Genesis 28:18
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.
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(18) Jacob . . . took the stone . . . and set it up for a pillar.—In so doing, Jacob’s object was to mark the spot where so important a communication had been made to him. But besides its use as a memorial, it would enable him to identify the place upon his return, and pay there his vows. And as oil was the symbol of the dedication of a thing to holy uses, he pours oil upon the top of it.

Genesis 28:18. He set up the stone for a pillar — To mark the place against he came back, and erect a lasting monument of God’s favour to him: and because he had not time now to build an altar here, as Abraham did in the places where God appeared to him, Genesis 12:7, he therefore “poured oil on the top of this stone,” which probably was the ceremony then used in dedicating their altars, as an earnest of his building an altar when he should have conveniencies for it, as afterward he did, in gratitude to God, Genesis 35:7. Grants of mercy call for our returns of duty; and the sweet communion we have with God ought ever to be remembered.

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.Jacob awakes, and exclaims, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not." He knew his omnipresence; but he did not expect a special manifestation of the Lord in this place, far from the sanctuaries of his father. He is filled with solemn awe, when he finds himself in the house of God and at the gate of heaven. The pillar is the monument of the event. The pouring of oil upon it is an act of consecration to God who has there appeared to him Numbers 7:1. He calls the name of the place Bethel, "the house of God." This is not the first time it received the name. Abraham also worshipped God here, and met with the name already existing (see on Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:3; Genesis 25:30.)18, 19. Jacob set up a stone, etc.—The mere setting up of the stone might have been as a future memorial to mark the spot; and this practice is still common in the East, in memory of a religious vow or engagement. But the pouring oil upon it was a consecration. Accordingly he gave it a new name, Beth-el, "the house of God" (Ho 12:4); and it will not appear a thing forced or unnatural to call a stone a house, when one considers the common practice in warm countries of sitting in the open air by or on a stone, as are those of this place, "broad sheets of bare rock, some of them standing like the cromlechs of Druidical monuments" [Stanley]. As a monument of God’s great kindness and gracious manifestation of himself to him, which might bring this mercy to his remembrance in his return, Genesis 31:13. This was an ancient practice among the patriarchs, Genesis 35:14; but afterwards, upon the growing abuse of it among the heathens, it was forbidden by God, Leviticus 26:1 Deu 7:5 12:3. The

oil he brought with him either for food or medicine, or for the anointing of himself, as need required;

and poured it upon the top of the stone, as a token of his consecration thereof to this use to be a memorial of God’s favour to him. Oil was used in sacrifices, and in the consecration of persons and places, Exodus 30:25,26 40:9.

And Jacob rose up early in the morning,.... In order to proceed on his journey, being comfortably refreshed both in body and mind: but first he

took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar; not for a statue or an idol to be worshipped, but for a memorial of the mercy and goodness of God unto him, see Joshua 4:3; indeed, among the Heathens, stones, even rude and unpolished ones, were worshipped as gods; and this was the ancient custom among the Greeks, and which, as Pausanias (l) says, universally obtained among them:

and poured oil upon the top of it; which he had brought with him for necessary uses in his journey, or fetched from the neighbouring city; the former is most likely: and this he did, that he might know it again when he returned, as Aben Ezra remarks, and not for the consecration of it for religious use; though it is thought, by some learned men (m), that the Phoenicians worshipped this stone which Jacob anointed; and that from this anointed stone at Bethel came the Boetylia, which were anointed stones consecrated to Saturn and Jupiter, and others, and were worshipped as gods; the original of which Sanchoniatho (n) ascribes to Uranus, who, he says, devised the Boetylia, forming animated stones, which Bochart renders anointed stones; and so Apuleius (o), Minutius Felix (p), Arnobius (q), and others, speak of anointed stones, worshipped as deities; and hence it may be through the early and ancient abuse of such pillars it was, that they were forbidden by the law of Moses, and such as the Heathens had erected were to be pulled down, Leviticus 26:1.

(l) Achaiaca sive, l. 7. p. 441. (m) Bochart. Canaan. l. 2. c. 2. col. 707, 708. Marsham. Chronicon, p. 56. & alii. (n) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 1. p. 37. (o) Florida, c. 1.((p) Octav. p. 2.((q) Adv. Gentes, l. 1. p. 2.

And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and {g} set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.

(g) To be a reminder of the vision shown to him.

18. for a pillar] Heb. maṣṣêbah. This word is used in the O.T. for the sacred upright stone which stood by the altar, and was one of the usual features of worship and sacrifice at a “high place” (bâmah). Its use is condemned in Deuteronomy 16:22. But in Hosea 3:4 it is associated with other forms of Israelite worship.

