 23:24;  34:13; Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 12:3; 16:22).

It was probably a heathen imitation of the rite here recorded, though by some

authorities (Keil, Knobel, Lange) the Baetylian worship is said to have been

connected chiefly with meteoric stones which were supposed to have descended

from some divinity; as, e. g., the stone in Delphi sacred to Apollo; that in Emesa,

on the Orontes, consecrated to the sun; the angular rock at Pessinus in Phrygia

worshipped as hallowed by Cybele; the black stone in the Kaaba at Mecca believed

to have been brought from heaven by the angel Gabriel. That the present narrative

was a late invention, "called into existence by a desire" on the part of the priests and

prophets of Yahweh (Jehovah) "to proclaim the high antiquity of the sanctuary at

Bethel, and to make a sacred stone harmless" ('The Bible for Young People,' vol. 1.

p. 231), is pure assumption. The circumstance that the usage here mentioned is

nowhere else in Scripture countenanced (except in ch. 35:14, with reference to

this same pillar) forms a sufficient pledge of the high antiquity of the narrative.


19 “And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was

called Luz at the first.”  And he called the name of that place Bethel - i.e. a house

of God. Rosenmüller and Kalisch find a connection between Bethel and Baetylia, the

former regarding Beetylia as a corruption of Bethel, and the latter viewing Bethel as

the Hebraised form of Beetylion. Keil objects to both that the interchange of τt in

βαιτύλιον - baitulion, and Θth in βαιθήλ - baithael), would be perfectly inexplicable.

On the site of Bethel (Beitin) see ch. 12:8. But the name of that city was called Luz

at the first. Originally the Canaanitish town, built according to Calvin after this event,

was called Luz, or "almond tree," a name it continued to bear until the conquest

(Judges 1:23). From the circumstances recorded in the narrative, Jacob called the

spot where he slept (in the vicinity of Luz) Bethel - the designation afterwards

extending to the town (ch. 35:6). Until the conquest both titles appear to have been

 used - Luz by the Canaanites, Bethel by the Israelites. When the conquest was

completed the Hebrew name was substituted for the Hittite, the sole survivor of the

captured city building another Luz in another part of the country (see Judges 1:26).


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,  21 So that

I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:

And Jacob vowed a vow, - not in any mercenary or doubtful spirit, but as an expression

of gratitude for the Divine mercy (Calvin), as the soul's full and free acceptance of the

Lord to be its own God (Murphy), as the instinctive impulse of the new creature

(Candlish) - saying, If (not the language of uncertainty, but equivalent to "since, '

or "forasmuch as;" Jacob by faith both appropriating and anticipating the fulfillment

of the preceding promise) God (Elohim; for the reason of which see below) will be

with me, - as He has promised (v. 15), and as I believe He will - and will keep me in

this way that I go, - a particular appropriation of the general promise (v. 15) - and will

give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on (i.e. all the necessaries of life, included,

though not specially mentioned, in the preceding promise), so that I come again to

my father's house - also guaranteed by God (v. 15), and here accepted by the

patriarch - in peace (i.e. especially free from Esau's avenging threats); then shall

 the Lord be my God - literally, and Jehovah will be to me for Elohim (Rosenmüller,

Hengstenberg, Keil, Kalisch, 'Speaker's Commentary'), though the received

translation is not without support (Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, Calvin, Michaelis,

Lange, Murphy, Wordsworth); but to have bargained and bartered with God in the

way which this suggests before assenting to accept Him as an object of trust and

worship would have been little less than criminal. Accordingly, the clause is best

placed in the protasis of the sentence, which then practically reads, "if Elohim

will be Jehovah to me, and if Jehovah will be to me Elohim" (vide Hengstenberg,

'Introduction,' vol. 1. p. 358).


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.”  And (or then, the

apodosis now commencing) this stone which I have set for a pillar (see on v. 18)

shall be God's house - Bethel, meaning that he would afterwards erect there an altar

for the celebration of Divine worship - a resolution which was subsequently carried

out (see Genesis 35:1, 15). "The pillar or cairn or cromlech of Bethel must have been

looked upon by the Israelites, and may be still looked upon in thought by us, as the

precursor of every "house of God" that has since arisen in the Jewish and Christian

world - the temple, the cathedral, the church, the chapel; nay, more, of those secret

places of worship that are marked by no natural beauty and seen by no human eye –

the closet, the catacomb, the thoroughfare of the true worshipper (Stanley's 'Jewish

Church,' lect. 3. p. 60). And of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth

unto thee. Literally, giving I will give the tenth (compare ch. 14:20). The case of

Jacob affords another proof that the practice of voluntary tithing was known and

observed antecedent to the time of Moses



Jacob at Bethel, or Heaven Opened (vs. 10-22)




Ø      His desolate condition. Exiled from home, fleeing from the murderous

resentment of a brother, o’er-canopied by the star-lit firmament, remote

from human habitation, and encompassed by a heathen population, on the

bleak summit of the Bethel plateau, upwards of sixty miles from Beersheba,

the wandering son of Isaac makes his evening couch with a stone slab for

his pillow, an emblem of many another footsore and dejected traveler upon

life’s journey.


