Bibliotheca Sacra 142 (1985) 224-37.
Copyright © 1985 by
Studies in the Life of Jacob
The Founding of
Allen P. Ross
The clear revelation of God's gracious dealings with man can
transform a worldly individual into a worshiper. It is a drama that
has been repeated again and again throughout the history of the
faith. Perhaps no story in Scripture illustrates this so vividly as
experience Jacob was a fugitive from the results of his sin, a
troubled son in search of his place in life, a shrewd shepherd
setting out to find a wife. But after this encounter with God he was
a partner with Him as a recipient of God's covenant promises and a
true worshiper. The transformation is due to God's intrusion into
the course of his life.
The story unfolds quickly and dramatically. Being persona
non grata in
ing, Jacob went on his way
sundown he stopped at a "place" and took "one of the stones of the
place" to prepare for the night. But in a dream that night God
appeared to him from the top of an angel-filled stairway and con-
firmed that the blessing was indeed his. When Jacob awoke he was
afraid because he realized that the Lord was in that place; at dawn
he set up the stone as a memorial, named the place
House of God," and vowed to worship there when he returned to his
father's house in peace.
Jacob's Vision: The
THE NARRATIVE'S LITERARY FEATURES
The literary devices in the passage are designed to show that
the vision inspired the manner of Jacob's worship and gave new
meaning to the place of his vision. The repetition of key terms
throughout the narrative ties the whole account together and
explains the significance of Jacob's response.2 In his dream Jacob
saw a stairway standing (bc.Amu) on the earth, and the Lord standing
(bc.Ani) above or by it. This repetition suggests that the stairway
functioned to point to the Lord. Then in view of what he saw, Jacob
took the stone he had used and set it up as a hbAc.ema ("pillar"), this
word recalling the previous two. By setting up the stone in this way
Jacob apparently wanted to establish forever that he had seen the
Lord standing over the stairway. The wordplays then focus the
reader's attention on Jacob's vision of the Lord -- the standing
stairway pointing to it and the standing stone being a reminder
The repetition of the word wxro also confirms this connection
between the two parts. Jacob had seen the stairway with its top
(Owxr) in the heavens, and so he anointed the top (h.wAxro-lfa) of the
stone that he set up in commemoration, a stone he had used for the
place of his head (vytAwoxEram;).
Moreover, the key words in verses 11-12, the last part of the
vision, are reversed in their order in the first part of the response.
Jacob saw the stairway reaching to heaven, on it the angels of God,
and above it the Lord. That the central focus is on the Lord is clear
from the inversion; what came last in the vision is the first thing
Jacob was concerned with. He exclaimed, "The Lord is in this
place.... This is the house of God; this is the gate of heaven!" (vv
The story deliberately emphasized the place's insignificance,
which leads up to its naming in verse 19. The word "place" (MOqmA) is
used six times in the story. Verse 11 reports that Jacob came upon a
place to spend the night, took one of the stones from the place, and
lay down in that place. But in the second half of the narrative, after
the theophany, Jacob said, "Surely the Lord is in this place," and
terrifying is this place!" Then "he named that place
though it was formerly called Luz (v. 19). It was not an anonymous
place after all; there was a city nearby called Luz. But for the sake of
this story it was just a "place" until it
The literary features, then, strengthen the development of the
motifs of the narrative to show how a place became a shrine, a
226 Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985
stone became an altar, and a fugitive became a pilgrim--God in
His grace revealed Himself to Jacob in that place.
THE FUNCTION OF THE NARRATIVE
The two most significant events in the life of Jacob were
The first was this dream at
he was fleeing from the
by virtue of the blessing. The other was his fight at Peniel when
he was attempting to return to the land. Each divine encounter
was a life-changing event.
But the location of these episodes in the Jacob stories is
Esau cycle to the Jacob-Laban cycle, and the Peniel story forms
the connection back to the Esau story. In each of the encounters
with God there is instilled in the patriarch great expectation for
the uncertain future. In this incident at Bethel Jacob's vow
expresses his anticipation for the future. God would now be with
him and help him, even though he might be slow to realize it.
The promise of God's presence and protection would bring con-
tinued encouragement during the 20 years with Laban.
