Old Testament

The Pentateuch

What was Jacob’s ladder?

The event involving Jacob’s ladder marked Jacob’s first personal interaction with God. After Jacob received his father’s blessing and learned of his brother’s deadly intentions toward him, he went toward Haran to find a wife. One night he set up camp. He placed a stone under his head, and settled down to sleep. As Jacob slept, he dreamed of a ladder that reached to heaven. Angels went up and down the ladder while God stood beside Jacob. In the dream, God made a promise to Jacob as he had made to his grandfather, Abraham. God promised Jacob all of the land around him, and countless descendants. God promised Jacob that he would always be with him. When Jacob woke up, he placed a rock upright on the spot where he had slept. He called the rock Bethel, which means House of God. Jacob declared, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it! And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’” (NRSV, Genesis 28:16–17) The rock served as a physical testament to Jacob’s newfound resolve to serve God and only God. In addition, Jacob promised to give God one-tenth of all he owned.


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