Here the erection and consecration of a stone as the memorial of the Divine manifestation, correspond with the religious use of such upright stones for purposes of ceremonial and symbolical offerings. Cf. Genesis 31:45; Exodus 24:4; Joshua 4:3; Joshua 24:26-27; 1 Samuel 7:12.

At the excavations in Gezer, eleven maṣṣêbahs were found standing close to the altar of the Canaanite “high place,” cf. Driver’s Schweich Lectures.

poured oil] Oil was used as the symbol of an offering made to the Divine Being, whose presence or abode is connected with the consecrated stone. For the use of oil in consecration, cf. Exodus 30:25-30; Leviticus 8:10; Numbers 7:1. There are many instances in ancient literature of sacred stones which were anointed with oil (λίθοι λιπαροί). Compare Tylor’s Primitive Culture3, ii. 160–167.

Verse 18. - And Jacob rose up early in the morning (cf. Genesis 19:27; Genesis 22:3), and took the stone that he had put for his pillows (vide supra), and set it up for a pillar - literally, set it up, a pillar (or something set upright, hence a statue or monument); not as an object of worship, a sort of fetish, but as a memorial of the vision (Calvin, Keil, Murphy; cf. Genesis 31:45; Genesis 35:14; Joshua 4:9, 20; 14:26; 1 Samuel 7:12) - and poured oil upon the top of it. Quasi signum consecrationis (Calvin), and not because he regarded it as in itself invested with any degree of sanctity. The worship of sacred stones (Baetylia), afterwards prevalent among the Greeks, Romans, Hindoos, Arabs, and Germans, though by some (Kuenen, Oort; vide 'The Bible for Young People,' vol. 1. p. 231) regarded as one of the primeval forms of worship among the Hebrews, was expressly interdicted by the law of Moses (cf. Exodus 22:24; Exodus 34:13; Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 12:3; Deuteronomy 16:22). It was probably a heathen imitation of the rite here recorded, though by some authorities (Keil, Knobel, Lange) the Baetylian worship is said to have been connected chiefly with meteoric stones which were supposed to have descended from some divinity; as, e. g., the stone in Delphi sacred to Apollo; that in Emesa, on the Orontes, consecrated to the sun; the angular rock at Pessinus in Phrygia worshipped as hallowed by Cybele; the black stone in the Kaaba at Mecca believed to have been brought from heaven by the angel Gabriel (vide Kalisch in /Gee). That the present narrative was a late invention, "called into existence by a desire" on the part of the priests and prophets of Yahweh (Jehovah) "to proclaim the high antiquity of the sanctuary at Bethel, and to make a sacred stone harmless" ('The Bible for Young People,' vol. 1. p. 231), is pure assumption. The circumstance that the usage here mentioned is nowhere else in Scripture countenanced (except in Genesis 35:14, with reference to this same pillar) forms a sufficient pledge of the high antiquity of the narrative (vied Havernick's 'Introd.,' § 20). Genesis 28:18In the morning Jacob set up the stone at his head, as a monument (מצּבה) to commemorate the revelation he had received from God; and poured oil upon the top, to consecrate it as a memorial of the mercy that had been shown him there (visionis insigne μνημόσυνον, Calvin), not as an idol or an object or divine worship (vid., Exodus 30:26.). - He then gave the place the name of Bethel, i.e., House of God, whereas (ואוּלם) the town had been called Luz before. This antithesis shows that Jacob gave the name, not to the place where the pillar was set up, but to the town, in the neighbourhood of which he had received the divine revelation. He renewed it on his return from Mesopotamia (Genesis 35:15). This is confirmed by Genesis 48:3, where Jacob, like the historian in Genesis 35:6-7, speaks of Luz as the place of this revelation. There is nothing at variance with this in Joshua 16:2; Joshua 18:13; for it is not Bethel as a city, but the mountains of Bethel, that are there distinguished from Luz (see my Commentary on Joshua 16:2).

(Note: The fact mentioned here has often been cited as the origin of the anointed stones (βαίτυλοι) of the heathen, and this heathen custom has been regarded as a degeneration of the patriarchal. But apart from this essential difference, that the Baetulian worship was chiefly connected with meteoric stones (cf. F. von Dalberg, @fcb. d. Meteor-cultus d. Alten), which were supposed to have come down from some god, and were looked upon as deified, this opinion is at variance with the circumstance, that Jacob himself, in consecrating the stone by pouring oil upon it, only followed a custom already established, and still more with the fact, that the name βαίτυλοι, Βαιτόλια, notwithstanding its sounding like Bethel, can hardly have arisen from the name Beth-El, Gr. Βαιθήλ, since the τ for θ would be perfectly inexplicable. Dietrich derives βαιτύλιον from בּטּל, to render inoperative, and interprets it amulet.)

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