JACOB’S DREAM AT BETHEL
Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Jacob’s Dream at Bethel
10 Jacob left the town of Beersheba and started out for Haran. 11 At sunset he stopped for the night and went to sleep, resting his head on a large rock. 12 In a dream he saw a ladder[a] that reached from earth to heaven, and God’s angels were going up and down on it.
13 The Lord was standing beside the ladder[b] and said:
I am the Lord God who was worshiped by Abraham and Isaac. I will give to you and your family the land on which you are now sleeping. 14 Your descendants will spread over the earth in all directions and will become as numerous as the specks of dust. Your family will be a blessing to all people.[c] 15 Wherever you go, I will watch over you, then later I will bring you back to this land. I won’t leave you—I will do all I have promised.
16 Jacob woke up suddenly and thought, “The Lord is in this place, and I didn’t even know it.” 17 Then Jacob became frightened and said, “This is a fearsome place! It must be the house of God and the ladder[d] to heaven.”
18 When Jacob got up early the next morning, he took the rock that he had used for a pillow and stood it up for a place of worship. Then he poured olive oil on the rock to dedicate it to God, 19 and he named the place Bethel.[e] Before that it had been named Luz.
20 Jacob solemnly promised God, “If you go with me and watch over me as I travel, and if you give me food and clothes 21 and bring me safely home again, you will be my God. 22 This rock will be your house, and I will give back to you a tenth of everything you give me.”
28:10-22 Jacob’s dream emphasizes God’s initiating grace as Hew assures him He is the Lord of the past and future. Jacob was the third generation to receive the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, not because he was righteous, but because of God’s call and faithfulness to Abraham. Since Jacob had probably never heard God’s voice before, the Lord identified Himself by His prior relationship with Abraham and Isaac.
28:16-18 Jacob associated God with the place where he had the dream. He memorialized it with the stone…for his pillows and consecrated it with oil.
The lives of the patriarchs richly illustrate that encounters with God unavoidably result in men and women who are generous with God and with others. Later codified in the Law, tithing (giving a tenth) began as an act of faithful devotion to God to acknowledge that He alone is our resource.
28:20-21 Jacob was endeavoring to grasp the promise and to adopt the Lord as his God, by formalizing a relationship such as his father had enjoyed. His words are neither cynical nor are they a bribe.
Understand that to the patriarchs, to tithe was an expression of loyalty to and faith in God; also it is an expression of covenant relationship with God.
28:22 The tenth unto thee: The tithe, although found in the later Mosaic Law, originated with the earlier patriarchs Abraham and Jacob. Therefore, the tithe is part of the Abrahamic covenant of grace, not merely of the Mosaic covenant of works.
Do you remember the old church hymn “We Are Climbing Jacobs Ladder?” Or how about some of the church Sunday school lessons and sermons on the aforementioned? If you were anything like me back then, you never ″really″ _ not really, understood or grasp the essence of what we were singing, listening to, or the message of the sermon content.
Glory to GOD for the Holy Spirit within that prompts us to seek clarity and understanding of His scriptures.
t is interesting to discern that there was incredible angelic activity when Jesus rose from the dead ( Matthew 28:5; Mark 16:5; Luke 24:4; John 20:12; Acts 1:11). Jacob's ladder pointed to Jesus Christ who said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).
- The encouraging vision Jacob saw, Gen. 28:12. He saw a ladder which reached from earth to heaven, the angels ascending and descending upon it, and God himself at the head of it. Now this represents the two things that are very comfortable to good people at all times, and in all conditions:—(1.) The providence of God, by which there is a constant correspondence kept up between heaven and earth. The counsels of heaven are executed on earth, and the actions and affairs of this earth are all known in heaven are executed on earth, and the actions and affairs of this earth are all known in heaven and judged there. Providence does its work gradually, and by steps.
- Angels are employed as ministering spirits, to serve all the purposes and designs of Providence, and the wisdom of God is at the upper end of the ladder, directing all the motions of second causes to the glory of the first Cause. The angels are active spirits, continually ascending and descending; they rest not, day nor night, from service, according to the posts assigned them. They ascend, to give account of what they have done, and to receive orders; and then descend, to execute the orders they have received. Thus we should always abound in the work of the Lord, that we may do it as the angels do it, Ps. 103:20, 21.
