Jacob's life is about to change. God is going to do an amazing, transformational work in Jacob. The journey starts here.
So apparently, Rebekah has convinced Isaac that Jacob needs to leave right now and find a wife, because Isaac tells him to go to Padan Aram and find a wife from among their people. He gives Jacob a beautiful send-off blessing (prophecy) in verse 3:
“May God Almighty bless you,
And make you fruitful and multiply you,
That you may be an assembly of peoples;
And give you the blessing of Abraham,
To you and your descendants with you,
That you may inherit the land
In which you are a stranger,
Which God gave to Abraham.”
The Abrahamic Covenant is clearly prophesied here by Isaac to Jacob. And it all hinges on the land which Jacob is about to leave behind. It is always linked to the land. Never forget.
There is another word here that flies off the page to me - assembly. The Hebrew word is kahal, and this is the first place in scripture where it shows up. In the Septuagint (the Hebrew scriptures translated into Greek by scholarly Jews about 200 years before Yeshua), the word kahal is translated as ekklesia.
The New Covenant translators often render that word ekklesia into church, but a better translation would be congregation or assembly. The Assembly of God's people begins with Jacob.
Many people think that Pentecost in the book of Acts is the birth of the church. Not so, according to what we read right here in Genesis.
Take that, Replacement Theologians.
Anyway, it occurred to me: wasn't Isaac on the verge of death in the previous chapter when he decides to put his affairs in order? After doing a bunch of biblical gymnastics, I discovered that Isaac lives another 50 years after he blesses his sons. He will die in a future chapter at the ripe old age of 180. (See what I did there? Literary foreshadowing...)
The death of Rebekah, on the other hand, is not mentioned. In fact, she is not mentioned again in Genesis until the very end when she is spoken of in the past tense. It is quite possible that Jacob never saw his mom again on earth.
Anyway, back to this crazy chapter.
First, a mention of Esau. He has seen how his Canaanite wives have irritated his parents, so he thinks, aha! I'll marry a cousin! So he adds Mahalath, a daughter of Ishmael, to his harem, perhaps further underscoring the fact that the Abrahamic Covenant will not proceed through him and his progeny. I doubt that Isaac and Rebekah were pleased with this addition.
|Interesting depiction of Esau and his wives, by Avi Katz|
We switch now to Jacob, who is enroute to Haran and the house of Laban. Partway there, he has his famous dream - Jacob's ladder.
(Jacob's Ladder shows up everywhere in pop culture - as exercise equipment, children's toys and games, book and movie titles, and songs - even a Led Zeppelin song. It seems that everyone wants to connect heaven and earth.)
The first thing Jacob does is he puts a rock under his head as a pillow. I have often wondered about that. Ouch! Who would use a rock as a pillow, for crying out loud? However, I believe it had less to do with comfort and much more to do with a prophetic picture.
The word for stone is eben. In Psalm 118 and Isaiah 28 we read that the eben that the builders rejected has become the rosh pinna - head cornerstone! This scripture is quoted six times in the New Covenant!
I believe that Jacob was sleeping on the Mount of Olives itself, in the exact spot where the chief cornerstone, Messiah our Rock, would be someday crucified. The ladder that shows up in Jacob's dream (really a staircase) probably appears over Mount Moriah, the exact place of the future temple. It is a beautiful picture of heaven coming down to earth, which is of course what happens when Yeshua comes and someday rules from His temple in this very spot.
Yeshua refers to this dream in the gospel of John, clearly linking the vision to Himself. It happened during the calling of Nathanael - which is an amazing thing in itself - and you can read about here if you need a refresher. In the last verse of John 1, Yeshua says,
“Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
In this amazing dream, the LORD reiterates the Abrahamic Covenant in verses 13-15. The Land, the Seed, the Blessing. The same promises made to Abraham and Isaac are now repeated to Jacob by the LORD Himself.
Jacob awakes in absolute awe. Verses 16-17 say,
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “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!”
What Jacob does next is this: He takes his stone pillow, sets it up as a pillar, and pours oil all over it. This brings to mind the word mashiach, (Messiah), which means anointed. To be anointed in the Bible means to be chosen and set apart for a specific purpose, and is set in motion through the pouring on of oil.
Many were anointed in the scriptures, but there is only one HaMashiach - The Anointed One.
In verse 19, he calls the name of the place Bethel, which means House of God. There are numerous Bethels in scripture, but this particular one, we are told, had formerly been called Luz. Luz means almond tree. There is great symbolism and significance in the almond tree, and if you want a bunny trail, you can click here.
Suffice it to say that God's patterns are everywhere in scripture.
Jacob wraps up chapter 28 with this declaration:
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
And then Jacob promises to tithe. This actually makes me giggle. When my husband and I were buying our first house, we needed to borrow money from his dad for the downpayment. So to be responsible, we came up with a budget and showed it to him. Of course it included a tithe for the church, even though neither one of us had ever tithed before, nor were following the Lord yet.
Anyway, in spite of the bargaining that Jacob tries to do with the LORD, the LORD is faithful to the covenant. But before Jacob has his final reckoning with God, he has a long journey to take.
Click here for the continuing story.