1 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman!#tn Heb “you must not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.” 2 Leave immediately#tn Heb “Arise! Go!” The first of the two imperatives is adverbial and stresses the immediacy of the departure. for Paddan Aram! Go to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and find yourself a wife there, among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3 May the sovereign God#tn Heb “El Shaddai.” See the extended note on the phrase “sovereign God” in Gen 17:1. bless you! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants!#tn Heb “and make you fruitful and multiply you.” See Gen 17:6, 20 for similar terminology. Then you will become#tn The perfect verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive here indicates consequence. The collocation הָיָה + preposition לְ (hayah + lÿ) means “become.” a large nation.#tn Heb “an assembly of peoples.” 4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing he gave to Abraham#tn Heb “and may he give to you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your offspring with you.” The name “Abraham” is an objective genitive here; this refers to the blessing that God gave to Abraham. so that you may possess the land#tn The words “the land” have been supplied in the translation for clarity. God gave to Abraham, the land where you have been living as a temporary resident.”#tn Heb “the land of your sojournings,” that is, the land where Jacob had been living as a resident alien, as his future descendants would after him. 5 So Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean and brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.
6 Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him off to Paddan Aram to find a wife there.#tn Heb “to take for himself from there a wife.” As he blessed him,#tn The infinitive construct with the preposition and the suffix form a temporal clause. Isaac commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman.”#tn Heb “you must not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.” 7 Jacob obeyed his father and mother and left for Paddan Aram. 8 Then Esau realized#tn Heb “saw.” that the Canaanite women#tn Heb “the daughters of Canaan.” were displeasing to#tn Heb “evil in the eyes of.” his father Isaac. 9 So Esau went to Ishmael and married#tn Heb “took for a wife.” Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael, along with the wives he already had.
Jacob’s Dream at Bethel
10 Meanwhile Jacob left Beer Sheba and set out for Haran. 11 He reached a certain place#tn Heb “the place.” The article may indicate simply that the place is definite in the mind of the narrator. However, as the story unfolds the place is transformed into a holy place. See A. P. Ross, “Jacob’s Vision: The Founding of Bethel,” BSac 142 (1985): 224-37. where he decided to camp because the sun had gone down.#tn Heb “and he spent the night there because the sun had gone down.” He took one of the stones#tn Heb “he took from the stones of the place,” which here means Jacob took one of the stones (see v. 18). and placed it near his head.#tn Heb “and he put [it at] the place of his head.” The text does not actually say the stone was placed under his head to serve as a pillow, although most interpreters and translators assume this. It is possible the stone served some other purpose. Jacob does not seem to have been a committed monotheist yet (see v. 20-21) so he may have believed it contained some spiritual power. Note that later in the story he anticipates the stone becoming the residence of God (see v. 22). Many cultures throughout the world view certain types of stones as magical and/or sacred. See J. G. Fraser, Folklore in the Old Testament, 231-37. Then he fell asleep#tn Heb “lay down.” in that place 12 and had a dream.#tn Heb “and dreamed.” He saw#tn Heb “and look.” The scene which Jacob witnessed is described in three clauses introduced with הִנֵּה (hinneh). In this way the narrator invites the reader to witness the scene through Jacob’s eyes. J. P. Fokkelman points out that the particle goes with a lifted arm and an open mouth: “There, a ladder! Oh, angels! and look, the Lord himself” (Narrative Art in Genesis [SSN], 51-52). a stairway#tn The Hebrew noun סֻלָּם (sullam, “ladder, stairway”) occurs only here in the OT, but there appears to be an Akkadian cognate simmiltu (with metathesis of the second and third consonants and a feminine ending) which has a specialized meaning of “stairway, ramp.” See H. R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena (SBLDS), 34. For further discussion see C. Houtman, “What Did Jacob See in His Dream at Bethel? Some Remarks on Genesis 28:10-22,” VT 27 (1977): 337-52; J. G. Griffiths, “The Celestial Ladder and the Gate of Heaven,” ExpTim 76 (1964/65): 229-30; and A. R. Millard, “The Celestial Ladder and the Gate of Heaven,” ExpTim 78 (1966/67): 86-87. erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens. The angels of God were going up and coming down it 13 and the Lord stood at its top. He said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father Isaac.