Ø      His inward cogitations. The current of his thoughts needs not be

difficult to imagine. Mingling with the sadness of leaving home, and the

apprehension with which he regarded the uncertain future, there could not

fail to be a sense of security, if not a gleam of hope, arising from the

consciousness that he carried with him his father’s blessing; in this again

affording a reflex of most men’s lives, in which joy and sorrow, hope and

fear, continually meet and strangely BLEND!


Ø      His heavenly visitation. If the dream by which Jacob’s slumber was

disturbed was occasioned by unusual cerebral excitement, if its

psychological framework was supplied by the peculiar color of his

meditations, it is still true that it was made the medium of a Divine

theophany and revelation. So God, who is “never far from any one of us,”

(Acts 17:27) is specially near to His children in solitude and sorrow,

in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men,

in slumberings upon the bed, opening the ears of men, and sealing

their instruction” (Job 33:15-16).




Ø      The celestial vision.


o        A ladder reaching from earth to heaven; suggesting the thought of an

open pathway of communication between God and man, and in

particular between the heirs of the promise and their covenant God.


o        The angels of God ascending and descending upon it; symbolizing

God’s providential government of the world by means of the celestial

hosts (Psalm 103:20-21; 104:4), but especially the ministry of angels

towards the heirs of salvation (Psalm 91:11; Hebrews 1:14). A

truth henceforward to be exemplified in the experience of Jacob, and

afterwards more fully, indeed completely and ideally, realized in



o        Jehovah standing above it. The situation occupied by the symbolic

presence of Jehovah was designed to indicate two things:


§         first, that Jehovah was the true and only source whence

blessing could descend to man; and,

§         second, that the, pathway which had been opened up for

sinful man conducted straight into God s immediate



Thus it was a visible unveiling of the grace and glory

comprehended in the covenant, and now fully revealed by the



Ø      The accompanying voice.


o        Proclaiming the Divine name; as the covenant God of Abraham and of

Isaac, of which the New Testament interpretation is the God and

Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the true seed of Abraham.


o        Renewing the covenant promises:


§         of a land,

§         of a seed, and

§         of a blessing.


o        Personally engaging to extend to Jacob continual attendance,

“Behold, I am with thee,” — constant protection, — “and will keep

 thee in all thy goings,” — complete fidelity, — “I will not leave

 thee,” &c.; in all which again the voice was but an anticipatory

echo of the heavenly voice that sounds in the gospel.




Ø      Devout impression. The night having passed in contemplation of the

unseen world, the morning found the startled sleeper with a strong sense of

the supernatural upon his soul, which filled him with alarm. Even to God’s

reconciled children awe-inspiring (compare Job 42:6; Isaiah 6:5; Luke

5:8; Revelation 1:17), a vivid realization of the Divine presence is to

the sinful heart overwhelmingly terrible.


Ø      Reverent adoration. “This is none other but the house of God” —

implying ideas of Divine residence, — “Surely the Lord is in this place!”

Divine provision, — the thoughts of “bread to eat and raiment to put on”

appear to have been suggested to Jacob’s mind, — and Divine communion

— Jacob realizes as never before the conception of personal intercourse

between Jehovah and His people; “and the gate of heaven” — in which

lie embedded the fundamental notions of nearness, vision, entrance.


Ø      Grateful commemoration.


o        He sets up the stone slab on which his head had rested as a visible

memorial of the sublime transaction which had there occurred, and

in token of his gratitude pours the only gift he carried with him on it,

viz., oil.  Sincere piety demands that God’s merciful visitations

should be remembered and thankfully acknowledged by offerings

of the choicest and best of our possessions.


o        He calls the name of the place Bethel: in the mean time with a view to

his own comfort and satisfaction, but also, there is little doubt, with

an eye to the instruction and encouragement of his descendants. It is

dutiful in saints not only to rejoice their own hearts by the recollection

of Divine mercies, but also to take measures for transmitting the

knowledge of them to future generations.




Ø      Faiths expectation. In a spirit not of mercenary stipulation, but of

believing anticipation, Jacob expresses confidence in henceforth enjoying:


o        Divine companionship“If,” or since, “God will be with me;”

o        Divine protection “and will keep me in this way that I go;”

o        Divine sustenance“and will give me bread to eat, and raiment

to put on;”

o        Divine favor“so that I come again to my father’s house in peace;”


o        Divine salvation“then,” or rather, and since, “Jehovah shall be my

God;” — five things promised to the poorest and most desolate of

heaven’s pilgrims.