The parallels between this story and the beginning of Gene-
sis 32 are striking, showing that the story of Jacob's sojourn in
this story Jacob saw the angels of God (Myhilox< ykexEl;ma) on the
stairway, but in 32:1 the angels of God (Myhilox< ykexEl;ma) met him.4
These are the only two places in the Book of Genesis where
reference is made to the "angels of God." In addition, in both
passages (28:11; 32:1) the construction of the verb "encoun-
tered, met" is the same, a preterite form of fgaPA with the preposi-
tion B and the object. In 28:16-17 it is used four times, the last
two being in the statement, "This is the House of God, this is the
gate of heaven"; and in 32:2 it reappears in the clause "this is the
camp of God." Also in both accounts Jacob names the spot,
using the same formula for each: "and he named that place ...
(xUhha MOqm.Aha-Mwe-tx, xrAq;y.iva). "And finally, "going" and "the way" (j`leOh
and j`r,D,) in 28:20 are reflected in 32:2.
The stories about Jacob's encounters with God or His angels
also form an interesting contrast with the other Jacob stories.
Jacob is usually working against another individual in the nar-
ratives, first Esau in the Jacob-Esau cycle of chapters 25-27,
and then Laban in the Jacob-Laban cycle of chapters 29-31, and
then Esau again in 33. The account in chapter 34 of the defile-
Jacob's Vision: The
ment of Dinah also shows a crisis, though Simeon and Levi
figure more prominently in that narrative. But in the encounter
passages (28:10-22 at
Peniel, and 35:1-7, 14-15 at
conscious liturgical conclusion to the whole complex5) Jacob
alone is mentioned. Neither Esau nor Laban were with him. In
fact Esau never experienced any divine appearance, and Laban
received only a warning dream. But when Jacob had these
appearances he participated in liturgical acts. The narratives,
then, heighten what the
Jacob's life functioned on two levels, his conflicts with individ-
uals and his encounters with God. The encounters assured
Jacob that he would prevail in the conflicts.
This liturgical motif forms the climax in the
fact Westermann calls the whole story a sanctuary foundation
narrative.6 It explains how
center for the worship of the Lord. Because God actually met the
patriarch on this spot, it was holy ground. Here then was a place
where worship was appropriate.
The story begins with Jacob's departure from Beersheha for
for this trip--Esau was threatening to kill him for stealing the
blessing. So it was, as Kidner says, that Jacob was thrust from
the nest he was feathering.7
To be sure, Jacob had obtained the blessing by deception at
first, but then had it confirmed by the shaken Isaac (28:1-4)
who, realizing what had happened, was powerless to change it
(27:37). But were the promises actually his? If he truly was the
heir, why must he flee from the land? Would God's blessing be
his as it had been Abraham's and Isaac's before him? Nothing
less than a sure word from God would ease his doubts and give
him confidence for the future.8
The narrative unfolds in a disarmingly casual manner.
Jacob came upon9 a place where he would stay for the night, for
the sun had set. The only detail that is mentioned is that he took
"one of the stones" at random to lay by his head while he slept.10
But this casual finding of an anonymous place and taking one of
the stones in the darkness of night begins to build suspense.
228 Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985
With an abrupt change of style that brings the vision into
the present experience, the narrative introduces the dream. Up
to this point the narrative sequence has employed preterites
(xceye.va, j`l,y.eva, fGap;yi.va, Nl,y.Ava, MW,y.Ava, bKaw;y.iva, and MloHEy.ava); but this is now
broken off abruptly by means of the repetition of hn.ehi followed by
participles. Jacob was surprised by what he dreamed, and the
reader is vividly made aware of this. Fokkelman points out that
the particle hn.eh functions with a deictic force; it is pre- or para-
lingual. It goes with a lifted arm, an open mouth: "--there, a
ladder! oh, angels! and look, the Lord Himself!"11
The arrangement of the clauses also narrows the focus to
the central point of the vision, the Lord. Each clause in Hebrew
is shorter than the preceding; the first has seven words, the
second six, and the third four:
There was a stairway standing on the earth with its top
reaching the heavens, and there were angels of God ascend-
ing and descending on it, and there was the Lord standing
Attention is focused first on the setting, then narrowed to the
participants, and then to the Lord.12
The first thing noticed is the stairway. Ml.Asu, translated "lad-
der" or "stairway," is a hapax legomenon, a word or form occur-
ring only once in the biblical corpus. It has been traditionally
connected to the root llasA, "to heap up, cast up." Related nouns
are hl.Asim;, "paved way" (but not of a street in a city), and 17b, "a
bank, siege-ramp" (2 Sam. 20:15). These suggested etymological
connections, however, do not clarify the meaning.
