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Jacob Departs for Padan-aram. His Dream at Bethel
1-4. Isaac bids Jacob seek one of the daughters of his uncle Laban in marriage, and assures him that the blessings and promises bestowed on Abraham should fall to him as heir.
6-9. Esau’s marriage, though well meant, was only a union with the seed of the Egyptian bondservant, and therefore not one of the pure Hebrew race.
10. After journeying for some days, Jacob reaches the district in the mountains of Ephraim, where Abraham had rested, when entering Canaan, and built an altar (Genesis 12:8). The strata of limestone rock, of which the hills around are composed, take the form of steps rising above each other, and we can well believe that as Jacob lay down to rest, their form lent shape to the vision which followed. In his dream he sees a ladder, or, rather, a ’staircase,’ uniting earth and heaven, and on it angelie messengers ascending and descending. Doubtless this was to assure him that, although he was in distress and fleeing for his life, he was yet the object of God’s love and care. He was to learn that all that should happen to him in the future was a part of the working out of the divine providence. Our Lord alludes to this passage in John 1:51.
16. Jacob perceives that, though he has left his father’s home at Beer-sheba, his father’s God is still watching over him. In these early days the idea of Jehovah as the God of the universe, and not of the nation only, was not realised: cp. Judges 11:23, Judges 11:24.
18. The stone] Jacob set up the stone as marking the spot hallowed by God’s presence, and consecrated it by pouring oil upon it. On his return to Palestine (Genesis 35) he set up an altar by it in fulfilment of his vow in this chapter The belief that a stone or pillar was the abode of deity was common among primitive peoples. The stone which Jacob set up was the symbol of the presence of the divine spirit, which he probably believed to be in some way connected with it, seeing that he called the stone ’God’s house.’ Jacob shared the beliefs of his age, and his idea of God, like his character, was only gradually purified. In consequence of the abuse of these sacred stones in the worship of the Canaanites, their erection was forbidden by the Law; cp. Leviticus 26:1, where ’standing image’ should be rendered ’pillar’ or ’obelisk,’ also Deuteronomy 12:3. There is a well-known tradition that Jacob’s stone was brought in after ages to Scotland, and finally placed under the coronation chair in Westminster Abbey. But the fact that ’all the rock at Bethel is limestone, whereas the stone in the Abbey is common granite’ (Harper), removes any foundation for the legend.
19. Bethel] ’the house of God.’ In the period of the Judges, Bethel became the chief religious centre of the northern tribes. The ark was stationed there (Judges 20:18); it was frequented as a place for sacrifice, and for consuiting the divine oracle (Judges 20:18, Judges 20:26 RV). Under Jeroboam I it became the religious capital of the Northern Kingdom. Here and at Dan the golden calves were set up (1 Kings 12). Under Jeroboam II the sanctuary reached the summit of its renown, but the worship was corrupt, and was denounced by Amos and Hosea: see Amos 3:14; Amos 4:4; Hosea 10:15 RV.
19. Luz] an old Canaanite city, afterwards called Bethel because of its proximity to that sanctuary.
20-22. The first vow mentioned in Scripture. Jacob vows that in return for God’s protecting care, if he is spared to return, he will regard this stone as a holy spot, and set apart a tithe of all he gains to religious purposes. In Amos 4:4 it is said that it was customary to pay tithes at Bethel, a practice based perhaps on this occurrence.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Genesis 28". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter