Genesis 28:16-22

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 29 November 2014

 Home    ·   Section

NOTE: The Scripture text is taken from Messianic Jewish Family Bible: Tree of Life Version, © 2014 by Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.


"16 Jacob woke up from his sleep and said, “Undoubtedly, ADONAI is in this place—and I was unaware.” 17 So he was afraid and said, “How fearsome this place is! This is none other than the House of God—this must be the gate of heaven!” 18 Early in the morning Jacob got up and took the stone, which he had placed by his head, and set it up as a memorial stone and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called the name of that place Beth-El (though originally the city’s name was Luz). 20 Then Jacob made a vow saying, 'If God will be with me and watch over me on this way that I am going, and provide me food to eat and clothes to wear, 21 and I return in shalom to my father’s house, then ADONAI will be my God. 22 So this stone which I set up as a memorial stone will become God’s House, and of everything You provide me I will definitely give a tenth of it to You.'" (Gen 28:16-22 TLV)

In order to properly understand the significance of our text we need to first consider the larger context.

1-5: The chapter begins with Isaac blessing his son Jacob a second time and giving him marriage advice, instructing him not to bring grief to his parents by marrying a Canaanite woman as Esau had done. Isaac realized that Rebecca had saved him from embarrassment before God. That's an important ministry of wives. The blessing Isaac intended for Esau rightfully belonged to Jacob. After all, God had chosen Jacob to be preeminent and to be the one through whom the promise to Chavvah in the Garden of a Saving Seed would be fulfilled. So, before he sent Jacob away to Haran, Isaac expressed a wish prayer in verses 3-4 that emphasizes the promises God first made to Abraham: to wit, that El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One, would make Jacob fruitful in descendants and a company of nations, and that he would possess the Land El Shaddai gave to Abraham.

10-15: In verse 10 Jacob leaves his home in Beersheva, in the far south of the Land and in verse 11 arrives at the same place where Abraham had built an altar when he first arrived in Canaan. The site is located about 10 to 12 miles north of Jerusalem. In verse 12 Jacob has a vivid dream of a ladder stretching from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. Yeshua alluded to this event in the Besorah [Good News] of Yochanan [John], chapter 1, but substituted himself for the ladder. It may well be that the ascending represents going up to worship and descending refers to going out to serve.

In verses 13 through 15 Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey appeared to Jacob in the dream and informed him that Isaac's wish would be accomplished in an extravagant manner and made important covenantal promises. The use of the name Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey, in verse 13, verse 16 and verse 21 is significant. Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey is none other than Yeshua, Son of God and Son of Man. No one knows, of course, how the sacred name is supposed to be pronounced, so I'm pronouncing it by the Hebrew letters Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey. The translations of "ADONAI," HaShem and "LORD" do not actually translate Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey, which means "I AM." Notice that Jacob saw Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey standing. Since the time of the global flood Jacob is only the fourth person after Abraham, Isaac and Hagar to actually see Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey.

16-19: In verse 16 Jacob awakens from his dream and responds to the promises he just heard. He declares, "Surely Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey is in this place." Jacob knew the story of his father's encounter with Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey, and so now he rejoices in having his own experience. In verse 17 Jacob concludes that the site of his slumber was a special place to God, thus deserving his awe and respect. Jacob referred to the place as a house of God and "a gate of the heavens." By "house" Jacob does not mean a physical structure, but simply a dwelling-place of God. By "gate" Jacob means a place where one may enter into the presence of God. The term "gate" also has a special meaning in relation to justice since in ancient times kings administered justice at the city gates. These descriptions reminded Jacob that God's covenant expressed in verses 13-15 would assure justice for him. In verse 18 Jacob set up his stone pillow as a memorial marker and anointed it with oil, making the place holy to Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey. Then in verse 19 Jacob coined the name Beit-El for the place of his revelation.

20-22: In verses 20 to 21 Jacob makes a solemn vow. We might be tempted to think that since the vow begins with "if" Jacob is trying to negotiate with God. However, two facts argue against that perception. First, the root meaning of the Hebrew particle "if" is "surely" or "truly." Second, Jacob had just received irrevocable covenantal promises from Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey. So, Jacob does not make a counter offer. Rather, he means, "Surely if you're going to be with me and keep me and provide for me and bring me back to Beersheva, then the least I can do is to make Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey my God and dedicate this place for worship and present tithes here of all that you give me. By making Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey his God Jacob meant that he would seek that excellence of character Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey demanded of Abraham in Genesis 17 and live according to the commandments of Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey as Abraham did. With regard to the fulfillment of this vow, we learn from Genesis 35:7 that Jacob did indeed build an altar at Beit-El after returning with his large family and herds. We can also assume that he gave the tenth of his goods to God, by which he preserved the altar, presented burnt offerings and thank offerings and provided for communal meals.

How may we apply this story to us? Consider this question. Since Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey is Yeshua, will we truly make Yeshua our God and live by the New Covenant instruction that came from his mouth? Will we maintain our homes as dwelling places of God and gateways for prayer? Will we be like the heavenly messengers that not only worship the God of Jacob but go out to serve in our world? And, will we demonstrate our commitment by the investment of our time, talent and treasure into His Kingdom work?


Jacob's example shows the way to answer these questions.


Copyright © 2014 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.