The Greek text translated Ml.Asu with kli<mac, which can be
translated “ladder” or "staircase." So too is the case with the
Latin scala. The same uncertainty of meaning prevails with the
Several specific interpretations have been offered for Ml.Asu,13
but the one that has the most to commend it is the view that
connects the MlA.su with Mesopotamian temple towers. The Akka-
than word simmiltu, cognate to Ml.Asu, provides the link.14 It is
used to describe the "stairway of heaven" extending between
heaven and the netherworld with messengers ascending and
descending on it.15 The comparison is certainly an attractive
one. Another possible connection is with the celestial ladder
Jacob's Vision: The
found in the Pyramid Texts of Egypt.16 But this may be too
different. Pyramid text 267 shows that the function of the stair-
way was to lead the deceased (king) to heaven.
The connection to Akkadian simmiltu with the Mesopota-
mian background is the most probable view. In the myth of
"Nergel and Ereshkigal" communication between the nether-
world and heaven takes place via the long stairway of heaven
that leads to the gate of Anu, Enlil, and Ea.17 The idea of a
ziggurat with its long staircase to the temple top would be
behind the idea. Nothing in Genesis 28, however, describes a
ziggurat. The most that can be said is that a word used in
ziggurat settings is cognate to the word used here, a word that
fits the way of communication between heaven and earth.18 So
Hebrew Ml.Asu is appropriate to the point of the story--here was a
place that heaven and earth touch, where there is access to
The second feature of the vision is the angelic hosts
"ascending and descending" on the stairway, suggesting their
presence on earth along with their access to heaven. Driver
writes, "The vision is a symbolic expression of the intercourse
which, though invisible to the natural eye, is nevertheless ever
taking place between heaven and earth."20
Nothing is said here about the function of the angels; like-
wise no hint can be found in the corresponding episode at
Mahanaim which simply reports that the angels "met him."
Other references to angels in Genesis are more helpful. Of course
the cherubim in 3:24 guard the way to the tree of life. Then in
chapter 18 three visitors came to Abraham, and in chapter 19
two went on to meet with Lot in
called "three men." That this may be a manifestation of the Lord
is suggested by the context and reinforced by the use of vylAfA Mybic,Ani
in 18:2 which corresponds to 28:13. But in 19:1 the two who
The expression hvAhy; j`xal;ma, "the angel of the Lord," is used
interchangeably with "the Lord" in 22:11, 15. In 48:16 Jacob
apparently was referring to the Lord when he said, "The angel
(j`xAl;m.aha) who protects me from all evil bless the lads...."
The activities in these passages are guarding, communicat-
ing, rescuing, and protecting. In this vision, then, the angels of
God communicated God's protection for Jacob, the recipient of
230 Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985
The third and central feature of the vision, however, was the
Lord who was standing over the stairway.21 Later, in Genesis 48,
Jacob would identify the Lord as God Almighty (yDawa lxe), explain-
ing that God had given him
the blessing at
The word of the Lord in this vision took the form of a
covenantal communication and extended the patriarchal prom-
ises to Jacob. The message begins with the identification of the
Lord as the covenant God: "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham
your father, and the God of Isaac." This pattern of self-revelation
was used in Genesis 15:7 for Abraham; it also appears in Exodus
at the beginning of the covenant (Exod. 20:1) and throughout
the Law when God stressed His covenant relationship to His
people. The identification of Abraham as the "father" of Jacob
shows the latter's continuity with the covenant.
