Genesis 28:10
And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
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(10) And Jacob.—Though this history is called the Tôldôth Isaac, yet it is really the history of Jacob, just as the Tôldôth Terah was the history of Abraham, and the Tôldôth Jacob, beginning at Genesis 37:2, is the history of Joseph. Up to this time all had been preparation, but now at length Jacob is confirmed in the possession of the birthright, and made the heir of the Abrahamic blessing; and henceforward his fortunes solely occupy the inspired narrator, though Isaac had still sixty-three years to live. (See Note on Genesis 11:27.)



Genesis 28:10 - Genesis 28:22

From Abraham to Jacob is a great descent. The former embodies the nobler side of the Jewish character,-its capacity for religious ideas; its elevation above, and separation from, the nations; its consciousness of, and peaceful satisfaction in, a divine Friend; its consequent vocation in the world. These all were deep in the founder of the race, and flowed to it from him. Jacob, on the other hand, has in him the more ignoble qualities, which Christian treatment of the Jew has fostered, and which have become indissolubly attached to the name in popular usage. He is a crafty schemer, selfish, over-reaching, with a keen eye to the main chance. Whoever deals with him has to look sharply after his own interests. Self-advantage in its most earthly form is uppermost in him; and, like all timid, selfish men, shifty ways and evasions are his natural weapons. The great interest of his history lies in the slow process by which the patient God purified him, and out of this ‘stone raised up a worthy child to Abraham.’ We see in this context the first step in his education, and the very imperfect degree in which he profited by it.

1. Consider the vision and its accompanying promise. Jacob has fled from home on account of his nobler brother’s fierce wrath at the trick which their scheming mother and he had contrived. It was an ugly, heartless fraud, a crime against a doting father, as against Esau. Rebekah gets alarmed for her favourite; and her fertile brain hits upon another device to blind Isaac and get Jacob out of harm’s way, in the excuse that she cannot bear his marriage with a Hittite woman. Her exaggerated expressions of passionate dislike to ‘the daughters of Heth’ have no religious basis. They are partly feigned and partly petulance. So the poor old blind father is beguiled once more, and sends his son away. Starting under such auspices, and coming from such an atmosphere, and journeying back to Haran, the hole of the pit whence Abraham had been digged, and turning his back on the land where God had been with his house, the wanderer was not likely to be cherishing any lofty thoughts. His life was in danger; he was alone, a dim future was before him, perhaps his conscience was not very comfortable. These things would be in his mind as he lay down and gazed into the violet sky so far above him, burning with all its stars. Weary, and with a head full of sordid cares, plans, and possibly fears, he slept; and then there flamed on ‘that inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude’ to the pure, and its terror to the evil, this vision, which speaks indeed to his then need, as he discerned it, but reveals to him and to us the truth which ennobles all life, burns up the dross of earthward-turned aims, and selfish, crafty ways.

We are to conceive of the form of the vision as a broad stair or sloping ascent, rather than a ladder, reaching right from the sleeper’s side to the far-off heaven, its pathway peopled with messengers, and its summit touching the place where a glory shone that paled even the lustrous constellations of that pure sky. Jacob had thought himself alone; the vision peoples the wilderness. He had felt himself defenceless; the vision musters armies for his safety. He had been grovelling on earth, with no thoughts beyond its fleeting goods; the vision lifts his eyes from the low level on which they had been gazing. He had been conscious of but little connection with heaven; the vision shows him a path from his very side right into its depths. He had probably thought that he was leaving the presence of his father’s God when he left his father’s tent; the vision burns into his astonished heart the consciousness of God as there, in the solitude and the night.

The divine promise is the best commentary on the meaning of the vision. The familiar ancestral promise is repeated to him, and the blessing and the birthright thus confirmed. In addition, special assurances, the translation of the vision into word and adapted to his then wants, are given,-God’s presence in his wanderings, his protection, Jacob’s return to the land, and the promise of God’s persistent presence, working through all paradoxes of providence and sins of His servant, and incapable of staying its operations, or satisfying God’s heart, or vindicating His faithfulness, at any point short of complete accomplishment of His plighted word.

