Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
Take. Septuagint, "flee;" as if Isaac began at last to be apprized of Esau's designs. Wisdom (x. 10) conducted the just when he fled from his brother's wrath, &c. --- Thy uncle. He points out the house, but leaves the woman to his choice.
Grandfather. Isaac, out of modesty, does not mention that the same promises had been made to himself. He determines the right over Chanaan to belong solely to Jacob, and to his posterity. (Haydock)
To Ismael's family; for he had been dead fourteen years. Esau asks no advice. It is doubtful whether he meant to appease or irritate his parents, (Menochius) by this marriage with the daughter of Ismael. She lived with her brother, the head of the Nabutheans, and is called Basemath, chap. xxxvi. 3. (Calmet)
Head for a pillow. Behold the austerity of the heir of all that country! (Haydock) --- He departs from home in haste, with his staff only, that Esau might not know. (Worthington)
A ladder and angels, &c. This mysterious vision tended to comfort the patriarch, with the assurance that God would now take him under his more particular protection, when he was destitute of human aid. (Haydock) --- The angels ascending, foretold that his journey would be prosperous; and descending, shewed that he would return with safety. (Menochius) --- Or rather, the ladder represented the incarnation of Jesus Christ, born of so many patriarchs from Adam, who was created by God, to the blessed Virgin. He is the way by which we must ascend, by observing the truth, till we obtain life eternal. (Haydock) --- Mercy and truth are like the two sides; the virtues of Christ are signified by the steps. Angels descend to announces this joyful mystery to men; they ascend to convey the prayers and ardent desires of the ancient saints, to hasten their redemption. (Menochius) --- Our Saviour seems to allude to this passage, John i. 51; xiv. 6. The Providence of God, watching over all things, appears here very conspicuous.
Thy father, or grandfather. God joins the dead with the living, to shew that all live to him, and that the soul is immortal. (Haydock)
Knew it not. Jacob was not ignorant that God fills all places. But he thought that he would not manifest himself thus in a land given to idolatry. He begins to suspect that the place had been formerly consecrated to the worship of the true God, (Calmet) as it probably had by Abraham, who dwelt near Bethel, (chap. xii. 8, ) and built an altar on Mount Moria, chap. xxii. 14. Interpreters are not agreed on which of these places Jacob spent the night. St. Augustine, q. 83, supposes it was on the latter, "where God appointed the tabernacle to remain." The Chaldean paraphrases it very well in this sense, ver. 17, "How terrible is this place! It is not an ordinary place, but a place beloved by God, and over against this place is the door of heaven." (Haydock)
A title. That is a pillar or monument. (Challoner) --- Or an altar, consecrated by that rite to the service of the true God. This he did without any superstition; as the Catholic Church still pours oil or chrism upon her altars, in imitation of Jacob. (Raban. Instit. i. 45.) If pagans did the like, this is no reason why we should condemn the practice. They were blamable for designing thus to worship false gods. (Clement of Alexandria, strom. vii; Apul. Florid. i; &c.) If Protestants pull down altars, under the plea of their being superstitious, we cannot but pity their ignorance or malice. (Worthington)
Bethel. This name signifies the house of God. (Challoner) --- Bethel was the name which Jacob gave to the place; and the town, which was built after his return, was called by the same name. Hence those famous animated stones or idols, received their title (Bethules, Eusebius, præp. i. 10.) being consecrated to Saturn, the Sun, &c. Till the days of Mahomet, the Arabs adored a rough stone, taken from the temple of Mecca, which they pretended was built by Abraham. (Chardin.) --- Luza, so called from the number of nut or almond trees. Here the golden calf was afterwards set up, on the confines of the tribes of Benjamin and of Ephraim, (Calmet) the southern limits of the kingdom of Jeroboam. (Haydock)
A vow; not simply that he would acknowledge one God, but that he would testify his peculiar veneration for him, by erecting an altar, at his return, and by giving voluntarily the tithes of all he had. (Worthington) (chap. xxxv. 7.) How he gave these tithes, we do not read. Perhaps he might herby engage his posterity to give them under the law of Moses. (Calmet)