Jacob’s Ladder Dream


VERSES 1-5  “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.
“Arise, go to Padan-aram, 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.
“And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;
“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.
“And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padan-aram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.”

Isaac seemed quite agreeable with Rebekah’s insistence that Jacob should journey to Padan-aram thence to take a wife from among the daughters of his uncle Laban. Padan-aram is identified by scholars as the plains of Syria, or, in the Greek language, Mesopotamia. It was clearly the Lord’s will that Jacob should not take a wife from among the Canaanites. Hundreds of years later, when the descendants of Jacob returned to Canaan from their long bondage in Egypt, they were forbidden by the Lord to take wives from among the Canaanites.

When instructing Jacob to go to Padan-aram for a wife, Isaac reiterated the blessing which had previously been bestowed upon him and identified it as the ‘blessing of Abraham’. The Lord was undoubtedly overruling in all this, and here we see exemplified his almost universal custom of associating his promises with the instructions he gives to his people concerning what he wants them to do. In leaving home and starting out for Padan-aram, Jacob was faced with hardships unknown, so for his encouragement he was reminded of the great and eternal purpose of God concerning himself—that he was the one chosen to inherit the promises made to his grandfather, Abraham.

We see this principle exemplified in many instances. When God asked Abram to leave his own country and his father’s house, the promise was made that his seed would bless all the families of the earth. When Jesus was here on earth, having left the glory he had with the Heavenly Father and having come here on a mission of sacrifice which would entail suffering and death, God’s promises also sustained him. Paul tells us that “for the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Heb. 12:2

VERSES 6-9  “When 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, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan;
“And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padan-aram;
“And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father;
“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.”

In Hebrews 12:16,17, the apostle informs us that Esau sought repentance. The Marginal Translation is that he sought a change; that is, having discovered his great loss in the sale of his birthright, and that this transfer had been ratified by his father’s blessing upon Jacob, he endeavored to have the matter changed. But it was too late.

In these few verses we have what seems to be one of Esau’s efforts to get back into the good graces of his parents, and perhaps thereby recover the blessing. He had overheard Isaac’s instructions to Jacob concerning not taking a wife from among the Canaanites, and observing also that his parents were not pleased with his choice of wives he decided to take a wife from among his own people, so he chose a daughter of Ishmael. The account indicates clearly that he did this to please his parents.

What his parents thought of Esau’s decision to please them is not recorded, but it did not result in his securing the blessings which had gone irrevocably to Jacob. The daughter of Ishmael was not, of course, of pure stock, for her grandmother was an Egyptian. Perhaps in the illustration of Jacob and Esau this might serve to remind us that some during this Gospel Age are willing to make a real sacrifice and to endure much hardship in their obedience to the Lord; while others are glad to please him if they can do it without too much effort, and are willing to compromise.

Ishmael’s daughter probably lived nearby, and since she was nominally of Abraham’s family, that ‘profane person’ Esau was willing to take her for a wife, hoping it would meet with his parent’s approval. Thus it is with compromising and worldly Christians, who, in noting the faithful course of truly sacrificing followers of the Master, seek to imitate them, but only to the point where it does not cost them too much.

VERSES 10-22  “And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
“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 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, 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 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, 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 Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.
“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 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 he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
“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,
“So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:
“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.”

Jacob’s first night away from home found him still in the land of Canaan. His journey to Padan-aram was not to be an easy one. It was slow and tedious, and doubtless ofttimes accompanied by dangers. At the close of the first day’s journey he was faced with the necessity of preparing a place to spend the night. The account is brief, emphasizing merely that he used a stone for a pillow.

When Jacob fell asleep, he had a wonderful dream. He saw a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, and angels ascending and descending upon it. The angels said nothing, but the Lord stood above the whole scene and identified himself as the God of Abraham and Isaac.

What could have been more reassuring to Jacob than this! He had risked much to secure the birthright to the promise God had made to Abraham, and now the God of Abraham was assuring him that the birthright was indeed his. The promise, both of the land and that all the families of the earth were to be blessed through the ‘seed’, was here repeated to Jacob, who was assured that he would be the channel through which the seed would come.

At the moment, and in keeping with the Lord’s will, Jacob was fleeing from the land of promise, but the Lord assured him that he would return—‘I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of’. This is a promise which the Lord has given to all his faithful people. And with each one of us how often we would become discouraged and give up the struggle but for the promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”—Josh. 1:5; Heb. 13:5

Inasmuch as the Lord, in connection with this dream, reiterated his promise to bless all the families of the earth, it seems reasonable to conclude that the ladder stretched from earth to heaven, and, serving as a means of communication was intended to represent the fact that when God’s covenant with Abraham is fulfilled, oneness and harmony between God and men will be restored. On account of sin man has been alienated from God. There has been no communication between earth and heaven except in relation to the faithful few.

Of that faithful few during the Gospel Age, the Master said, “Their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 18:10) May it not be that the angels will also serve as messengers of communication for the entire restored human race when God’s promise to bless all the families of the earth is fulfilled through the faith seed of Abraham, the Christ, Head and body?

When Jacob awoke from his dream he said, ‘Surely … this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’. This suggests that the house of God is where he meets and communes with his people. It is essentially the same thought as expressed by Jesus, when, in explaining the change from the typical age of the Jews to the new age of the Gospel, he said that the time had come when those who worship the Lord must do so “in spirit and in truth.”—John 4:23,24

Jacob ‘vowed a vow’. As a member of Abraham’s family he had already evinced great interest in the God of Abraham, and in the promise that had been made to his grandfather and renewed to his father. Thus far, however, it had apparently been more or less a family affair. But now that God had spoken to him personally with respect to the blessing which was to come through the ‘seed’, Jacob was moved to make it an individual matter by entering into a covenant with the Lord on his own initiative, making his connection with the promises of God a personal responsibility.

This is a good lesson for all the Lord’s people. Let us never suppose that we can be pleasing to the Lord simply because we belong to a group of people whom the Lord has blessed with his truth. True, the Lord wants us to feel a closeness of relationship with all in the church, but he wants us also to realize that we must be individually faithful to him in order to remain in the church and later to have that abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.—II Pet. 1:11

The wording of the King James Version suggests that Jacob made a bargain with the Lord, but this is not the case. God had just promised to care for Jacob and to bring him back to the land of Canaan. The fulfillment of this promise was to be irrefutable proof to Jacob that the one who had spoken to him was the true God, and surely Jacob wanted him to be his God.

Jacob promised to serve the Lord and to give him a tenth part of all that the Lord gave to him. The law of the tithe was first mentioned in Genesis 14:20. Apparently the Lord had given some laws to his people prior to Sinai, and this was one of them. This law is expanded in the case of spiritual Israelites so that they covenant to give all they have, including themselves, to the Lord. He, in turn, makes them stewards of what they have given to him, and they are expected to be faithful in discharging their stewardship, directly or indirectly using all they have given to him in his service.

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