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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 28

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.

Isaac called Jacob. He entered fully into Rebekah's feelings; and the burden of his parting counsel to his son was, to avoid a marriage alliance with any but the Mesopotamian branch of the family. At the same time he gave him a solemn blessing-pronounced before unwittingly, now designedly, and with a cordial spirit. It is more explicitly and fully given, and Jacob was thus acknowledged 'the heir of the promise.' This acknowledgment from his father must, in existing circumstances, have given additional strength to his faith, and encouraged him on his distant journey, the more especially as the parental wishes culminated in supplicating for him "the blessing of Abraham (Genesis 17:2; Genesis 22:16; Genesis 22:18).

Verse 2

Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 3

And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;

A multitude of people, [ `amiym (H5971), peoples] - the word uniformly employed in the renewal of the promise to Jacob; whereas the expression used twice to Abraham is, that he should be a father of many [ gowyim (H1471)] nations. The invariable use of these different terms in the two cases indicates an essential difference in the substance of the promise as made to the two patriarchs (see the note at Genesis 35:9-12; Genesis 48:3-4).

Verse 4

And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 5

And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padan-aram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother.

Isaac sent away Jacob; and he went to Padan-aram. Stanley ('Lectures on Jewish Church') pronounces this journey into Mesopotamia to be 'a retrograde movement in the history of the Church'-a return to the country whence Abraham was called. It was only a temporary sojourn, however, not a permanent settlement; and it was directed by the superintending providence of God, who provided, as in the analogous case of Isaac, that the blood of the chosen family should be kept pure and uncontaminated by admixture with any of the Canaanite tribes.

Verses 6-9

When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padan-aram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan;

When Esau saw ... - desirous to humour his parents, and if possible get the last will revoked, he became wise when too late (see Matthew 25:10), and hoped, by gratifying his parents in one thing, to atone for all his former delinquencies. But he only made bad worse; and though he did not marry a "wife of the daughters of Canaan." he married into a family which God had rejected; it showed a partial reformation, but no repentance, because he gave no proofs of abating his vindictive purposes against his brother, nor cherishing that pious spirit that would have gratified his father-he was like Micah (see Judges 17:13: see the note at Genesis 36:2).

Verse 10

And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.

Jacob went out, ... His departure from his father's house was an ignominous 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, until, deeming himself at a secure distance, he seems to have gone on the great road northward along the central mountain-ridge of Canaan.

Verse 11

And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.

And he lighted upon a certain place, [Hebrew, wayipga` (H6293) bamaaqowm (H4725)] - and he fell (lighted) upon the place. The verb in the original signifies, to light upon, either with purpose or accidentally. The definite article prefixed to "place" shows that he had purposely chosen as his first night's resting-place the spot which had been distinguished by the encampment of Abraham shortly after his entrance into Canaan (Genesis 12:8); or that, the gates of Luz being shut, he was undesignedly, on his part, compelled to rest for the night, which proved to be 'the place' his grandfather had consecrated. By a forced march he had reached that place, about 48 miles from Beer-sheba, and had to spend the night in the open field. This, after all, is no great hardship; because a native, winding himself in the ample folds of his cloak, and selecting a smooth stone for a pillow, sleeps comfortably under the open canopy of heaven. A warm climate, and an indifference to dirt and dew, easily reconcile an Oriental to such necessities.

He took of the stones ... 'The nature of the soil is an existing comment on the record of the stony territory where Jacob lay' (Clarke's 'Travels').

Verse 12

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

He dreamed. It was natural that in the unwonted circumstances he should dream. Bodily exhaustion, mental excitement, the consciousness of his exposure to the banditti of the adjoining regions, and his need of the protection of Heaven, would direct the course of his dream into a certain channel. But his dream was an extraordinary-a supernatural one.

A ladder. Some writers are of opinion that it was not a literal ladder that is meant, as it is impossible to conceive any imagery stranger and more unnatural than that of a ladder whose base was on earth, while its top reached heaven, without having anything on which to rest its upper extremity. They suppose that the little heap of stones, on which his head reclined for a pillow, being the miniature model of the object that appeared to his imagination, the ladder was a gigantic mountain-pile, whose sides, indented in the rock, gave it the appearance of a scaling ladder. There can be no doubt that this use of the original term was common among the early Hebrews; as Josephus, describing the town of Ptolemais (Acre), says it was bounded by a mountain, which, from its projecting sides, was called 'the ladder;' and the stairs that led down to the city are, in the Septuagint, termed a ladder (Nehemiah 3:15), though they were only a flight of steps cut in the side of the rock. But whether the image presented to the mental eye of Jacob were a common ladder, or such a mountain-pile as has been described, the design of this vision was to afford comfort, encouragement, and confidence to the lonely fugitive, both in his present circumstances and as to his future prospects.

