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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 28

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. Called… blessed… charged Isaac fully acquiesces in what he now knows to be the divine will . He follows the example of Abraham, his father, in seeking his son a wife from among his own kindred . Comp . Genesis 24:3-4.

Verse 2

2. Padan-aram See on Genesis 24:10.

Verse 3

3. God Almighty bless thee This divine name, El Shaddai, is the same as that under which Jehovah appeared to Abraham when he instituted the covenant of circumcision, (see chap . 17:1,) and in this name Isaac now invokes on Jacob the blessings there promised to Abraham .

A multitude Or, a congregation; קהל , an assembly . Here is a prophecy and promise of the Church of the living God. ESAU MARRIES MAHALATH, 6-9.

Verse 9

9. Then went Esau unto Ishmael That is, unto the family of Ishmael, who, himself, had been dead many years . Genesis 25:17. Nebajoth was Ishmael’s firstborn . Genesis 25:13. Here we discern, again, in Esau’s action, the wild, impetuous child of nature . He already has two wives and they have borne him children; but noticing how Jacob is blessed, and commanded not to take a Canaanitish wife, he speeds away to marry Ishmael’s daughter .

“Esau is the representative of natural kindliness and honesty, but these qualities are joined to rudeness, and to a want of susceptibility for what is higher. He is void of all anticipation and longing. He is satisfied with what is visible; in short, he is a profane person. Hebrews 12:16. Such persons, even if grace reaches their hearts, which was not the case with Esau, are not adapted for heading a religious development . ” Hengstenberg .

Verse 10

10. Jacob went out from Beer-sheba Very differently from the manner in which his father’s servant had gone out on a similar errand .

Genesis 24:10.

Verses 10-22

JACOB AT BETHEL, Genesis 28:10-22.

A complex nature of manifold elements was that of Jacob. His cunning, and disposition to supplant and overreach, have been twice shown. Deceitfulness was a quality so conspicuous in his character as to have put him under the condemnation of all after time. But at the same time he was possessed of many higher qualities than Esau. The latter quickly showed out all he was; but many years and divers experiences were necessary to develop Jacob. In his more quiet soul there was a hiding of power; a susceptibility for divine things; a spiritual insight and longing that made him the fitter person to lead in the development of the chosen nation. The God of his fathers is now about to put him through a discipline that will eventually bring out his spiritual possibilities into bold relief. That which is now dead in him must be quickened by a divine energy from on high. He must suffer for his falsehood, and be wronged and deceived, and humbled in many ways; and at the same time he must receive much light and strength from Jehovah before he can cease to be the unworthy Jacob and become the prince of God.

Verse 11

11. Upon a certain place Hebrews, struck in the place . His striking on that particular place was to him accidental, but the place was one already hallowed by one of Abraham’s altars . Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:4.

Tarried there all night Tarried, as it appears, in the open field, not seeking the hospitality of the neighbouring Luz . Genesis 28:19. Many anxious thoughts, doubtless, filled his soul; and when night overtook him there, he preferred to lie down alone rather than mix with any Canaanites .

The stones of that place The ridges and valleys about Beitin, the representative of the ancient Bethel, are covered with stones . Hard pillows were these, but there came refreshing visions .

Lay down… to sleep Before darkness covered him he, doubtless, like Abram long before in this place, (Genesis 13:14,) looked “northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward,” and saw afar the hills and mountains towering up like a stairway to heaven a kind of preparation for his dream.

Verse 12

12. Behold a ladder Or, stairway . ( סלם . ) The vision, manifestly, was that of a lofty passage-way, either a ladder with rounds, or a staircase with steps, or piles of mountains, one upon another, looking like a wondrous highway of passage to the skies . The great thing was an open passage-way between earth and heaven .

Angels of God What notion of angels Jacob may have had before we know not, but here was a sudden and glorious revelation of the numerous host of ministering spirits of the heirs of salvation. Hebrews 1:14. Strangely have certain Rationalistic critics supposed that the Israelites first derived their ideas of angels and spirits during their Babylonian exile .

Verse 13

13. The Lord stood A personal visional revelation of Jehovah . The Targum of Onkelos reads: “The glory of the Lord stood above . ” It was a theophany that impressed Jacob with a fearful awe . Genesis 28:17.

The land… to thy seed Compare the same promise made to Abraham in Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18.

Verse 14

14. Thy seed shall be as the dust Comp . Genesis 12:2-3; Genesis 13:16; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:17-18.

Verse 16

16. Surely the Lord is in this place The vision awakened a new life, and a new world of thought and emotion within him . He had been, comparatively, a stranger to Jehovah .

I knew it not Jacob had gone to sleep without any thought that there, alone and sorrowful and anxious, he was specially cared for and watched by Abraham’s God . No such open revelation had ever come to him before, and he was taken by surprise .

