Genesis 28: Jacob Leaves for Haran and Encounters Yahweh in a Night Vision at Bethel

c76762b310f1a113a87108f9eb1da5abHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Isaac sends Jacob to Rebekah’s family in Haran to find a non-Canaanite bride. Esau marries a non-Canaanite daughter of Ishmael to please his father. On his journey, Jacob has a night vision of a ladder stretching from earth to heaven with angels on it and Yahweh above it. Yahweh promises to return Jacob to his land and to provide him with abundant offspring. Jacob sets up a pillar in that place, which he names Bethel (“the house of god”), and vows that a temple will be built there.

II. Photo

Jacob can see to the heavens: “And 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.” (v. 12)

III. Select Verses

3-5: May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and numerous, that you may become a company of peoples. May 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.” Thus 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.

8-9: So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please his father Isaac, Esau 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.

10-15: Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He 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. And 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. And 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;  and 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. 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.”

16-18: Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!” And 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 that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

19-22: He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first. 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 come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and 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.”

IV. Outline

1-5. Isaac sends Jacob to Haran [along the upper Euphrates] to find a wife from Laban’s daughters and affirms that Abraham’s blessing belongs to him

6-9. Esau observes and marries the non-Canaanite Mahalath, a daughter of Ishmael, to please Isaac

10. Jacob sets off for Haran

11-22. Jacob encounters Yahweh in heaven at Bethel

11-15. In a dream, Jacob sees Yahweh on a ladder with angels, and Yahweh promises to give him many offspring and to return him to his land

16-17. Jacob awakes, realizing he is at the gate to heaven

18. Jacob sets up the stone he was sleeping on as a pillar and anoints it with oil

19. Jacob renames the site Bethel (the house of god); it was formally named Luz

20-22. Jacob’s vow: if Yahweh sustains him and returns him, the stone will become Yahweh’s temple, and Jacob will offer 1/10 of his possessions to Yahweh

V. Comment

Jacob’s vision at Bethel will become a recurring theme in the ongoing narrative. In Genesis 31:13, Yahweh introduces himself as follows.

  • I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me.

This event is mentioned three times in chapter 35, verses 1, 3, and 7:

  • God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel, and settle there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”
  • “Then come, let us go up to Bethel, that I may make an altar there to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”
  • And there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because it was there that God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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