His thoughts during the day must have been painful; he would be his own self-accuser, that he had brought exile and privation upon himself; and above all, that though he had obtained the forgiveness of his father, he had much reason to fear lest God might have forsaken him. Solitude affords time for reflection; and it was now that God began to bring Jacob under a course of religious instruction and training. To dispel his fears and allay the inward tumult of his mind, nothing was better fitted than the vision of the gigantic ladder which reached from himself to heaven, and on which the angels were continually ascending and descending from God Himself on their benevolent errands.

Of course, it was the visible heaven he thought was within ladder reach, not the heavens which science has opened up. This visionary ladder has been very generally regarded as a type of Christ, in support of which an appeal is made to John 1:51. The words of the evangelist [ tous (G3588) angelous (G32) tou (G5120) Theou (G2316) anabainontas (G305) kai (G2532) katabainontas (G2597) epi (G1909) ton (G3588) huion (G5207) tou (G5120) anthroopou (G444)], UPON the Son of man, do not convey the same meaning as the Septuagint translation of Genesis 28:12 [ epi (G1909) autee (G846)], upon it; i:e., the ladder. But, taking the preposition [ epi (G1909), like the Hebrew `al (H5921)], in the sense of, with ministering to, the passage of the evangelist may have a reference to this in the history of Jacob; and the ladder may be typical of a happier age in the future, when the heaven shall be open over the earth, and by means of the Son of man, our great Representative, ministering angels shall continually pass from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven, on errands of beneficence and mercy to redeemed men. But doubtless the vision was intended primarily to intimate the divine care of Jacob and his interests as an individual (Josh. 1:51


Verse 13

And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

The Lord stood ... That Jacob might be at no loss to know the purport of the vision, he heard the divine voice; and a direct address to himself, together with a renewal of the covenant with Abraham, and an assurance of personal protection, produced at once the most solemnizing and inspiriting effect on his mind.

I am the Lord God of Abraham, ... The Divine Person who appeared repeatedly to the patriarchs expressly called himself the Lord [ Yahweh (H3068)] on two occasions only-namely, once in His earlier communications with Abraham (Genesis 15:7), and afterward on the occasion before us, which was apparently the commencement of his miraculous conversation with Jacob. Having shown to these patriarchs that He possessed a rightful claim to the name Yahweh, He in subsequent appearances to them assumed the name El Shaddai (God Almighty); while the name Yahweh was often applied both in his manifestations (Genesis 18:19; Genesis 22:19) and in their ordinary conversation (Genesis 24:3; Genesis 24:7; Genesis 49:18) to the great and glorious Being of whom He was the Angel or Messenger.

Thus, the names Yahweh and El Shaddai appear to have had in the patriarchal age that degree of distinct application which the names Lord and God had in the language of the apostles (1 Corinthians 8:6). The patriarch's usual name for the First Person (the Revealer) was the Lord (Yahweh): for the Second, El Shaddai (God Almighty) (Kidd 'On the Divine Names').

Verse 14

And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Thou shalt spread abroad, [Hebrew, uwpaaratstaa (H6555)] - margin, break forth; literally, thou shalt spread, thou shalt disperse thyself; thou shalt spread abroad as a people or flock, by an increase of numbers (cf. Exodus 1:12; Isaiah 54:3).

To the west, [Hebrew, yaamaah (H3220)] - literally, seaward, to the Mediterranean sea, which is on the west coast of Palestine. On the use of this term has been founded an objection against the Mosaic authorship of this book-that it implies the writer to have been a resident in Canaan. But according to Gesenius ('Hebrew Grammar'), 'Canaan was the home of the Hebrew language, which was substantially spoken by the Canaanite or Phoenician races who inhabited Palestine before the immigration of Abraham and his descendants, by whom it was transplanted into Egypt, and brought with them again to Canaan.'

And in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. See the note at Genesis 22:17, where it was shown that while Abraham was assured at first that he, individually, should be a blessing to the nations after the sacrifice of Isaac, the blessing is altered-in thy seed. But the promise is repeated to Jacob here as their seed and his seed. The word "seed" is used here collectively for descendants. But see on the passage referred to, as to the great probability of the patriarchs possessing some knowledge of a personal Saviour. The Niphal conjunction is used in the utterance of these promises three times (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; and in this passage); while the Hithpael occurs twice (Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4), 'shall bless themselves.'

Hence, founding on this latter conjugation, Le Clerc interprets the prediction as meaning that all nations should employ this formula as a blessing-`God bless you as he blessed Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their posterity,'-an interpretation so utterly inconsistent with the solemn manner and frequent repetition of the announcement, as must ensure its rejection by every intelligent and serious mind.

