|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
28:16-19 God manifested himself and his favour, to Jacob, when he was asleep. The Spirit, like the wind, blows when and where it listeth, and God's grace, like the dew, tarrieth not for the sons of men. Jacob sought to improve the visit God had made him. Wherever we are, in the city or in the desert, in the house or in the field, in the shop or in the street, we may keep up our intercourse with Heaven, if it is not our own fault. But the more we see of God, the more cause we see for holy trembling before him.
Verse 17. - And he was afraid, - so were Moses (Exodus 20:18, 19), Job (Genesis 42:5, 6), Isaiah (Genesis 6:5), Peter (Luke 5:8), John (Revelation 1:17, 18), at similar discoveries of the Divine presence - and said, How dreadful is this place! - i.e. how to be feared! how awe-inspiring! φοβερὸς (LXX.), terribilis (Vulgate) - this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. Not literally, but figuratively, the place where God dwells, and the entrance to his glorious abode (Keil); the idea that Jacob was "made aware by the dream that he had slept on one of those favored spots singled out for a future sanctuary, and was fearful that he had sinned by employing it for a profane purpose" (Kalisch), being fanciful.
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And he was afraid,.... Not with a servile but filial fear; not with a fear of the wrath and displeasure of God, but with a fear of his grace and goodness; not with a fear of distrust of it, of which he had just had such a comfortable assurance; but with an awe of the greatness and glory of God, being conscious of his own unworthiness to receive such favours from him:
and said, how dreadful is this place! not terrible and horrible, being not like Mount Sinai, but like Sion; not as the suburbs of hell, but as the gate of heaven majestic and venerable, because of the glory of God that appeared in it, whose name is holy and reverend and because of the holy angels here present: and so the church, of which this was an emblem, is a solemn assembly, awful and venerable; a city of solemnities, because of the worship of God in it, and his presence there; who is to be feared in the assembly of his saints, and to be had in reverence of all that are about him; and where persons should behave in a serious and solemn manner. The Targum of Jonathan is,"how tremendous and praiseworthy is this place! this is not a common place:"
this is none other but the house of God; wherefore he afterwards called it Bethel, which signifies the house of God; and so the church of God is often called, Psalm 23:6; which is of God's building, where he dwells, and his family is, of which he is the master and governor; which he beautifies and adorns, fills, repairs, and defends:
and this is the gate of heaven: Mr. Mede renders it "the court of heaven", because of the angels; since in gates justice was administered by kings, attended with their retinue; but royal courts were not kept there, only courts of judicature: this place seems to be so called, because the heavens were opened and the glory of God was seen, attended by his angels, who were passing and repassing, as people through the streets of a city; and was an emblem of the church of Christ, who is figured by the ladder set on earth, whose top reached to heaven, the door, the gate, the way of ascent to it; here he is preached in the word as the way of salvation, the way to heaven and eternal happiness; here he is held forth in the ordinances; here he grants his presence to his people, and indulges them with communion with him, which makes it like and next to heaven unto them: and, generally speaking, though not always, God brings his people to heaven this way, through a Gospel church state, and by means of the word and ordinances; and here angels also attend, 1 Corinthians 11:10.
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