We pass from the lone desert and the mysterious twilight of Genesis to the beaten ways between Galilee and Jordan, and to the clear historic daylight of the gospel, and we hear Christ renewing the promise to the crafty Jacob, to one whom He called a son of Jacob in his after better days, ‘an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.’ The very heart of Christ’s work was unveiled in the terms of this vision: From henceforth ‘ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.’ So, then, the fleeting vision was a transient revelation of a permanent reality, and a faint foreshadowing of the true communication between heaven and earth. Jesus Christ is the ladder between God and man. On Him all divine gifts descend; by Him all the angels of human devotion, consecration, and aspiration go up. This flat earth is not so far from the topmost heaven as sense thinks. The despairing question of Jewish wisdom, ‘Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? . . .What is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?’-which has likewise been the question of every age that has not been altogether sunk in sensual delights-is answered once for all in the incarnate and crucified and ascended Lord, by and in whom all heaven has stooped to earth, that earth might be lifted to heaven. Every child of man, though lonely and earthly, has the ladder-foot by his side,-like the sunbeam, which comes straight into the eyes of every gazer, wherever he stands. It becomes increasingly evident, in the controversies of these days, that there will remain for modern thought only the alternative,-either Jesus Christ is the means of communication between God and man, or there is no communication. Deism and theism are compromises, and cannot live. The cultivated world in both hemispheres is being more and more shut up to either accepting Christ as revealer, by whom alone we know, and as medium by whom alone we love and approach, God; or sinking into abysses of negations where choke-damp will stifle enthusiasm and poetry, as well as devotion and immortal hope.

Jacob’s vision was meant to teach him, and is meant to teach us, the nearness of God, and the swift directness of communication, whereby His help comes to us and our desires rise to Him. These and their kindred truths were to be to him, and should be to us, the parents of much nobleness. Here is the secret of elevation of aim and thought above the mean things of sense. We all, and especially the young, in whose veins the blood dances, and to whom life is in all its glory and freshness, are tempted to think of it as all. It does us good to have this vision of the eternal realities blazing in upon us, even if it seems to glare at us, rather than to shine with lambent light. The seen is but a thin veil of the unseen. Earth, which we are too apt to make a workshop, or a mere garden of pleasure, is a Bethel,-a house of God. Everywhere the ladder stands; everywhere the angels go up and down; everywhere the Face looks from the top. Nothing will save life from becoming, sooner or later, trivial, monotonous, and infinitely wearisome, but the continual vision of the present God, and the continual experience of the swift ascent and descent of our aspirations and His blessings.

It is the secret of purity too. How could Jacob indulge in his craft, and foul his conscience with sin, as long as he carried the memory of what he had seen in the solitary night on the uplands of Bethel? The direct result of the vision is the same command as Abraham received, ‘Walk before Me, and be thou perfect.’ Realise My presence, and let that kill the motions of sin, and quicken to service.

It is also the secret of peace. Hopes and fears, and dim uncertainty of the future, no doubt agitated the sleeper’s mind as he laid him down. His independent life was beginning. He had just left his father’s tents for the first time; and, though not a youth in years, he was in the position which youth holds with us. So to him, and to all young persons, here is shown the charm which will keep the heart calm, and preserve us from being ‘over exquisite to cast the fashion of uncertain evils,’ or too eagerly longing for possible good. ‘I am with thee’ should be enough to steady our souls; and the confidence that God will not leave us till He has accomplished His own purpose for us, should make us willing to let Him do as He will with ours.

2. Notice the imperfect reception of the divine teaching. Jacob’s startled exclamation on awakening from his dream indicates a very low level both of religious knowledge and feeling. Nor is there any reason for taking the words in any but their most natural sense; for it is a mistake to ascribe to him the knowledge of God due to later revelation, or, at this stage of his life, any depth of religious emotion. He is alarmed at the thought that God is near. Probably he had been accustomed to think of God’s presence as in some special way associated with his father’s encampment, and had not risen to the belief of His omnipresence. There seems no joyous leaping up of his heart at the thought that God is here. Dread, not unmingled with the superstitious fear that he had profaned a holy place by laying himself down in it, is his prevailing feeling, and he pleads ignorance as the excuse for his sacrilege. He does not draw the conclusion from the vision that all the earth is hallowed by a near God, but only that he has unwittingly stumbled on His house; and he does not learn that from every place there is an open door for the loving heart into the calm depths where God is throned, but only that here he unwittingly stands at the gate of heaven. So he misses the very inner purpose of the vision, and rather shrinks from it than welcomes it. Was that spasm of fear all that passed through his mind that night? Did he sleep again when the glory died out of the heaven? So the story would appear to suggest. But, in any case, we see here the effect of the sudden blazing in upon a heart not yet familiar with the Divine Friend, of the conviction that He is really near. Gracious as God’s promise was, it did not dissipate the creeping awe at His presence. It is an eloquent testimony of man’s consciousness of sin, that whensoever a present God becomes a reality to a worldly man, he trembles. ‘This place’ would not be ‘dreadful,’ but blessed, if it were not for the sense of discord between God and me.