The first part of the revelation guaranteed that Jacob
would receive the blessings at first promised to Abraham. The
wording of the promises is close to that in Genesis 13:14-16 and
22:17-18. Prominence is attached to the promise of the land, for
it is mentioned before the seed promise and stressed by the word
order: "The land, upon which you are lying, to you I will give it
and to your seed."22 The mention of the seed here would have
been encouraging to Jacob who was going to find a wife, and is
further elaborated on by the statement that the seed would
"break out" and settle in every direction in this Promised Land
(cf. 13:12-18).23 Finally, the promise that all the families of the
earth would be blessed in Jacob shows that the Abrahamic
blessing had indeed been carried forward to Jacob (cf. 12:3).
These promises given to Jacob so dramatically would have
provided him with confidence. Though he had been deceitful in
gaining the blessing, God in His grace gave it to him; and even
though he was fleeing from his land, God promised to give him
The second part of the revelation guaranteed protection for
Jacob in the sojourn. It begins with the promise of God's pres-
ence: "Indeed, I will be with you" (j`m.Afi ykinox hne.hiv;). The promise of
the divine presence carried God's chosen people through many
times of danger and difficulty. It assured them that they did not
have to accomplish His plan by themselves. Moses, for example,
drew great comfort from this in his early career. When he was
afraid to go to deliver the people God said, "Surely I will be with
Jacob's Vision: The
you (j`mA.fi hy,h;x, yKi)." The writer of Psalm 46 also realized the
benefits of God's presence: "The Lord of hosts is with us (Unm.Afi),
the God of Jacob is our refuge" [Ps. 46:7, 11). This passage also
brings to mind Isaiah's oracle that promises "God is with us (lxe
That God's presence would guarantee safety is verified by
the next verb, "and I will keep you." His presence, then, meant
that God would be Jacob's "Keeper, " so that no harm would come
to him wherever he should go.24 Joshua also reminded the
people how God had protected them on their sojourn (Josh.
24:17). This is a theme that Psalm 121 develops for the pilgrim
on his way to
blessing announce the same divine intent: "The Lord bless you
and keep you" (Num. 6:24). The promise of divine protection
does not exclude conflict and tension, but it does guarantee the
outcome for the good of the covenant and its recipient.
The promise concludes with the statement that God will
restore Jacob to the land to receive the promises. The statement
"I will not forsake you until I shall have done" need not imply that
once God fulfills the blessing He will abandon Jacob; rather, it
provides assurance that the promises just made will be fulfilled.
God's protective presence will work toward the fulfillment of the
When Jacob awakened he was overwhelmed with the fact
that the Lord was "in this place" (v 16). He had never imagined
that this rather ordinary place could be a holy place. Jacob here
realized what God had promised--His presence was with him.
Jacob's attitude of fear was appropriate for such a meeting
with the Lord. The term "fear" is used in the Bible to describe a
mixture of terror and adoration, a worshipful fear (cf. Exod.
19:16). People may revere the Lord (the positive, worshipful,
aspect of the word), but when they comprehend more fully His
sovereign majesty, they shrink back in fear. All worshipful acts
must begin with and be characterized by reverential fear at the
presence of the Lord (Exod. 3:6; 19; Ps. 2:11). Of Jacob, Bush
says, "His feelings upon awakening were those of grateful won-
der mingled with emotions of reverential awe, bordering close
Jacob realized that this place was holy: "How frightening is
this place! This is none other than the House of God, and this is
232 Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985
the gate of heaven." Here the motif of "house" is first introduced
( Myhilox< tyBe, house of God). By using this term Jacob designated
the place as a shrine. No literal house was there, nor an actual
gate. But it would now be known as a place where people could
find access to God, where God could be worshiped. He had
"seen" God in the heavens, and so God's "house" on earth was
man's gate to the heavens.
Devotion. Early in the morning Jacob arose and stood the
stone up as a pillar at which he could express his submission
through worship. The preparation for worship by setting up a
pillar raises questions about the custom. Graesser shows how
standing stones in the ancient world would serve as markers,
arresting the attention of the onlooker because they were not in
their natural position.26 Such a standing stone had to have
been put that way; it would mark a grave (Rachel's pillar in Gen.
