Genesis 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,
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(20-22) Then shall the Lord (Jehovah) be my God.—This is a false translation, and gives a wrong sense. Jacob, in his vow, which implies no doubt on his part, but is his acceptance of the terms of the covenant, says: “If Elohim will be with me, and will protect me on this journey that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I come again in peace to my father’s house, and Jehovah will be my Elohim, then this stone which I have set up as a pillar shall be Beth-Elohiin; and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely pay thee tithes.” Genesis 28:20-21 are a recapitulation of the mercies of which he was to be the recipient, while in Genesis 28:22 Jacob states what shall be his vow of gratitude.

But what was a Beth-Elohim? It has been supposed that it was a sort of cromlech, set up to be itself an object of adoration. Attention has also been called to the Baitylia, or stones “possessed of a soul,” which the Phœnicians are said by Eusebius (Praep. Evang. i. 10) to have worshipped; and it has been thought, with some probability, that the word is a corrupt form of the Hebrew Beth-Elohim. These Baitylia. however, were meteoric stones, and their sanctity arose from their having fallen from heaven. Stones, moreover, set up at first simply as memorials may in time have been worshipped, and hence the prohibition in Leviticus 26:1, Deuteronomy 16:22; but there is no trace of any such idolatrous tendency here. Jacob apparently meant by a Beth-Elohim a place where prayer and offerings would be acceptable, because God ad manifested Himself there; and His vow signified that if, preserved by Jehovah’s care, he was permitted to visit the place again, he would consecrate it to Jehovah’s service, and spend there in sacrifice, or in some other way to His honour, the tithe of whatever property he might have acquired.

Genesis 28:20. Jacob vowed a vow — That is, bound himself by a solemn promise and obligation. This being the first instance of a religious vow which occurs in Scripture, it may be proper to observe, that such a vow is a binding of the soul by a solemn and voluntary promise, made to God, to do, or more carefully to do a thing, which otherwise by our duty and God’s law we are bound to do; or to do certain things, lawful in themselves, but otherwise left indifferent to be done or not; or to abstain from some things otherwise lawful to be used; and all this in a way of thankfulness to God for some extraordinary blessings received, (Jonah 1:16,) or for the obtaining of some special benefits which we greatly desire, and stand in need of, Numbers 21:1-2; Jdg 11:30; 1 Samuel 1:2;

Proverbs 31:2. Jacob was now in fear and distress; and in times of trouble it is seasonable to make vows. Jacob had now a gracious visit from heaven, and when God ratifies his promises to us, it is proper for us to repeat our promises to him. If thou wilt be with me and keep me — We need desire no more to make us easy and happy wherever we are, but to have God’s presence with us, and to be under his protection. Then shall the Lord be my God — Then I will believe, love, and rejoice in him as my God, and I will be the more strongly engaged to abide with him. And this pillar shall be God’s house — That is, an altar shall be erected here to the honour of God. And of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee — To be spent either upon God’s altars, or upon his poor, which are both his receivers in the world. The tenth is a very fit proportion to be devoted to God, and employed for him; though, as circumstances vary, it may be more or less, as God prospers us.

28:20-22 Jacob made a solemn vow on this occasion. In this observe, 1. Jacob's faith. He trusts that God will be with him, and will keep him; he depends upon it. 2. Jacob's moderation in his desires. He asks not for soft clothing and dainty meat. If God give us much, we are bound to be thankful, and to use it for him; if he gives us but little, we are bound to be content, and cheerfully to enjoy him in it. 3. Jacob's piety, and his regard to God, appear in what he desired, that God would be with him, and keep him. We need desire no more to make us easy and happy. Also his resolution is, to cleave to the Lord, as his God in covenant. When we receive more than common mercy from God, we should abound in gratitude to him. The tenth is a fit proportion to be devoted to God, and employed for him; though it may be more or less, as God prospers us, 1Co 16:2. Let us then remember our Bethels, how we stand engaged by solemn vows to yield ourselves to the Lord, to take him for our God, and to devote all we have and are to his glory!Jacob's vow. A vow is a solemn engagement to perform a certain duty, the obligation of which is felt at the time to be especially binding. It partakes, therefore, of the nature of a promise or a covenant. It involves in its obligation, however, only one party, and is the spontaneous act of that party. Here, then, Jacob appears to take a step in advance of his predecessors. Hitherto, God had taken the initiative in every promise, and the everlasting covenant rests solely on his eternal purpose. Abraham had responded to the call of God, believed in the Lord, walked before him, entered into communion with him, made intercession with him, and given up his only son to him at his demand. In all this there is an acceptance on the part of the creature of the supremacy of the merciful Creator. But now the spirit of adoption prompts Jacob to a spontaneous movement toward God. This is no ordinary vow, referring to some special or occasional resolve.

