Gen. 28:10-15  The Ladder in Jacob's Dream

            Gen. 28:10 "And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. 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. 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. 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; 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. 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 Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. 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."  Jacob was doing what his father had told him to do.  The setting was one that would seem somewhat scary and troubling to a traveler.  Jacob had a long journey to travel from Beersheba to Padanaram.  He had traveled all day and now it was nightfall.  Jacob had left his home, knowing that he had a brother that was determined to kill him, and was traveling to a strange place.  He dwelt in a country that was by its nature and inhabitants different from him.  He was going on a task that I am sure he had doubts about.  Jacob was a man that had spent much of his time dwelling in tents.  Now he is in the open field and his provision for sleeping was to take stones out of the field and use them for pillows.  No doubt he felt alone with a troubled mind as he lay down to sleep. 

            Like Jacob experienced, sometimes the Lord appears unto us at the most troubling times in our lives.  Jacob was not expecting a visit from the Lord and sometimes we receive visits from the Lord in our experiences that we are not expecting. 

            The scene that followed had elements that are typical of God's promises and work in the covenant of redemption stated to us in Rom. 8:29, 30: "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."  The promise that God had made to Abraham and confirmed to Isaac was now to be confirmed to Jacob.  Previously, Isaac had spoken to Jacob about the promise, but now it was to be given to him personally by God himself.

            Again, we notice that the promise is delivered by God using the name, LORD.  As we have seen several times previously in the book of Genesis, the word, LORD, refers to God as a covenant making, covenant keeping God.  Now the LORD is about to confirm the covenant promise to Jacob. 

            "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."  The word, ladder, appears only once in the scriptures.  Since, the word only appears once, we need to key on some other phrase to get the meaning of the ladder in Jacob's dream.  For this we find a similar sentence in the New Testament: John 1:51 "And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."  By comparing these two scriptures we conclude that the ladder is typical of the "Son of man." 

            The ladder in Jacob's dream was a bridge between earth and heaven.  Christ, as the son of man, is our bridge between earth and heaven.  Notice that in the Genesis account the ladder begins on earth and extends to heaven, whereas in the John account only heaven is mentioned.  It seems to me that both are true.  The work of Christ originated in heaven.  However, the work of Christ bridges man to God or earth to heaven. 

            Christ came down from heaven to save his people from their sins.  He was born of a virgin and conceived of the Holy Ghost.  He kept the law perfectly and at the appointed time he went to the cross where He that was without sin was made to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.  

            "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; 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."  It was revealed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the promised seed would be as the dust of the earth, the sand of the sea shore, and as the stars of heaven.  All three of the analogies contain a number that cannot be counted for multitude.  The seed, we are told in Gal. 3:16 is Christ: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."  Christ is the promised seed.  The multitude of this seed is found in the covenant election of God: Rom. 8:29, "For whom he did foreknow…" and Eph. 1:4 "According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world…"  The apostle John was given a vision of this great multitude in Rev. 7:9, 10: "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb." 

            The extensiveness of this multiplied seed, we are told, is found in the fact that it "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."  Thus, God has an elect people in all sections of the earth and in all families of the earth!

            "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."  This promise that the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would possess the land of Canaan was by covenant promise and was made sure by God.  He assured beforehand that they would possess it by covenant promise.  This points us to the covenant promise made in the covenant of redemption: "them he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his son that he might be the firstborn among many brethren…"  This promise of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ was made by God before the world began.  The word, predestinate, means to determine and assure the final destiny beforehand.  The final destiny of the elect is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.  This is ultimate accomplished in the resurrection.  This also was spoken of in the covenant of redemption: "And whom he justified, them he also glorified.  In the resurrection we will be glorified to the extent that we will be in the image of Jesus Christ. 

            One last thing I want to show in the subject passage: "behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it…" and "the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."  Angels in the scripture are defined as "messengers" and "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"  Not only are there heavenly creatures known as angels, but sometimes the gospel ministers are called angels.  Gospel ministers ascend in Spirit through prayers, studies, and meditations, to receive the heavenly messages sent from God and descend to deliver them to the Lord's people in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.  They are ascending and descending upon the completed work of Jesus Christ that he accomplished in redeeming his people from their sins.


Gen. 28:16-19  Bethel, House of God 

            Gen. 28:16 "And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. 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. 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. 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first." 

            Previous to the dream we had no evidence that Jacob had ever called on the name of the Lord or had ever had fellowship with God before this.  We did see Jacob acting out the behavior his name indicated.  The name, Jacob, means supplanter.  Jacob had supplanted his brother, Esau in the matter of the birthright and the blessing of Isaac.  Jacob also had conspired to lie and deceive his father.  Now, we begin to see a very dramatic change in Jacob's life.  This change did not originate with Jacob, but rather with God. 

            The dream had a life-changing effect upon Jacob.  As he said, "Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not."  When a person comes to the realization that the LORD is watching over him and is present with him, then it often brings about a change in the life of that individual.   We also see that Jacob began to fear God based on his dream and experience: "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."  Jacob called the place where he had the dream: "the house of God."  He also referred to the ladder as the "gate of heaven."  A gate serves as an entrance point.  Also, a gate in cities is often the place where the government of the city took place.  As we have previously seen the ladder is a type of the covenant work of Jesus Christ.  It is through the covenant work of Christ that we have entrance (gate) unto heaven.  Moreover, the Lord's church is the governing body of the kingdom of heaven. 

            Jacob called the name of the place where he had the dream, Bethel.  The name, Bethel, literally means house of God. 

            "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…"  Oil in the scriptures was used for anointing and dedication.  This act of Jacob was to recognize and dedicate the place where he had been as the house of God and a place of worship. 


Gen. 28:20-22  Jacob vows a vow

             Gen. 28:20 "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: 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." 

            Several have held to the idea that Jacob was bargaining with the Lord in this passage.  However, I do not think that was the case.  Oftentimes in the scriptures when the word, if, is used it is used for a line of reasoning.  Rather than bringing doubt and questioning if something will be so or not, it is used as a line of reasoning from an established fact.  Oftentimes, the word, since, can be substituted for the word, if.  As an example: "if this be so, then this is so" can be read as "since this be so, then this is so."  I believe this was the case in the above passage.

            Notice that Jacob was vowing a vow.  This would not have been based on doubt of speculation, but rather on an established fact.  The above could thus be read, "Since 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…"  Thus Jacob was saying this is what I am going to do since the above things are so:

                        1.  I recognize that God is my God.

                        2.  I recognize that this pillar is God's house.

                        3.  I will give a tenth of all that the Lord gives me unto the Lord.

            Rather than doubt or a bargain, this seems to me to be a dedication.