Chapter 28

  1. Jacob’s Departure

    • Isaac called Jacob and told him not to marry a Canaanite woman. He told him to go to his mother’s family in Paddan-aram, to his grandfather Bethuel’s house, and to marry one of his Uncle Laban’s daughters.

    • Isaac then blessed Jacob saying, “May God Almighty bless you and give you many descendants. May God pass along to you Abraham’s blessing to own the land you now live in as a foreigner because God gave this land to Abraham.

    • Isaac sent Jacob on his way.

      • “Tragically, this was the last time Jacob would see his father or mother.” (Guzik)

    • Esau listened to the blessing that his father gave Isaac and his instruction to not marry a Canaanite woman. Realizing that his father did not approve of the Canaanite women, Esau went to Ishmael (his uncle) and married his daughter, Mahalath, in addition to the wives he already had.

2. Jacob at Bethel

    • Jacob left Beer-sheba and headed toward Haran. When the sun set, he stopped and found a place to spend the night. He found a rock to rest his head on and lay down to sleep.

    • Then Jacob had a dream: He saw a ladder resting on the ground that reached all the way into heaven, and God’s angels were going up and down it. The Lord was standing beside him and said to him, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham and Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land you are sleeping on. You will have so many descendants they will be like the dust of the earth and they will spread out in all directions. All the people on the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. I am with you. I will watch you everywhere you go and bring you back to this land. I won’t leave you until I have fulfilled my promise to you.”

      • This conjures such a beautifully amazing picture in my mind that no google image I find as an illustration really does it justice! Guzik expounds upon the imagery and significance of this dream, especially as they relate to our “access” to heaven: “In Jacob’s dream, there was now access to heaven. Jacob now knew God was closer than ever and there was real access and interaction between heaven and earth. Jesus made it clear in John 1:51 that He is the access to heaven. He is the means by which heaven comes down to us and by which we can go to heaven. He is the ladder. And He said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’ (John 1:51) Jesus is this way to heaven. He does not show us a way; He is the way. Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ (John 14:6)”

      • Guzik continues, “Before, Isaac told Jacob the covenant was his (Genesis 28:3-4), but now the voice of God Himself confirmed it. God promised him land, a nation (your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth), and a blessing (in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed)… God gave to Jacob the same kind of promise found in Philippians 1:6: being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. God won’t let us go until His work is complete in us.”

    • When Jacob woke up he said, “The Lord is here in this place and I didn’t even know it!” But he was also afraid saying, “This awesome place is none other than the house of God and the gate to heaven.”

      • Jacob seemed to think there was something special about the place where God spoke to him, but there was nothing unique or powerful about the particular location.

        • HCSB Commentary notes, “Because Jacob’s vision at Bethel was his closest encounter with God up to this point in his life, he was convinced this place was unique…At his stage in God’s progressive revelation, he could not see that no earthly spot could play this role (Acts 7:48-50). Like his brother Esau, Jacob had not been a man of faith.”

      • Guzik says, “From his unspiritual and perhaps superstitious perspective, Jacob put too much emphasis on a particular place. He didn’t realize that if the presence of the Lord was not with him in every place, then God could never fulfill His promise to him.”

    • Jacob set the stone he had rested on as a marker, poured oil on it, and renamed the place Bethel. (It had been called Luz.)

    • Then Jacob made a vow, “If God will be with me and take care of me on this journey, providing me food and clothing, and granting me a safe return home, then the Lord will be my God. This stone marker will be God’s house and I will give You one tenth of everything that You give me.”

      • There is actually debate about whether Jacob’s vow expresses doubt that God will indeed fulfill His promises and that Jacob places conditions on his loyalty to God, or if there is a minor error in translation that lends itself to that particular interpretation- or, if in actuality Jacob was indeed showing deep gratitude. To be honest, I can see either as possible so I’ll give you both arguments:

      • On the one hand, it is obvious that Jacob didn’t have a spiritually mature understanding of the sovereignty of God. After all, even though he knew God had given Abraham’s blessing to him instead of Esau, he and Rebekah still acted in manipulative ways to receive the blessing instead of leaving it to God. And, when God appeared to Jacob in his dream, Jacob still attributed his physical location as having some particular powerful uniqueness instead of realizing God can do anything anywhere. So, you can see how one might read Jacob’s vow and notice the conditions that Jacob seems to put on his acceptance of God as “his God”.

        • Guzik has this to say about Jacob’s vow: “God gave him a promise, yet he still tried to bargain with God, even promising God money if He fulfilled His promise…The way Jacob prayed, it was evident God’s mere word was not enough for him. He had to see God do it before he would believe. Are we the same way? God says, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19); He says, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” (Nahum 1:7) Do we believe these things before we see them?”

      • On the other side of the debate, commentators point out that what is translated “If God will be with me” can also be translated “Since God will be with me” which changes the entire tone of the vow. Indeed, even though Jacob had questions and an immature faith, having such an incredible interaction with God could surely have changed his entire perspective.

      • Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible says, “His words are not to be considered as implying a doubt, far less as stating the condition or terms on which he would dedicate himself to God. Let “if” be changed into “since,” and the language will appear a proper expression of Jacob‘s faith – an evidence of his having truly embraced the promise.”

      • Wesley’s Explanatory Notes points out that Jacob’s repeating of the promises God had given was indeed a proper response, “Jacob had now had a gracious visit from heaven, God had renewed his covenant with him, and the covenant is mutual; when God ratifies his promises to us, it is proper for us to repeat our promises to him.”

      • Thomas Coke’s Commentary says this, “The plain meaning of Jacob’s vow is this: ‘If God shall be pleased to preserve me, that I may return again to this place, then will I glorify him here in a public and remarkable manner, by adhering steadfastly to the true religion in the midst of this land of idolaters; and this place where I have set up a pillar, will I mark as my most solemn place of public worship, ch. Genesis 35:3. and the tythe of all that I get before my return will I consecrate to God, either by applying it to the maintenance of the poor, or for other pious uses.’ From which explication it appears that the vow has no particular and immediate reference to that internal worship of God, which is our indispensable duty at all times and in all places, otherwise we might well suppose that Jacob intended to forsake the God of his fathers during the interval; but that it refers only to special acts of gratitude and religion. Jacob’s moderation in requesting only the necessaries of life, food and raiment, shews his character in an amiable view.”

      • So there you have it. In my opinion, a compelling argument can be made for either side. Either way, it shows that God has a purpose for us and we can’t “mess it up” though we sure can make things much more difficult for ourselves than they have to be. God is all sovereign over everything and He will meet us where we are and bring us to where we need to be spiritually to achieve His purpose. Jacob still had a lot of “growing” to do and in the next chapter we see God use Jacob’s new circumstances to just that.