It is the grand and solemn expression of the soul's free, full, and perpetual acceptance of the Lord to be its own God. This is the most frank and open utterance of newborn spiritual liberty from the heart of man that has yet appeared in the divine record. "If God will be with me." This is not the condition on which Jacob will accept God in a mercenary spirit. It is merely the echo and the thankful acknowledgment of the divine assurance, "I am with thee," which was given immediately before. It is the response of the son to the assurance of the father: "Wilt thou indeed be with me? Thou shalt be my God." "This stone shall be God's house," a monument of the presence of God among his people, and a symbol of the indwelling of his Spirit in their hearts. As it comes in here it signalizes the grateful and loving welcome and entertainment which God receives from his saints. "A tenth will I surely give unto thee." The honored guest is treated as one of the family. Ten is the whole: a tenth is a share of the whole. The Lord of all receives one share as an acknowledgment of his sovereign right to all. Here it is represented as the full share given to the king who condescends to dwell with his subjects. Thus, Jacob opens his heart, his home, and his treasure to God. These are the simple elements of a theocracy, a national establishment of the true religion. The spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, has begun to reign in Jacob. As the Father is prominently manifested in regenerate Abraham, and the Son in Isaac, so also the Spirit in Jacob.

- Jacob's Marriage

6. רחל rāchēl, Rachel, "a ewe."

16. לאה lê'âh, Leah, "wearied."

24. זלפה zı̂lpâh, Zilpah, "drop?"

29. בלהה bı̂lhâh, Bilhah, "timidity."

32. ראוּבן re'uvbēn, Reuben, "behold a son." A paronomasia in allusion to the phrase בעניי ראה be‛ānyı̂y rā'âh. Derivatives and compounds, being formed by the common speaker, are sometimes founded upon resemblance in sound, and not always on precise forms of the original sentence which prompted them.

33. שׁמעין shı̂m‛ôn, Shim'on, "hearing, answer."

34. לוי lêvı̂y, Levi, "junction, union."

35. יחוּדה yehûdâh, Jehudah, "praised."

In this chapter and the following, Jacob grows from a solitary fugitive with a staff in his hand Genesis 32:10 to be the father of a large family and the owner of great wealth. He proves himself to be a man of patience and perseverance, and the Lord according to promise is with him.

Ge 28:20-22. Jacob's Vow.

20. Jacob vowed a vow—His words are not to be considered as implying a doubt, far less as stating the condition or terms on which he would dedicate himself to God. Let "if" be changed into "since," and the language will appear a proper expression of Jacob's faith—an evidence of his having truly embraced the promise. How edifying often to meditate on Jacob at Beth-el.

Jacob vowed a vow, i.e. bound himself by a solemn promise or obligation. Compare Genesis 14:22 Ecclesiastes 5:4.

If God will be with me. He speaks not thus as if he doubted of the truth of God’s promises, or would, like a mercenary person, make a bargain with God, but rather supposeth that God will do this for him, as he had in effect promised, Genesis 28:15, and thereupon obligeth himself to a grateful return to God for this mercy:

If God will be with me, & c., as he hath just now assured me he will; or, Seeing God will be with me, & c., for the Hebrew im doth not always imply a doubt, but rather a supposition, and is oft rendered seeing that, as Exodus 20:25 Numbers 36:4 1 Samuel 15:17 Amos 7:2. And so the Greek particle answering to the Hebrew im is used, Matthew 6:22 Luke 11:34.