Ø      Faiths resolution. Confidently anticipating the fulfillment of God’s

promises, Jacob resolves:


o        To erect an altar at Bethel on returning to the Holy Land, a vow

which he afterwards fulfilled. (ch. 35)  Whatever vows God’s

people make should be paid, and no vows are more agreeable

to God’s will than those which have for their objects the cultivation

of personal piety and the perpetuation and spread of the knowledge

of God among men.


o        To consecrate the tenth part of his increase to God, i.e. to the

maintenance of God’s worship — an example of pious liberality

which has seldom been approached by Christ’s followers, though,

considering their higher privileges and obligations, it ought to have

been frequently surpassed.




Jacob’s Dream (vs. 10-22)


Where revelations had been vouchsafed it was supposed that they would be

repeated. The stony pillow on which the weary head rested may be

changed by the visitation of Divine grace into the meeting-place of heaven

and earth. The morning beams breaking in upon the shadowy refuge of the

night are transfigured into a dream of covenant blessing. The ladder set up

on the earth, the top of it reached to heaven. Angels of God on the way of

mediation, ascending, descending, carrying up the wants and services of

the man of God, bringing down the messages of consolation, the

vouchsafements of help and deliverance. Behold, the Lord stood above

it,” as the source of all the blessing, standing ready to work for His chosen.

This is the first direct communication of Jehovah to Jacob, the first in a

long line of revelations of which he was the recipient. It is a renewal of the

covenant made to his fathers, it is a republication of the promises. But we

require to hear the Lord say to us, “I am with thee, I will not leave thee,”

especially when we are already on the journey of faith, when we are

obeying the commandment of God, and of the father and mother speaking

in His name. Such a place as Jacob found may be made known to us:


  • IN PROVIDENTIAL INTERPOSITIONS. We journey on through the

wilderness and light upon a certain place where we think we are only

among stony facts, where we can find but a harsh welcome; but the Lord is

in the place, though we know it not till he reveals Himself. Then we cry

with trembling gratitude, This is the house of God, &c.



customary is lifted up by special gift of the Spirit’ ‘into’ the opened heaven,

the visiting, angels, the vision of the throne of God. “The house of God,

the gate of heaven.” Such may be the awaking of our soul in the sanctuary

of our own private devotions or of our public worship.



WHOLE. The Church has often laid itself down upon the stones and slept

with weariness in its passage through the desert, and the Lord has revealed

the ladder of His covenant, connecting together that very place and time of

hardship with the throne of grace and glory, and the ascending and

descending angels.




open, and the angels of God Ascending and descending upon the Son of

man,” the true Jacob, the Prince prevailing with God and with men

(John 1:51). The cross is the ladder of mediation. It was set up on the

earth. It was not of earthly origin as a means of atonement, but its foot

was on the earth as it came forth out of the method and course of earthly

history in connection with DIVINE COUNSELS.   Its top reached to

heaven, for it was a Divine Mediator whose sacrifice was offered upon it.

Angels of God ascended and descended upon the ladder, for only through

the atoning merit of Christ is angelic ministration maintained. It is for them

who shall be heirs of salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14)  At the summit of the cross,

representing the whole mediatorial work of Christ, is the Lord standing,

speaking His word of covenant, and stretching forth His right hand on

behalf of His people. Resting at the foot of the cross we hear the voice

of a faithful Guide, saying, “I will not leave thee.” In every place one

who is conscious of surrounding covenant mercy can say, “This is none



       The Grateful Retrospect and the Consecrated Prospect (vs. 18-22)


  • THE TRUE LIFE is that which starts from the place of fellowship with

God and commits the future to Him. We can always find a pillar of blessed

memorial and consecration. The Bethel.


Ø      Providential care.

Ø      Religious privilege.

Ø      Special communications of the Spirit.


God with us (Immanuel) as a fact.  (Isaiah 7:14)Our pilgrimage a Bethel

all through.


  • THE TRUE TESTIMONY that which erects a stone of witness, a

Bethel, where others CAN FIND GOD!


Ø      Personal. The pillow of rest the pillar of praise.

Ø      Practical. The testimony which speaks of the journey and the traveler.




Ø      Coming out of fellowship.

Ø      Pledging the future at the house of God, and in sight of Divine


Ø      Blessed exchange of gifts, confirmation of love. Jehovah keeping and

guiding and feeding; His servant serving Him and giving Him a tenth

of all he received. The patriarch’s vow was the result of a distinct

advance in his religious life. The hope of blessing became the

covenant of engagement, service, worship, sacrifice. The highest

form of religious life is that which rests on a solemn vow of grateful

dedication at Bethel. The end before us is “OUR FATHER’S



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