Verse 17

17. House of God… gate of heaven This thought thrills him with a sense of terror . So far from being away from house and friends and care, behold, he is in God’s house, and the very gates of heaven have been opened to his eye .

Verse 18

18. Took the stone… a pillar He turns the pillow into a pillar . Well might he take that stone, and consecrate it as a memorial of the mercies of that night, and a witness of his vow . Comp . Genesis 31:45. He also poured oil upon the top of it, as if to make it holy unto the Lord . Comp . Exodus 30:22-33. “It has been thought by many that this act of Jacob, in setting up a stone to mark a sacred spot, was the origin of cromlechs and all sacred stones. Certainly we find in later ages the custom of having stones, and those, too, anointed with oil, as objects of idolatrous worship. Clement of Alexandria ( Strom. vii) speaks of ‘worshipping every oily stone,’ and Arnobius, ( Ad. Genres, 1: 39,) in like manner, refers to the worshipping of ‘a stone smeared with oil, as though there were in it a present power.’ It has been conjectured, further, that the name Boetulia, given to stones called animated stones by the Phoenicians, ( Euseb. Praep. Evang., 1: 10,) was derived from this name of Bethel. These Boetulia, however, were meteoric stones, and derived their sanctity from the belief that they had fallen from heaven; and the name has probably but a fancied likeness to the name Bethel. Still the connexion of the subsequent worship of stones with the primitive and pious use of them to mark places of worship is most probably a real connexion. The erection of all such stones for worship was strictly forbidden in later times. Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 16:22. ” Speaker’s Commentary .

Verse 19

19. Bethel… Luz The spot where Abraham built his altar and Jacob had his dream was certainly not in a city, but, doubtless, on the mountain east of the city . See Genesis 12:8. The names Bethel and Luz both long survived, and were distinguished from each other in the time of Joshua . Joshua 16:2. The prominence of this place, in the subsequent history of Israel, led, probably, to the supplanting of the more ancient name by that of Bethel .

Verse 20

20. Vowed a vow A becoming thing to do after such revelation and promise .

If God will be with me The if does not imply doubt in God’s promise, but is the natural form of his taking God at his word: If God is going to do so much for me, then will I do something for him .

Verse 22

22. This stone… God’s house Jacob undoubtedly means that here he will establish some sanctuary of worship, and the tenth, which he vows unto God, is what he proposes to devote to maintaining such a place of worship . On the fulfilling of this vow, see Genesis 35:7. It is noticeable how in this case, as in that of Abraham, Genesis 14:20, the tithe of all is specified as the proper portion of one’s increase to be consecrated to God . It is mentioned, not as a new, strange thing, but in such an incidental way as to imply that even in Abraham’s and Jacob’s day the custom was one of long previous standing . Thus early, it would seem, God had in some way revealed to man his claim to the tenth part of his gains. Jacob himself here recognises that whatever prosperity he might have would be a gift of God, for which the tithe would be on his part only a fitting acknowledgment.

Jacob’s dream and vow at Bethel have more than a mere historical importance. The dream was prophetic and far-reaching in its scope and bearings. We should note especially the four beholds, three of vision: “behold a ladder,” “behold the angels,” “behold Jehovah,” (Genesis 28:12-13,) and one of promise. Genesis 28:15. These words denote the intensely realistic character of the whole revelation, appealing at once to heart and soul and mind and strength. By symbol and by promise the great prophetic future of Jacob and his seed is opened to his soul.

We think of the lonely, helpless man at the bottom of the ladder, and Jehovah at the top, and the angels ascending and descending, and at once the vision becomes a complex symbol. It indicates: 1) That there is a passageway for spirits between earth and heaven; an invisible bridge between God and man; but a way supernaturally prepared and spiritually discerned. 2) The ministry of angels. Whatever revelation had previously been made of angelic natures, and there had been not a few, this vision deepened and confirmed them all. 3) The special and mighty providence of God, caring for his chosen by his own omnipresent gaze, and by innumerable ministering spirits. 4) The mystery of the Incarnation. The ladder was a symbol of the Son of Man, as Mediator of the New Covenant, upon whom (as on the sole ground and basis of all possibility of grace) the angels of God ascend and descend to minister to the heirs of salvation. John 1:52 . In that mystery of grace Jehovah himself comes down, as from the top of the ladder, and reaching frail and helpless man below, lifts him upward to the heavens, and redeems him with the power of an endless life .

The vision and promise would serve to soften and change the heart of Jacob. It marked an epoch in his life, and we may now, with New Testament light, observe how grandly it fore-shadowed that his seed should be the depositaries of Divine revelation. To them were committed the oracles of God, and through them have those oracles been communicated to the world.



Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Genesis 28". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/genesis-28.html. 1874-1909.
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