Bread; food convenient, as it is called, Proverbs 30:8, which is oft signified by the name of

bread. See Genesis 3:19.

And Jacob vowed a vow,.... Which is the first vow we read of in Scripture:

saying, if God will be with me; the word if is not a sign of doubting, but is either an adverb of time, and may be rendered, "when God shall be with me" (t); or as a supposition, expressive of an inference or conclusion drawn, "seeing God will be with me" (u); which he had the utmost reason to believe he would, since he had not only promised it, but had so lately granted him his presence in a very singular and remarkable manner, referring to the promise of God, Genesis 28:15,

and will keep me in this way that I go; as he had said he would, and as hitherto he had, and for the future he had reason to believe he still would:

and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on; which is included in that clause, "I will not leave thee", &c. Genesis 28:15, even not without food and raiment; which is all men can desire or use, and therefore with them should be content.

(t) "quum", Junius & Tremellius; so Ainsworth. (u) Quandoquidem, Tigurine version.

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If {h} 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,

(h) He does not bind God under this condition, but acknowledges his infirmity, and promises to be thankful.

20. vowed a vow] See Genesis 31:13. This is the first mention in the O.T. of a religious vow, i.e. a solemn promise, enforced by an adjuration of the Deity, to dedicate, or wholly set apart, some offering or gift.

If God will be with me] Jacob’s vow is made with special reference to the personal promise in Genesis 28:15. Its three conditions are: (1) Divine presence (with me), (2) Divine preservation (keep me), (3) Divine restoration (so that I come again).

Verses 20, 21. - And Jacob vowed a vow, - not in any mercenary or doubtful spirit, but as an expression of gratitude for the Divine mercy (Calvin), as the soul's full and free acceptance of the Lord to be its own God (Murphy), as the instinctive impulse of the new creature (Candlish) - saying, If (not the language of uncertainty, but equivalent to "since, ' or "forasmuch as;" Jacob by faith both appropriating and anticipating the fulfillment of the preceding promise) God (Elohim; for the reason of which vide infra) will be with me, - as he has promised (ver. 15), and as I believe he will - and will keep me in this way that I go, - a particular appropriation of the general promise (ver. 15) - and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on (i.e. all the necessaries of life, included, though not specially mentioned, in the preceding promise), so that I come again to my father's house - also guaranteed by God (ver. 15), and here accepted by the patriarch - in peace (i.e. especially free from Esau's avenging threats); then shall the Lord be my God - literally, and Jehovah will be to me for Elohim (Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, Keil, Kalisch, 'Speaker's Commentary'), though the received translation is not without support (LXX., Vulgate, Syriac, Calvin, Michaelis, Lange, Murphy, Wordsworth); but to have bargained and bartered with God in the way which this suggests before assenting to accept him as an object of trust and worship would have been little less than criminal. Accordingly, the clause is best placed in the protasis of the sentence, which then practically reads, "if Elohim will be Jehovah to me, and if Jehovah will be to me Elohim" (vide Hengstenberg, 'Introduction,' vol. 1. p. 358). Genesis 28:20Lastly, Jacob made a vow: that if God would give him the promised protection on his journey, and bring him back in safety to his father's house, Jehovah should be his God (והיה in Genesis 28:21 commences the apodosis), the stone which he had set up should be a house of God, and Jehovah should receive a tenth of all that He gave to him. It is to be noticed here, that Elohim is used in the protasis instead of Jehovah, as constituting the essence of the vow: if Jehovah, who had appeared to him, proved Himself to be God by fulfilling His promise, then he would acknowledge and worship Him as his God, by making the stone thus set up into a house of God, i.e., a place of sacrifice, and by tithing all his possessions. With regard to the fulfilment of this vow, we learn from Genesis 35:7 that Jacob built an altar, and probably also dedicated the tenth to God, i.e., offered it to Jehovah; or, as some have supposed, applied it partly to the erection and preservation of the altar, and partly to burnt and thank-offerings combined with sacrificial meals, according to the analogy of Deuteronomy 14:28-29 (cf. Genesis 31:54; Genesis 46:1).
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