#tn Heb “the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.” The Hebrew word for “father” can typically be used in a broader sense than the English word, in this case referring to Abraham (who was Jacob’s grandfather). For stylistic reasons and for clarity, the words “your father” are supplied with “Isaac” in the translation. I will give you and your descendants the ground#tn The Hebrew term אֶרֶץ (’erets) can mean “[the] earth,” “land,” “region,” “piece of ground,” or “ground” depending on the context. Here the term specifically refers to the plot of ground on which Jacob was lying, but at the same time this stands by metonymy for the entire land of Canaan. you are lying on. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth,#tn This is the same Hebrew word translated “ground” in the preceding verse. and you will spread out#tn The verb is singular in the Hebrew; Jacob is addressed as the representative of his descendants. to the west, east, north, and south. All the families of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another#tn Theoretically the Niphal stem can be translated either as passive or reflexive/reciprocal. (The Niphal of “bless” is only used in formulations of the Abrahamic covenant. See Gen 12:2; 18:18; 28:14.) Traditionally the verb is taken as passive here, as if Jacob were going to be a channel or source of blessing. But in other formulations of the Abrahamic covenant (see Gen 22:18; 26:4) the Hitpael replaces this Niphal form, suggesting a translation “will bless (i.e., pronounce blessings upon) themselves/one another.” The Hitpael of “bless” is used with a reflexive/reciprocal sense in Deut 29:18; Ps 72:17; Isa 65:16; Jer 4:2. Gen 28:14 predicts that Jacob will be held up as a paradigm of divine blessing and that people will use his name in their blessing formulae (see Gen 12:2 and 18:18 as well, where Abram/Abraham receives this promise). For examples of blessing formulae utilizing an individual as an example of blessing see Gen 48:20 and Ruth 4:11. using your name and that of your descendants.#tn Heb “and they will pronounce blessings by you, all the families of the earth, and by your offspring.” 15 I am with you!#tn Heb “Look, I [am] with you.” The clause is a nominal clause; the verb to be supplied could be present (as in the translation) or future, “Look, I [will be] with you” (cf. NEB). I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you!”
16 Then Jacob woke up#tn Heb “woke up from his sleep.” This has been simplified in the translation for stylistic reasons. and thought,#tn Heb “said.” “Surely the Lord is in this place, but I did not realize it!” 17 He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is nothing else than the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!”
18 Early#tn Heb “and he got up early…and he took.” in the morning Jacob#tn Heb “he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity. took the stone he had placed near his head#tn See the note on this phrase in v. 11. and set it up as a sacred stone.#tn Heb “standing stone.”sn Sacred stone. Such a stone could be used as a boundary marker, a burial stone, or as a shrine. Here the stone is intended to be a reminder of the stairway that was “erected” and on which the Lord “stood.” (In Hebrew the word translated “sacred stone” is derived from the verb translated “erected” in v. 12 and “stood” in v. 13. Since the top of the stairway reached the heavens where the Lord stood, Jacob poured oil on the top of the stone. See C. F. Graesser, “Standing Stones in Ancient Palestine,” BA 35 (1972): 34-63; and E. Stockton, “Sacred Pillars in the Bible,” ABR 20 (1972): 16-32. Then he poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,#tn The name Bethel means “house of God” in Hebrew (see v. 17).map For location see Map4-G4; Map5-C1; Map6-E3; Map7-D1; Map8-G3. although the former name of the town was Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God is with me and protects me on this journey I am taking and gives me food#tn Heb “bread,” although the term can be used for food in general. to eat and clothing to wear, 21 and I return safely to my father’s home,#tn Heb “and I return in peace to the house of my father.” then the Lord will become my God. 22 Then this stone#tn The disjunctive clause structure (conjunction + noun/subject) is used to highlight the statement. that I have set up as a sacred stone will be the house of God, and I will surely#tn The infinitive absolute is used before the finite verb for emphasis. give you back a tenth of everything you give me.”#tn Heb “and all which you give to me I will surely give a tenth of it to you.” The disjunctive clause structure (conjunction + noun/object) highlights this statement as well.