35:20), form a boundary (the treaty with Laban in Gen. 31:45),
note some important event (Samuel's Ebenezer in 1 Sam. 7:12),
or, as here, mark out a sacred area where God could be "found,"
where prayer could reach Him. This pillar would be a commem-
oration of the vision, recalling the stairway to heaven.
Jacob's offering took the form of oil poured on top of the
stone, perhaps pointing to the Lord at the top of the stairway.
Pouring the oil before the Lord was a gift to God, for it conveyed
much the same attitude as making a sacrifice. It was a symbolic
ritual act by which Jacob demonstrated his devotion to the Lord
and consecrated the spot as holy to Him. Later, oil was used in
worship to sanctify the holy places and holy things (Lev.
8:10-11). So this duly consecrated altar served to commemorate
the appearance, express the patriarch's devotion, and guarantee
the seriousness of the oath of the worshiper (cf. Gen. 12:8;
Commemoration. According to the story Jacob named the
naming actually transformed the place from being merely a
Canaanite town called Luz into God's "house" for Jacob and his
descendants to use for worship.27
Modern scholarship suggests that this spot was an original
Canaanite shrine or sanctuary city, founded before the time of
and dedicated to the god El. Von Rad says that
must have been known as a cult center before the
Jacob's Vision: The
because a god named
that the name "
but at times is a divine name, perhaps developing metonymical-
ly through association with a shrine.29 The evidence for this
deity does not, however, include Phoenician or Ugaritic liter-
ature, and so the presentation of such a deity for the second
millennium B.C. in
far as the Hebrew account is concerned, the name of
derives its significance from the fact that the Lord appeared to
Jacob there. The motivation for the name came in the speech of
verse 17 which is a stylized reaction to the theophany (cf. Judg.
6:22; 13:22; Gen. 16:13b; Exod. 20:18; Deut. 5:24).30
This part of the passage develops the theme of "house." The
key is the patriarch's exclamation, "This is the House of God." He
then preserved the vision by naming the place "House of God." But
the word tyBe is repeated in verses 21a, b, and 22a. It is as if this
fugitive was saying that when he returned to settle in the land God
would settle with him. God would go with him and bring him back
to his father's "house" in peace. When he returned, there would be a
"house" for God in the Promised Land.
Dedication. Jacob's promise to worship God at
solemnized by oath. Vows were not made to induce God to do
something He was not willing to do. They were made to bind the
worshiper to the performance of some acknowledged duty.
Jacob made his vow on the basis of what God had guaranteed to
do. So he was taking God at His word and binding himself to
reciprocate with his own dedication.
The oath then must be divided between a protasis and an
apodosis--"if... then. " It is not easy to determine just where to
make this division. The protasis should form the foundation for
his promise and should include what God had promised to do.
The apodosis should record what Jacob wanted to do for God. So
the most appropriate place to start the apodosis may be in verse
22. The vow would then read:
If the Lord God is with me.
and keeps me in this way in which I am going,
and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear,
so that I return in peace to the house of my father,
and the Lord becomes my God.
then this stone which I set up as a pillar
will be the house of God,
and all which you give me a tenth I will give to you (author's
234 Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985
God had promised to be with him, keep him, bless him, return
him in peace, in short, be his God; consequently, Jacob prom-
ised that the spot would be a place of worship and that he would
The vow to tithe is the only part of Jacob's promise that is a
real action. Moreover, the structure of the speech changes to the
second person in a personal address to God directly. His grati-
tude and submission to God would be expressed through the
paying of a tithe.
So Jacob did more than consecrate
worship for the nation of
ship there, and his acts formed a pattern for later worshipers to
follow in the offering of their devotion and their substance to
This brief account tells how God deals graciously with His
covenant people. It tells how God suddenly and unexpectedly
broke into the life of the deceiver who was fleeing for his life, and
assured him of the covenantal promises and His protective pres-
ence. But the point of the narrative is the effect on Jacob's life--
he worshiped and prepared for the worship of his descendants
at this "House of God."
The didactic level of the story for
dient at the outset, would spend a number of years outside the
land (cf. Gen. 15:13-16). During that time God would protect and
bless him (cf. Exod. 1:7, 12, 20) and ultimately return him to his
inheritance. Such covenantal blessings should inspire worship-
ful devotion from God's people (cf. Exod. 5:1; 14:29-15:21; Josh.