- This vision gave very seasonable comfort to Jacob, letting him know that he had both a good guide and a good guard, in his going out and coming in,—that, though he was made to wander from his father’s house, yet still he was the care of a kind Providence, and the charge of the holy angels. This is comfort enough, though we should not admit the notion which some have, that the tutelar angels of Canaan were ascending, having guarded Jacob out of their land, and the angels of Syria descending to take him into their custody. Jacob was now the type and representative of the whole church, with the guardianship of which the angels are entrusted.
- The mediation of Christ. He is this ladder, the foot on earth in his human nature, the top in heaven in his divine nature: or the former in his humiliation, the latter in his exaltation. All the intercourse between heaven and earth, since the fall, is by this ladder. Christ is the way; all God’s favours come to us, and all our services go to him, by Christ. If God dwell with us, and we with him, it is by Christ. We have no way of getting to heaven, but by this ladder; if we climb up any other way we are thieves and robbers. To this vision our Saviour alludes when he speaks of the angels of God ascending and descending upon the son of man (John 1:51); for the kind offices the angels do us, and the benefits we receive by their ministration, are all owing to Christ, who has reconciled things on earth and things in heaven (Col. 1:20), and made them all meet in himself, Eph. 1:10.
The encouraging words Jacob heard. God now brought him into the wilderness, and spoke comfortably to him, spoke from the head of the ladder; for all the glad tidings we receive from heaven come through Jesus Christ.
(1.) The former promises made to his father were repeated and ratified to him, Gen. 28:13, 14. In general, God intimated to him that he would be the same to him that he had been to Abraham and Isaac. Those that tread in the steps of their godly parents are interested in their covenant and entitled to their privileges. Particularly, [1.] The land of Canaan is settled upon him, the land whereon thou liest; as if by his lying so contentedly upon the bare ground he had taken livery and seisin of the whole land. [2.] It is promised him that his posterity should multiply exceedingly as the dust of the earth—that, though he seemed now to be plucked off as a withered branch, yet he should become a flourishing tree, that should send out his boughs unto the sea. These were the blessings with which his father had blessed him (Gen. 28:3, 4), and God here said Amen to them, that he might have strong consolation. [3.] It is added that the Messiah should come from his loins, in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed. Christ is the great blessing of the world. All that are blessed, whatever family they are of, are blessed in him, and none of any family are excluded from blessedness in him, but those that exclude themselves.
(2.) Fresh promises were made him, accommodated to his present condition, Gen. 28:15.
[1.] Jacob was apprehensive of danger from his brother Esau; but God promises to keep him. Note, Those are safe whom god protects, whoever pursues them.
[2.] He had now a long journey before him, had to travel alone, in an unknown road, to an unknown country; but, behold, I am with thee, says God. Note, Wherever we are, we are safe, and may be easy, if we have God’s favourable presence with us.
[3.] He knew not, but God foresaw, what hardships he should meet with in his uncle’s service, and therefore promises to preserve him in all places. Note, God knows how to give his people graces and comforts accommodated to the events that shall be, as well as to those that are.
[4.] He was now going as an exile into a place far distant, but God promises him to bring him back again to this land. Note, He that preserves his people’s going out will also take care of their coming in, Ps. 121:8.
[5.] He seemed to be forsaken of all his friends, but God here gives him this assurance, I will not leave thee. Note, Whom God loves he never leaves. This promise is sure to all the seed, Heb. 13:5. [6.] Providences seemed to contradict the promises; he is therefore assured of the performance of them in their season: All shall be done that I have spoken to thee of.
When I think of the patriarch Jacob, I think of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Jacob was a deceiver. His many-sided personality was filled with guile, meanness, craftiness and deceit. He's probably not the person you would like to have as your best friend or son-in-law.
In fact, when we meet up with him he is fleeing because he and his mother have deceived his father, Isaac, into giving him a spiritual blessing that had been destined to his older brother Esau. His own wrongdoing had driven him out of the home. When his father sent him away to Paddan-arm to seek a wife, he met his match in uncle Laban. They served deceit and guile up to one another for fourteen years.
It is on this long journey that Jacob, weary from the travel, spends the night in the open. He found a stone to ''put under his head, and lay down in that place" (Genesis 28:11). It isn't strange to lay the head on a pillow of rock, or a board, or a book, or a straw mat, etc. I've done it many times in my travels as a missionary. Hard heads and hard rocks probably fit together.
Here is a man who is alone with God.
Weary and exhausted from the hard day of walking Jacob went into a deep sleep and began to dream. His dream was profound. “He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it" (28:12).
"And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, 'I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants'" (v. 13).
