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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Genesis 28

 

 

Verses 1-9

Genesis 27:46 to Genesis 28:9. Jacob is Sent from Home to Marry into his Mother's Family.—The reader may readily suppose that Rebekah uses the unfortunate marriage of Esau as a pretext to hide her real reason for sending Jacob away, which was to baulk Esau of his revenge. But this section comes from P and links on to Genesis 26:34 f. Intermarriage with Canaanites was contrary to the ideals of Judaism; Edom may do such things, but not Israel. When Esau learnt that his father was not pleased with his wives, and in sending Jacob to Laban had given him the blessing of Abraham, he married the daughter of Ishmael, his cousin, though not so pure in breed as his own family, since her grandmother was Egyptian. It is noteworthy that if Genesis is a unity, Jacob is sent off to marry at the age of seventy-seven, when Rebekah had put up with her unwelcome daughters-in-law thirty-seven years. He is eighty-four when he actually marries! The documentary analysis saves us from such absurdities.


Verses 10-22

Genesis 28:10-22. Yahweh Reveals Himself to Jacob at Bethel.—This section is taken from J and E. To E Genesis 28:11 f., Genesis 28:17 f., Genesis 28:20-21 a, Genesis 28:22 may be assigned, to J Genesis 28:10, Genesis 28:13-16, and perhaps Genesis 28:19 a. This may be an insertion, so perhaps Genesis 28:19 b, Genesis 28:21 b. The fuller and finer story belongs to E, who as a North Israelite was much more interested than J in the great northern sanctuary, Jerusalem's chief rival. He tells how Bethel came to be a shrine for the children of Jacob, and why tithes (Amos 4:4) were offered at it. Jacob chances on a place and lies there for the night with a stone for his pillow. He dreams of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, with the angels passing up and down upon it. In terror he recognises that this is God's house, earth's entrance into heaven. He sets up the stone as a pillar (massebah, pp. 98f.) and anoints it with oil. This stone was presumably the most sacred object in the later sanctuary. Then he vows that in return for food, raiment, and safe return, this stone shall be God's house, and he will give back to God a tenth of all that God has given him. The narrative reflects very ancient ideas. Earth and heaven are close together, connected by a stairway, with heaven's gate at the foot; the angels are not winged (unlike the seraphim or cherubim), and need the stairway to pass from one to the other. The stone is a house of God, as Jacob learns by the dream; it was a very widespread belief that certain stones were inhabited by a deity. It was also customary for people to sleep at sanctuaries that they might receive oracles in their dreams. Jacob practises "incubation" unintentionally; he shudders at his involuntary trespass on sacred ground and unconscious desecration of God's house into a pillow. The stairway may have been suggested by the terraces of stone in which the hill rises near by.

J's story has not been fully preserved. It must have told how he lay down to sleep. In his sleep Yahweh stands by him (mg.), reveals Himself by His name, promises him the land, personal protection, and a safe return. He wakes and recognises that, all unknown to him, Yahweh was in the place, to which (if Genesis 28:19 a belongs to J) he gives the name Bethel, formerly Luz (Judges 1:23).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Genesis 28:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/genesis-28.html. 1919.

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