The Christian experience is similar. The effectual revelation
of God's protective presence and promised blessings for Chris-
tians will inspire devout and faithful worship. Those who fully
realize God's gracious provision, those whom the Word of God
has powerfully impressed, will respond with consecration and
commitment. Where there is no reverential fear, no commitment
or no devotion, there is probably very little apprehension of what
the spiritual life is all about. Like the revelation to Jacob, the
written revelation of God makes the believer aware of the Lord's
presence and prompts him to a higher level of living.
Jacob's Vision: The
1 The critical analysis of this passage is rather complex. Long says that J is
partially preserved in verses 10, 13, 15, 16, and 19, but that it is now overlaid and
dominated by E in verses 11, 12, 17, 18, and 20-22 (Burke O. Long, The Problem
of Etiological Narrative in the Old Testament [
p. 60). Von Rad's combination is different. He argues that verses 16 and 17 are
parallel, as are 19a and 22a, and he then takes verses 13-16 and 19 as J, and
verses 10-12, and 17-22 (except 19) as E (Gerhard von Rad, Genesis
contains the etymological formula on the name. Even if a case could be made
convincingly for these sources, and if there was agreement on the divisions, one
would still be left with the difficulties and tensions in the final, fixed form of the
text. All the ideas in the story were apparently understood as a unified tradition
of the founding of
unity. The problem of the parallel passage in Genesis 35 could then also be
understood as a stylistic device of confirmation and recapitulation.
2 The author is indebted to Fokkelman's discussion of the basic ideas about
the literary features of this passage (J. P Fokkelman, Narrative Art in Genesis
3 Michael Fishbane, Text and Texture (New York: Schocken Books, 1979),
4 C. Houtman, "Jacob at Mahanaim: Some Remarks on Genesis 32:2- 3," Vetus
Testamentum 28 (1978):39. See also Fokkelman, Narrative Art, p. 198. Fishbane
adds that j`xAl;ma is a theme word in chapter 32, referring to both the angels of God
and the messengers sent to Esau (Text and Texture, p. 54).
5 Westermann develops the idea of these liturgical acts that belong to Jacob
exclusively (Claus Westermann, The Promises to the Fathers, trans. David E.
6 Ibid., p. 85.
7 Derek Kidner, Genesis (Chicago: InterVarsity Press, 1967), p. 155.
8 The effect of this gracious revelation in Genesis 28 appears to have had just
such an effect. In 29:1 the text says "And Jacob picked up his feet and went." In
other words, with this assurance from God Jacob had a new gait in his steps.
9 The verb jqaPA adds to the note of casualness. It means "to encounter, meet."
Fokkelman translates it "he struck upon" a place (Narrative Art, p. 48).
10 It is unlikely that a stone large enough to be a pillar should be a pillow. The
word signifies what is at the head. It is used in 1 Samuel 26:7 in the same way:
Saul lay sleeping within the trench, with his spear stuck in the ground "at his
11 Ibid., pp. 51-52. The KJV of course uses "behold" in all three places, as does
the NASB. The Niv has not reflected the impact of hne.hi by translating the verses, "He
had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top
reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
There above it stood the Lord...."
12 It is interesting to note that the next chapter uses hne.hi in a similar way. It first
introduces the setting, "there is a well in the field" (29:2); then the participants,
"and oh, there are three flocks of sheep lying by it" (29:2); and then the focus of
the story, "and look, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep" (29:6). By the
repetition of this pattern the narrative shows a direct correspondence between
the sections, the second being the beginning of the outworking of the first.
13 Some of these area temple tower with. a pathway winding around it, a tower with
a stairlike entrance, and a staircase leading into a palace (see C. Houtman, "What Did
Jacob See in His Dream at
236 Bibliotheca Sacra - July-September 1985
C. A. Keller, "Uber einige alttestamentlichen Heiligtumslegenden I," Zeitschrift
fur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 67 [19551:141-68).