The morning light brought other thoughts, when it filled the silent heavens, and where the ladder had stretched, there was but empty blue. The lesson is sinking into his mind. He lifts the rude stone and pours oil on it, as a symbol of consecration, as nameless races have done all over the world. His vow shows that he had but begun to learn in God’s school. He hedges about his promise with a punctilious repetition of God’s undertaking, as if resolved that there should be no mistake. Clause by clause he goes over it all, and puts an ‘if’ to it. God’s word should have kindled something liker faith than that. What a fall from ‘Abram believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness’ ! Jacob barely believed, and will wait to see whether all will turn out as it has been promised. That is not the glad, swift response of a loving, trusting heart. Nor is he contented with repeating to God the terms of his engagement, but he adds a couple of clauses which strike him as being important, and as having been omitted. There was nothing about ‘bread to eat, and raiment to put on,’ nor about coming back again ‘in peace,’ so he adds these. A true ‘Jew,’-great at a bargain, and determined to get all he can, and to have no mistake about what he must get before he gives anything! Was Jesus thinking at all of the ancestor when He warned the descendants, in words which sound curiously like an echo of Jacob’s, not to be anxious ‘what ye shall eat,’ nor ‘what ye shall put on’? As the vow stands in the Authorised Version, it is farther open to the charge of suspending his worship of God upon the fulfilment of these conditions; but it is better to adopt the marginal rendering of the Revised Version, according to which the clause ‘then shall the Lord be my God’ is a part of the conditions, not of the vow, and is to be read ‘And [if] the Lord will be . . .then this stone . . .shall be,’ etc. If this rendering be adopted, as I think it should be, the vow proper is simply of outward service,-he will rear an altar, and he will tithe his substance. Not a very munificent pledge! And where in it is the surrender of the heart? Where is the outgoing of love and gratitude? Where the clasping of the hand of his heavenly Friend with calm rapture of thankful self-yielding, and steadfastness of implicit trust? God did not want Jacob’s altar, nor his tenths; He wanted Jacob. But many a weary year and many a sore sorrow have to leave their marks on him before the evil strain is pressed out of his blood; and by the unwearied long-suffering of his patient Friend and Teacher in heaven, the crafty, earthly-minded Jacob ‘the supplanter’ is turned into ‘Israel, the prince with God, in whom is no guile.’ The slower the scholar, the more wonderful the forbearance of the Teacher; and the more may we, who are slow scholars too, take heart to believe that He will not be soon angry with us, nor leave us until He has done that which He has spoken to us of.

Genesis 28:10. Jacob went out from Beer-sheba — Unattended and alone, God, in his wise providence, so ordering it, for the greater illustration of his care over, and kindness toward him. But the great simplicity, humility, and innocence of those times, made many things usual then, which would now appear ridiculous.

28:10-15 Jacob's conduct hitherto, as recorded, was not that of one who simply feared and trusted in God. But now in trouble, obliged to flee, he looked only to God to make him to dwell in safety, and he could lie down and sleep in the open air with his head upon a stone. Any true believer would be willing to take up with Jacob's pillow, provided he might have Jacob's vision. God's time to visit his people with his comforts, is, when they are most destitute of other comforts, and other comforters. Jacob saw a ladder which reached from earth to heaven, the angels going up and coming down, and God himself at the head of it. This represents, 1. The providence of God, by which there is a constant intercourse kept up between heaven and earth. This let Jacob know that he had both a good guide and a good guard. 2. The mediation of Christ. He is this ladder; the foot on earth in his human nature, the top in heaven in his Divine nature. Christ is the Way; all God's favours come to us, and all our services go to him, by Christ, Joh 1:51. By this way, sinners draw near to the throne of grace with acceptance. By faith we perceive this way, and in prayer we approach by it. In answer to prayer we receive all needful blessings of providence and grace. We have no way of getting to heaven but by Christ. And when the soul, by faith, can see these things, then every place will become pleasant, and every prospect joyful. He will never leave us, until his last promise is accomplished in our everlasting happiness. God now spake comfortably to Jacob. He spake from the head of the ladder. All the glad tidings we receive from heaven come through Jesus Christ. The Messiah should come from Jacob. Christ is the great blessing of the world. All that are blessed, are blessed in him, and none of any family are shut out from blessedness in him, but those that shut out themselves. Jacob had to fear danger from his brother Esau; but God promises to keep him. He had a long journey before him; to an unknown country; but, Behold, I am with thee, and God promises to bring him back again to this land. He seemed to be forsaken of all his friends; but God gives him this assurance, I will not leave thee. Whom God loves, he never leaves.Jacob's dream and vow. Setting out on the way to Haran, he was overtaken by night, and slept in the field. He was far from any dwelling, or he did not wish to enter the house of a stranger. He dreams. A ladder or stair is seen reaching from earth to heaven, on which angels ascend and descend. This is a medium of communication between heaven and earth, by which messengers pass to and fro on errands of mercy. Heaven and earth have been separated by sin. But this ladder has re-established the contact. It is therefore a beautiful emblem of what mediates and reconciles John 1:51. It here serves to bring Jacob into communication with God, and teaches him the emphatic lesson that he is accepted through a mediator. "The Lord stood above it," and Jacob, the object of his mercy, beneath. First. He reveals himself to the sleeper as "the Lord" Genesis 2:4, "the God of Abraham thy father, and of Isaac." It is remarkable that Abraham is styled his father, that is, his actual grandfather, and covenant father. Second. He renews the promise of the land, of the seed, and of the blessing in that seed for the whole race of man. Westward, eastward, northward, and southward are they to break forth. This expression points to the world-wide universality of the kingdom of the seed of Abraham, when it shall become the fifth monarchy, that shall subdue all that went before, and endure forever. This transcends the destiny of the natural seed of Abraham. Third. He then promises to Jacob personally to be with him, protect him, and bring him back in safety. This is the third announcement of the seed that blesses to the third in the line of descent Genesis 12:2-3; Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4.10. Jacob went out, &c.—His departure from his father's house was an ignominious flight; and for fear of being pursued or waylaid by his vindictive brother, he did not take the common road, but went by lonely and unfrequented paths, which increased the length and dangers of the journey. It is not strange that Jacob went alone, as it appears that he did from Genesis 32:10, when his grandfather’s servant was attended with a so great retinue, Genesis 24:1-67, because attendance was then necessary to procure him reputation, and to obtain the consent of the virgin and her parents to long a journey; but here, as it was unnecessary, so it would have been troublesome and prejudicial, exposing him both to the envy and snares of his brother Esau, which by this private departure he did avoid. Besides, God in his wise providence did so order this, and some other matters of the like nature, for the greater illustration of his care and kindness towards his children. Add to this the great simplicity, humility, and innocency of those times, if compared with ours, which made many things then usual which now would be ridiculous.