Berthold's view of these words is equally inadmissible-namely, that 'all the families of the earth (land)' denote the various tribes of Canaan, the blessing upon whom was, that, instead of being destroyed, they should be associated with the Jews. The true and full import of the words is given by the apostles Peter (Acts 3:25-26) and Paul (Galatians 3:8; Galatians 3:16).

Verse 15

And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 16

And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.

Jacob awaked ... His language and his conduct were like that of a man whose mind was pervaded by sentiments of solemn awe, of fervent piety, and lively gratitude (Jeremiah 31:36).

Verse 17

And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verses 18-19

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.

Jacob ... took the stone, ... - a monument, a cippus (cf. 1 Samuel 7:12). 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. Oil is so much used in the East for food and for bodily refreshment that a supply of it invariably forms an important part of a traveler's viaticum. From its excellent material properties, it came to be used as a symbol for spiritual influences, and, still later, as a means for setting apart or consecrating anything to God.

The pouring of oil upon the stone was a consecration; nor was oil the only substance used for this purpose, but wine also, as ghee is in India. Accordingly Jacob gave it a new name, Beth-el, "the house of God" (Hosea 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 that place, 'broad sheets of bare rock, some of them standing like the cromlechs of Druidical monuments ' ( Stanley).

Although this act of Jacob is the first instance of stone consecration on record, it was evidently a familiar and established practice in the time of the patriarchs. But the unction of stones was ere long abused and perverted even by the Hebrews themselves to idolatry. Libations were poured upon them; meat offerings presented to them, and, as we learn from classical writers (Tibullus, 1:, 1-11), the pagan were accustomed to select smooth stones of a singular appearance or extraordinary shape, which were not only anointed, but, being considered instinct with the divine presence [lithoi empsuchoi], were wound with festive garlands, and regarded as tutelary deities. [This superstition of consecrated stones was both very ancient and very extensive, from the Greco-Phoenician Baitulia, or Boetylia, the monlithic temples of Egypt and Hindustan, the lithoi liparoi of the Greeks, the 'lapides informes' of the Romans, the pyramids and obelisks of others, the cairns and cromlechs of Northern Europe, and the caaba of Arabia. That black stone of Mecca, which is in all probability a relic of this superstition, is described by Burckhardt ('Travels in Arabia') as 'an irregular oval, about seven inches in diameter, with an undulated surface, composed of about a dozen smaller stones of different sizes and shapes, well joined together with a small quanity of cement, and perfectly smooth.']

The name of that city was called Luz at the first, [ Luwz (H3870)] - almond or hazel (Gesenius), a declivity (Furst). [The Septuagint, joining 'uwlaam (H197) (rendered in our version, "at the first") with luwz (H3870) makes the ancient name of the place Oulamlouz).] It is not easy to discover whether Beth-el is identical with Luz, or they were two distinct places. Some passages seem to countenance the former view (Genesis 35:6; Judges 1:23), others the latter (Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:3; Joshua 16:2; Joshua 18:13). The probability is that they were in close contiguity, and were in time merged into one.

Verse 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,

Jacob vowed a vow. This vow has often been presented in a light injurious to the character of Jacob, as indicating that his mind was so wholly engrossed with his present state and necessities that he felt no interest in the temporal blessings guaranteed to his posterity, or in the spiritual good which, through their medium, would be conveyed, in remote ages, to the world at large; and that, so far from having exalted views of the providential government of God, he confined his thoughts exclusively to his personal affairs and his immediate protection, as well as suspended his devotedness to the divine service on the condition of God's pledges being redeemed.

But it should be borne in mind that it was in consequence of the vision, and of the promises made to him during the night, in the most unexpected manner, by the Divine Being, that he vowed his vow the next morning-a vow indicative of his profound feelings of gratitude, as well as of reverence, and intended to be simply responsive to the terms in which the grace of his heavenly Benefactor and Guardian was tendered. Nay, so far is he from betraying a selfish and worldly spirit, the moderation of his desires is remarkable; and the vow, when placed in a just light, will be seen to evince the simplicity and the piety of Jacob's mind.

Our translators have given rise to the mistaken impressions that so generally prevail in regard to Jacob's vow, by the insertion of the word "then," in Genesis 28:21. But the apodosis properly begins in the verse following-`then this stone,' etc. The words of Jacob 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. And the vow as recorded should stand thus: 'If (since) 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, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; and if (since) the Lord shall be my God, then this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house,' where I shall erect an altar and worship Him.

And of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee. The appropriation of this proportion of income or produce for pious or charitable purposes seems to have been a primitive practice, and hence, Jacob vowed to give a tenth of whatever gains he might acquire through the blessing of Providence (Genesis 14:20). It was continued under the Mosaic economy, with this difference that what had been in patriarchal times a free-will offering, was made a kind of tax, a regular impost for supporting the consecrated tribe of Levi.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 28". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/genesis-28.html. 1871-8.
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