The LORD God (Yahweh) got Jacob's attention at Bethel. He demonstrated that He cared about Jacob and his miserable condition.
God repeated the promise given to Abraham and Isaac
In that dream God rehearsed to Jacob the great promises He had given to his grandfather, Abraham and his father Isaac. It is obvious he will find his mate because his “descendents shall also be like the dust of the earth" (v. 14). Moreover, “in you and in your descendents shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Yes, you read it correctly. God will bless and use a descendent of this deceiver for His eternal purpose. Remember, Yahweh is the God of grace. He will continue to pursue Jacob and work in him until He has Jacob to the place where he can bring glory to the His name alone.
The Presence of God
The LORD makes another promise to Jacob. “Behold, 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" (v. 15).
“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and 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'" (vv. 16-17). He got up poured oil on the stone and named the place Bethel, “the house of God."
In a later event (Genesis 32:22ff) Jacob wrestled with the angel of the LORD and prevailed against him. Jacob clung to him and said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me" (v. 26). God changed his name from Jacob to "Israel, for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed." Israel means “He who strives with God” or “God strives." Much to his surprise, Jacob realized with whom he had wrestled and declared, "I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved" (v. 30). He went away limping for the wrest of his life.
When God changes the name of a person in the Old Testament it often indicates a new relationship with that person. Jacob’s life would never the same after this encounter with God.
Jacob learned that when you are walking with the Lord any place becomes your resting place. Wherever you are Yahweh is there. Jacob just happened to be at Luz. Before He ascended into heaven Jesus told His followers, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). We have His abiding presence regardless of where we are. We are always with Him because He is the ladder into the presence of God. There is no place in this universe where our Lord is not with us. He is our dwelling place.
Moreover, there isn't anything that can separate us from our Lord. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
Jesus and Nathanael
This event in Jacob's life takes on special importance because Jesus appropriated it for Himself while talking to Nathanael.
How do men get to heaven? Jesus used this vision of Jacob in His conversation with a Jewish man named Nathanael. Jesus had never met this man before. He saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!" (John 1:47). The word Jesus used for “guile" means to “catch with bait, beguile, deceit." He is not going to be like Jacob and make use of double dealings of deceit.
Jesus declared Nathanael to be a true son of Abraham, a Jew inwardly in spirit.
This took Nathanael completely by surprise. Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."
What was he doing under the fig tree? Wouldn't we love to know? He was under the cover of the fig tree. No one knew he was there. No one saw him but God! Whatever it was Jesus saw him, and Nathanael was now conscious of His supernatural knowledge of that fact. This is a specific instance of Jesus' ability to know all things.
It can be inferred from verses 48, 51 that Nathanael was meditating on Jacob's life, particularly the incident recorded in Genesis 28:12. Jesus is the divine communication from heaven to earth. The Son of Man, replacing the ladder, is God's link with the earth (Dan. 7:13; Matt. 26:64). Jesus is the new “Bethel." He is God's dwelling place (Gen. 28:17; John 1:14). Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). He is the only door of entrance into the presence of God (John 10:1, 7).
Perhaps this is the passage of Scripture Nathanael was reading while sitting under the fig tree at home. There is also good reason to think he was praying, seeking God's forgiveness, and deliverance from his own deceit. Perhaps he was confessing his sins, and when he met Jesus there rang out in his ears the same response he had received in private with God! No one could have known that he had been alone seeking God's presence under that fig tree. But it was known to Jesus! This is God speaking. He alone knows what is happening in a person's heart. He is the only one who can lead us to heaven. He is the doorkeeper. He is the ladder to heaven.
Perhaps as he sat under the fig-tree he prayed for the day when God's Chosen One, the Messiah, would come. No doubt he had been meditating on the promises of God and now he felt that Jesus had seen into the very depths of his sinful heart. Holy penetrating presence of Jesus searches the depths of our being. He is the one person who understands our aspirations, hopes, ambitions, visions, etc. He knows the intents of our hearts, our secret longings, and the depths of our motives.
Suddenly, Nathanael responds, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel" (John 1:49).
Nathanael represents the Israelite whose heart was cleansed of pride and prejudice and saw in Jesus the one who satisfied the longing of his waiting, seeking heart. The Savior, Redeemer, Messiah had come! Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the King of Israel (John 20:31). If we are true Israelites indeed, our hearts will crown Him as the "King of Israel." It should be noted that "King of Israel," “Son of Man, " and “Son of God" are definitely Messianic titles (2 Samuel 7:14; Ps. 2:7; Juan. 12:13).
“Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these." And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man" (vv. 50-51). Jesus can do more than read the heart. He opens the door to heaven. Jesus was in unending and unbroken communion with the Father. Nathanael and the other disciples saw the glory of God come down to man (John 1:14, 18). God and man met in Jesus Christ.
Verse 51 is an allusion or quotation of Genesis 28:12, and Jacob's ladder is replaced in the verse by "the Son of Man." The title “Son of Man" in John's Gospel has the basic understanding of His origin in heaven (6:27, 33), that He will return again to His place of glory (6:62) by way of the cross (3:14; 8:28; 12:23, 34; 13:31). The divine origin and authority of Jesus is suggested by the title “Son of Man." It was the Messianic title that Jesus chose for Himself.
A. T. Robertson says, ''that was a dream to Jacob, but Christ is Himself the bond of fellowship between heaven and earth, between God and man, for Jesus is both 'the Son of God' as Nathanael said and 'the Son of Man' as Jesus here calls Himself. God and man met in Christ. He is the true Jacob's ladder. 'I am the Way,' Jesus will say."
The Incarnation made it an abiding reality. B. F. Westcott says, “That representative of Israel was a fact for the Son of Man. Thus the reference is to the continuing presence of Christ (Matt. 28:20), in whom believers realize the established fellowship of the seen and unseen, and not the special acts of angelic ministration to Christ alone during His earthly life."
The Door to Heaven is Open
The words “heavens opened" is the idea of remaining open or “standing open.” Something has occurred in the past and it continues into the future. Heaven stands wide open and now the grace of God is available for every person who believes in the Son of Man. You can come into God's presence. He has forgiven you. The one standing there talking to Nathanael is the “door." He has bridged the gap between heaven and earth. He provides a means for us to enter into God's presence. Sin shut the door. However, Christ has removed the sin bearer that separates us through His death and resurrection. He is the only entrance into heaven because He is ''the lamb slain from the before the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8; cf. Rev. 4:1; 19:11).
Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and man. He is the only means whereby sinful man can have a right relationship with God. It is accomplished only by His crucifixion. Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me" (John 8:28). God opened heaven wide open by means of the cross of Jesus. That is why the apostle Peter could declare, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
In both of these passages the main thought is divine communication between heaven and earth. In Jesus Christ we have the continuing presence of God and He says to you and me, "I will never leave you, and I will never forsake you."
There is no ladder as Jesus uses the story because He is the ladder. The angels in their movement show the divine activity and identify Jesus with the ladder. Jesus is the link between heaven and earth. Jesus told Nicodemus, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man" (John 3:13). Jesus communicates the realities of heaven to men on this earth. If you want communion with heaven here is the only person who can do it for you. He is the only mediator between God and sinful man (1 Tim. 2:5).
Some scholars see the interpretation of the ladder reaching from heaven to earth in verse 51 as figurative, and some literal. Some see it fulfilled when our Lord was upon the earth in that Nathanael would see a fuller revelation of Christ. Others see it literally fulfilled in the resurrection and ascension of Christ. J. C. Ryle writes, "Our Lord spoke of His second coming and kingdom. When He comes the second time to take His great power and reign, the words of this text shall be literally fulfilled. His believing people shall see heaven open, and a constant communication kept up between heaven and earth,--the tabernacle of God with men, and the angels visibly ministering to the King of Israel, and King of all the earth."
Jesus told Caiaphas that he will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with clouds of heaven (Mk. 14:62).
Nathanael saw the great reality of something modern men need to see, too. Yes, Jesus is Israel’s true Messiah. He is Israel’s long expected King after the heart of David. Jesus will one day come and reign over Israel from Jerusalem just like the Hebrew prophets foretold (Isa. 24:23; Zech. 14:9, 16).
Moreover, there is also the picture of judgment upon the Gentiles. The future judgment of Christ as the “Son of man” will come on the self-righteous (Daniel 7:13-14; Matt. 13:41-43; 16:27; 24:27, 30; 25:31-46; 26:64). Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. Those who have rejected Him will meet Him as their judge. It is my prayer as I write these words that you know Him as the Lamb of God who has taken away all your sins (John 1:29; 1 John 1:6). Jesus Christ is Messiah, King, Son of God, and Son of Man, and He is coming again. Are you ready? (Rev. 19:11-16)
Bible Stories Theatre of
Fine & Performing Arts