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1#A glimpse of Rebekah’s shrewdness is provided by 27:42–28:2. She is aware of Esau’s murderous plot against Jacob (27:42–45) but realizes the episode of the stolen blessing is still painful to Isaac; she therefore uses another motive to persuade Isaac to send Jacob away—he must marry within the family (endogamy), unlike Esau. Esau, unreflective as usual, realizes too late he also should marry within the family but, significantly, marries from Abraham’s rejected line. At this point in the story, Jacob (and his mother) have taken the blessing for themselves. Their actions have put Jacob in a precarious position: he must flee the land because of his brother’s murderous intent and find a wife in a far country. One might ask how God’s blessing can be given to such an unworthy schemer. There is a biblical pattern of preferring the younger brother or sister over the older—Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Rachel over Leah, Joseph over his older brothers, Ephraim over Manasseh (Gn 48:14), David over his older brothers. Isaac therefore summoned Jacob and blessed him, charging him: “You shall not marry a Canaanite woman!#Gn 24:3–4; 26:35. 2Go now to Paddan-aram, to the home of your mother’s father Bethuel, and there choose a wife for yourself from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.#Gn 22:22. 3May God Almighty bless you and make you fertile, multiply you that you may become an assembly of peoples. 4May God extend to you and your descendants the blessing of Abraham, so that you may gain possession of the land where you are residing, which he assigned to Abraham.”#Ex 32:13. 5Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way; he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, and brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.#Jdt 8:26.
6Esau noted that Isaac had blessed Jacob when he sent him to Paddan-aram to get himself a wife there, and that, as he gave him his blessing, he charged him, “You shall not marry a Canaanite woman,” 7and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and gone to Paddan-aram. 8Esau realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac, 9so Esau went to Ishmael, and in addition to the wives he had, married Mahalath, the daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.#Gn 36:2–3.
Jacob’s Dream at Bethel.#As Jacob is leaving the land on his way to an uncertain future in Paddan-aram, God appears to him at a sacred place that Jacob had visited only to take a night’s rest. Jacob’s unawareness of the holiness of the place underscores the graciousness of the gift. On his return to Canaan, he will again encounter a divine visitor in the form of the mysterious attacker (32:23–33) and, after his return and reconciliation with Esau, he will again go to Bethel (35:1–15). 10Jacob departed from Beer-sheba and proceeded toward Haran. 11When he came upon a certain place,#Place: the Hebrew word is often used specifically of a sacred site. The ambiguous word “place” is used here, for the text emphasizes that Jacob has no idea the place he has come upon is sacred; only when he wakes up does he realize it is sacred. The place was Bethel (v. 19), a sacred site as early as the time of Abraham (12:8). he stopped there for the night, since the sun had already set. Taking one of the stones at the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12Then he had a dream: a stairway#Stairway: in Hebrew, sullam, traditionally but inaccurately translated as “ladder.” The corresponding verb, salal, means “to heap up” something, such as dirt for a highway or a ramp. The imagery in Jacob’s dream may be derived from the Babylonian ziggurat or temple tower, “with its top in the sky” (11:4), and with brick steps leading up to a small temple at the top. rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s angels were going up and down on it.#Jn 1:51. 13And there was the Lord standing beside him and saying: I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants.#Dt 1:8; Mi 7:20. 14Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and through them you will spread to the west and the east, to the north and the south. In you and your descendants all the families of the earth will find blessing.#Gn 12:3; 13:14–15; 15:5–6; 18:18; 22:17–18; 26:4; Dt 19:8; Sir 44:21. 15I am with you and will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.#Gn 31:3.
16When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Truly, the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!” 17He was afraid and said: “How awesome this place is! This is nothing else but the house of God, the gateway to heaven!” 18Early the next morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head, set it up as a sacred pillar,#Sacred pillar: in Hebrew, masseba, a stone which might vary in shape and size, set upright and usually intended for some religious purpose. The custom of erecting such sacred pillars in Palestine went back to its pre-Israelite period; but since their polytheistic associations were often retained, later Israelite religion forbade their erection (Lv 26:1; Dt 16:22) and ordered the destruction of those that were associated with other religions (Ex 34:13; Dt 12:3). and poured oil on top of it.#Gn 31:13; 35:14–15. 19He named that place Bethel,#Bethel: i.e., “house of God”; the reference is to the house of God in v. 17. whereas the former name of the town had been Luz.#Gn 35:6; 48:3; Jos 18:13; Jgs 1:23; Hos 12:5.
20Jacob then made this vow:#This vow: knowing well that Esau’s murderous wrath stands between him and the possession of the land promised him, Jacob makes his vow very precise. He vows to make the God who appeared to him his own if the God guides him safely to Paddan-aram and back to this land. “If God will be with me and protect me on this journey I am making and give me food to eat and clothes to wear, 21and I come back safely to my father’s house, the Lord will be my God. 22This stone that I have set up as a sacred pillar will be the house of God. Of everything you give me, I will return a tenth part to you without fail.”
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