And Jacob went out from Beersheba,.... Where Isaac and Rebekah now lived: from hence he went alone, without any servants to attend him, though perhaps not without letters of recommendation from his parents, testifying their affection to him, and that he came with their knowledge and consent, and was their heir, as Isaac had been to Abraham; nor without provisions, at least not without money to purchase them by the way, as appears by the oil he had, Genesis 28:18,

and went toward Haran: for thither he could not get in one day, being many days' journey; See Gill on Genesis 28:5.

And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
10–22. This section taken from J and E follows upon Genesis 27:45. Observe the mention of Haran in Genesis 28:10 (cf. Genesis 27:43), and the mention of Beer-sheba as the dwelling-place of Isaac in Genesis 28:10 (cf. Genesis 26:23). Genesis 28:10; Genesis 28:13-16; Genesis 28:19 are probably from J; Genesis 28:11-12; Genesis 28:17-18; Genesis 28:20-22 from E.

This passage, recording Jacob’s dream at Bethel, and the passage in Genesis 32:22-32, recording Jacob’s wrestling with the Angel, relate the most famous and significant events in the narrative of the patriarch Jacob. The present passage is in some respects one of the most suggestive and impressive in religious literature. The distinctive features of the narrative have been an inspiration in the poetry and prose of religious literature, e.g. the hymn “Nearer, my God, to Thee.”

Verse 10. - And Jacob went out from Beersheba, - in obedience to his father's commandment to seek a wife (ver. 2), but also in compliance with his mother's counsel to evade the wrath of Esau (Genesis 27:43; cf. Hosea 12:12. On Beersheba vide Genesis 21:31; Genesis 26:33 - and went towards Haran - probably along the route traversed by Abraham's servant (cf. Genesis 14:10). Genesis 28:10Jacob's Dream at Bethel. - As he was travelling from Beersheba, where Isaac was then staying (Genesis 26:25), to Haran, Jacob came to a place where he was obliged to stop all night, because the sun had set. The words "he hit (lighted) upon the place," indicate the apparently accidental, yet really divinely appointed choice of this place for his night-quarters; and the definite article points it out as having become well known through the revelation of God that ensued. After making a pillow with the stones (מאשׁת, head-place, pillow), he fell asleep and had a dream, in which he saw a ladder resting upon the earth, with the top reaching to heaven; and upon it angels of God going up and down, and Jehovah Himself standing above it. The ladder was a visible symbol of the real and uninterrupted fellowship between God in heaven and His people upon earth. The angels upon it carry up the wants of men to God, and bring down the assistance and protection of God to men. The ladder stood there upon the earth, just where Jacob was lying in solitude, poor, helpless, and forsaken by men. Above in heaven stood Jehovah, and explained in words the symbol which he saw. Proclaiming Himself to Jacob as the God of his fathers, He not only confirmed to him all the promises of the fathers in their fullest extent, but promised him protection on his journey and a safe return to his home (Genesis 28:13-15). But as the fulfilment of this promise to Jacob was still far off, God added the firm assurance, "I will not leave thee till I have done (carried out) what I have told thee."
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