14 The connection between Ml.Asu and simmiltu involves a metathesis (see
Sabatino Moscati, An Introduction to the Comparative Grammar of the Semitic
15 The view was first presented by Landsberger ("Lexikalisches Archiv,"
ZeitschriftfdrAssyriologie and vorderasiatischeArchdologie 41 [19331:230); it
is discussed briefly in Harold R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena in the Light
of Akkadian and Ugaritic (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1978), p. 34. For the
relevant texts see O. R. Gurney, "The Myth of Nergal and Ereshkigal,"Anatolian
Studies 10 (1960):105-31; and "Nergal and Ereshkigal-Additions, " in Ancient
Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament, ed. James B. Pritchard, 3d ed.
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969):507-12.
16 J. G. Griffiths, "The Celestial Ladder and the Gate of Heaven f Gen. 28:12 and
17]," Expository Times 76 (1964/65):229-30; and "The Celestial Ladder and the
Gate of Heaven in Egyptian Ritual," Expository Times 78 (1966/67):54-55.
17 A. R. Millard, "The Celestial Ladder and the Gate of Heaven (Gen. 28:12,
17)," Expository Times 78 (1966/67):86-87.
18 If there is an implied connection to the ziggurat here, then this passage
forms an antithesis to the story of the
Mesopotamian background. Comparing the two passages one could say that if
there is communication between heaven and earth it is initiated in heaven (Gen.
28) and not on earth (Gen. 11).
19 Christ compared Himself to the stairway in John 1:51: "and the angels of
God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." He is the Mediator between
heaven and earth; He is the Way to God.
20 S. R. Driver, The Book of Genesis (London: Methuen & Co., 1904), p. 265.
21 The prepositional phrase can be translated "over it" or "beside it" or "beside
him." The use in Genesis 18:1 suggests "beside him," but the context here
suggests "over it" because God's realm is in the heavens, and because Jacob
anointed the top of the stone.
22 The purpose of the casus pendens is to throw the independent nominative
to the beginning for emphasis.
23 Fokkelman observes what he calls a sound fusion, a melting of consonants
in the transition: Cr,xAhA rpafEKa is followed by TAc;rapAU; the letters c-r-p out of the
prepositional phrase become the verb. He says, "The levels of sound and mean-
ing have become integrated: they point to each other, they explain each other,
they pervade each other" (Narrative Art, p. 59).
24 One clear example of this is Genesis 31:24 which records how God warned
Laban in a dream not to harm Jacob (see also v. 29).
George Bush, Notes on Genesis, 2
C. F Graesser, "Standing Stones in Ancient
ologist 35 (1972):34-63.
27 The shrine later became the place of corrupt, idolatrous worship (2 Kings
12. 28-29). Hosea alluded to this passage but altered the name by a wordplay
from to lxe-tyBe to Nv,xA tyBe, "house of vanity" (i.e., idols, Hos. 4:15). Amos 5:5 said that
28 Von Rad, Genesis, p. 286.
Some biblical passages may suggest "
48:13 says that "
interpreted to read "Bethel-shar-ezer," a personal name, instead of "the house of
Jacob's Vision: The
the god Sharezer"
(see J. Philip Hyatt, ‘A Neo-Babylonian Parallel to
eser, Zech. 7:2," Journal of Biblical Literature 56 :387-94; and "The Deity
[ 19391:81-98). Support for the theophorittc
Babylonian names like bit-ili-sezib and bit-ili-sar-usur, as well as some attested
Eissfeldt, "Der Gott Bethel," Andover Review :20 [reprinted in Kleine
Schrften II; Rudolph Kittel, "Der Gott Bet' el," Journal of Biblical Literature 44
[19251:123-53; Wolf Wilhelm Grafen Baudissin, "El Bet-el [Genesis 31:13; 35:71,"
Beihefte zur Zeitschriftfur die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 41 [ 1925]:1-11;
and W. F Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of
with this element from
30 Long, Etiological Narrative, p. 60.
31 Many translations begin the apodasis with "then the Lord will become my
God," which is equally possible. If God actually promised to be his God in the
words of the Abrahamic promises (as in Gen. 17:7), then it would not be some-
thing Jacob would be promising to do.
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