|Church School Lesson: Vision Dreams|
October 27, 2013
Background: Genesis 27:19-29; 28:1-4, 10-22; 32:22-30; 35:9-15;
Print: Genesis 28:1a, 10-22; Key Verse: Genesis 28:15;
Devotional: John 4:1-15
Genesis 28:1 (NKJV)
1 Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: "You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.
10 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran.
11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep.
12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: "I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.
14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
15 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 spoken to you."
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it."
17 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!"
18 Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously.
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on,
21 so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God.
22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."
Genesis Chapter 28 (Commentary)
SUPPORTING IDEA: The path back to righteousness from ruin requires us to acknowledge God's control and to adjust our lives to fit what he expects from us.
28:1-2. The blessings continued as Isaac took up Rebekah's plan as his own and sent Jacob to Paddan Aram. The directions were quite specific: he must marry one of his cousins, a daughter of his uncle Laban. The text suggests that Isaac had no idea of Esau's intentions and intended only to keep the patriarchal line intact. This corresponded to the same behavior his father Abraham had taken with respect to Isaac's marriage (24:2-4). "Jacob flees from two threats in his flight to Paddan Aram: persecution and accommodation. The physical threat from his brother may have seemed most obviously harmful, but the threat of accommodating to the Canaanite lifestyle was just as grave a danger. Accommodation is as great a threat as persecution to the community of faith" (Waltke, 385).
Sacred Staircase (28:10-22)
SUPPORTING IDEA: God reveals himself to his people to promise his protection and provision. Our response must be one of obedience and worship.
28:10-12. It was risky business traveling through Canaan alone, especially for a mild-mannered man whose life decisions up to this point had been made by his mother. His destination lay five hundred miles away, weeks of travel. About seventy miles north of Beersheba (possibly three days journey) he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night, put his head on a stone, and had a dream. Abraham had built an altar near here (Gen. 12:8; 13:3-4), although the text does not tell us that Jacob knew this or stopped for that reason. The word place (maqom) appears six times in the story. Perhaps the writer's intent is to recognize that this place was just that, a place, until it became Bethel.
But the place pales by comparison with the dream, the famous ladder that was not really a ladder but a stairway reaching from earth to heaven and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it This word (stairway) appears only here in the Old Testament, and it connects to a verb meaning "to pile up." The Septuagint translates the word with the Greek word klimax that does mean "ladder" or "staircase."
Ross says, "The most that can be said is that a word used in Ziggurat settings is cognate to the word used here, a word that fits the way of communication between heaven and earth. Hebrew sullam is thus appropriate to the point of the story -- here was a place that heaven and earth touched, where there is access to God" (Ross, 489).
The parallel with the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 directs our attention to the difference. That pagan structure started at earth and attempted to reach heaven, while Jacob's ladder took the other direction. The words resting on the earth can be translated "placed toward the earth." Angels, though not yet common in the text of Scripture, have previously appeared (18:2; 19:1-22). Much speculation has been offered about the motion of the angels, but none seems helpful except to note that angels commonly travel between heaven and earth and seem equally operative in both realms.
28:13-15. But the angel escalator is not the star attraction of this dream because there above it stood the Lord. Before Jacob could react to any of this, he received the promise directly from God's mouth that constitutes the rest of these verses. By now we are quite accustomed to this vocabulary -- descendants, land, peoples, blessed, offspring. Lest Jacob harbor any remaining doubt about his father's words issued earlier in this chapter, he now had direct confirmation from on high. This same self-revealing God talked to Abraham in Genesis 15:7 and later addressed Moses in Exodus 20. Verses 13 and 14 reiterate promises made to Abraham and Isaac.
Verse 15 introduces personal promises to Jacob and guarantees that his return to Canaan would indeed take place. Waltke says:
This is the first of three personal promises made to Jacob. First, in addition to promises for the remote future, God graciously grants intimate assurances to Jacob to sustain his faith... second, God promises preservation and protection... third, God promises homecoming. The God of Abraham and Isaac, and now the God of Jacob, is hardly limited to some geographic boundary like the local deities of the surrounding Canaanites. Wherever Jacob would travel, God would be with him and eventually God would bring him back home (Waltke, 391-92).
This sacred staircase image comes again in John 1:51 where Jesus says to Nathanael, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." Although interpretations differ, it would appear that the Lord meant that his disciples would see God's direct blessing on his earthly ministry in as direct and picturesque a manner as Jacob received this revelation in Genesis 28.
28:16-19. Startled by the dream, Jacob pronounced the uniqueness and meaning of the place. Perhaps still carrying a guilty conscience from earlier events back home, he was afraid and proclaimed, How awesome is this place! Today the word awesome can apply to anything from sandbars to stock cars, but for Jacob it meant the presence of God. Actually the word could be translated "frightening," hardly an understatement since this was none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.
In the morning the pillow stone became a pillar stone, a memorial of worship consecrated by oil. Jacob also named the place -- or more properly, renamed it -- Bethel, "house of God."
28:20-22. Jacob made a vow that took God's promises to greater specificity, covering such necessities as food to eat and clothes to wear. He sealed his vow by acknowledging the pillar as a substitute altar and promising God a tenth of all he would receive (see "Deeper Discoveries"). Certainly Jacob had known his parent's faith, and the great godliness of his grandfather. But here for the first time he came face-to-face with God -- and his life would never be the same. He never became a perfect model of godliness and would still see years of heartbreak among his own children. In fact, his favoritism toward Joseph mirrored Isaac's treatment of Esau -- the sins of the fathers passing on to the children.
But now Jacob belonged to God, and he would show a higher level of spiritual maturity from this point on. Kidner sums up this passage:
This is a supreme display of divine grace, unsought and unstinted. Unsought, for Jacob was no pilgrim or returning prodigal, yet God came out to meet him, angelic retinue and all, taking him wholly by surprise. Unstinted, for there was no word of reproach or demand, only a stream of assurances flowing from the central "I am the Lord" to spread from the past (13a) to the distant future, from the spot where Jacob stood (13b) to the four corners of the earth (14) and from his person to all mankind (14b). It was also immediately opposite, meeting his solitary, homeless and precarious condition by assuring him of the covenant with his forebears, allotting him a landed inheritance, and promising him safe conduct (Kidner, 158).
MAIN IDEA REVIEWParental influence on children yields sweet or sour fruit long after the tree is grown.