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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Isaac's instructions to Jacob
1Isaac called in Jacob, then gave him a blessing, and said:
Don't marry any of those Canaanite women. 2Go at once to your mother's father Bethuel in northern Syria#28.2 northern Syria: See the note at 24.10. and choose a wife from one of the daughters of Laban, your mother's brother. 3I pray that God All-Powerful will bless you with many descendants and let you become a great nation. 4May he bless you with the land he gave Abraham, so that you will take over this land where we now live as foreigners.#Gn 17.4-8.
5Isaac then sent Jacob to stay with Rebekah's brother Laban, the son of Bethuel the Aramean.
Esau marries the daughter of Ishmael
6Esau found out that his father Isaac had blessed Jacob and had warned him not to marry any of the Canaanite women. He also learnt that Jacob had been sent to find a wife in northern Syria#28.6 northern Syria: See the note at 24.10. 7and that he had obeyed his father and mother. 8Esau already had several wives, but he realized at last how much his father hated the Canaanite women. 9So he married Ishmael's daughter Mahalath, who was the sister of Nebaioth#28.9 Nebaioth: Ishmael's eldest son (see 25.13). and the granddaughter of Abraham.
Jacob and his family
Jacob's dream at Bethel
10Jacob left the town of Beersheba and started out for Haran. 11At sunset he stopped for the night and went to sleep, resting his head on a large rock. 12In a dream he saw a ladder#28.12 ladder: Or “stairway”. that reached from earth to heaven, and God's angels were going up and down on it.#Jn 1.51.
13The LORD was standing beside the ladder#28.13 the ladder: Or “Jacob” or “the stairway” (see the note at 28.12). and said:#Gn 13.14,15.
I am the LORD God who was worshipped by Abraham and Isaac. I will give to you and your family the land on which you are now sleeping. 14Your descendants will spread over the earth in all directions and will become as numerous as the specks of dust. Your family will be a blessing to all people.#28.14 Your family…people: Or “All people will ask me to bless them as I have blessed your family.”#Gn 12.3; 22.18. 15Wherever you go, I will watch over you, then later I will bring you back to this land. I won't leave you—I will do all I have promised.
16Jacob woke up suddenly and thought, “The LORD is in this place, and I didn't even know it.” 17Then Jacob became frightened and said, “This is a fearsome place! It must be the house of God and the ladder#28.17 ladder: See the note at 28.12. to heaven.”
18When Jacob got up early the next morning, he took the rock that he had used for a pillow and stood it up for a place of worship. Then he poured olive oil on the rock to dedicate it to God, 19and he named the place Bethel.#28.19 Bethel: In Hebrew “Bethel” means “House of God”. Before that it had been named Luz.
20Jacob solemnly promised God, “If you go with me and watch over me as I travel, and if you give me food and clothes 21and bring me safely home again, you will be my God. 22This rock will be your house, and I will give back to you a tenth of everything you give me.”
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