Genesis 28
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
The divergence of the two representative men is seen in this short statement of their marriage relations.

1. Domestic life under the blessing of God and apart from that blessing.

2. The true blessing is the blessing of Abraham, the blessing which God has already provided, promised, and secured.

3. The heir of the blessing must be sent away and learn by experience how to use it.

4. The disinherited man, who has scorned his opportunity, cannot recover it by his own devices. Esau is still Esau. Polygamy was suffered, but never had the blessing of God upon it. - R.

Where revelations had been vouchsafed it was supposed that they would be repeated. The stony pillow on which the weary head rested may be changed by the visitation of Divine grace into the meeting-place of heaven and earth. The morning beams breaking in upon the shadowy refuge of the night are transfigured into a dream of covenant blessing. The ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reached to heaven. Angels of God on the way of mediation, ascending, descending, carrying up the wants and services of the man of God, bringing clown the messages of consolation, the vouchsafements of help and deliverance. "Behold, the Lord stood above it," as the source of all the blessing, standing ready to work for his chosen. This is the first direct communication of Jehovah to Jacob, the first in a long line of revelations of which he was the recipient. It is a renewal of the covenant made to his fathers, it is a republication of the promises. But we require to hear the Lord say to us, "I am with thee, I will not leave thee," especially when we are already on the journey of faith, when we are obeying the commandment of God, and of the father and mother speaking in his name. Such a place as Jacob found may be made known to us -

I. IN PROVIDENTIAL INTERPOSITIONS. We journey on through the wilderness and light upon a certain place where we think we are only among stony facts, where we can find but a harsh welcome; but the Lord is in the place, though we know it not till he reveals himself. Then we cry with trembling gratitude, This is the house of God, &c.

II. IN SEASONS or RELIGIOUS OPPORTUNITY. The ordinary and customary is lifted up by special gift of the Spirit' 'into' the opened heaven, the visiting, angels, the vision of the throne of God. "The house of God, the gate of heaven. Such may be the awaking of our soul in the sanctuary of our own private devotions or of our public worship.

III. Jacob is A TYPE OF THE LORD'S PEOPLE REGARDED AS A WHOLE. The Church has often laid itself down upon the stones and slept with weariness in its passage through the desert, and the Lord has revealed the ladder of his covenant, connecting together that very place and time of hardship with the throne of grace and. glory, and the ascending and descending angels.

IV. Jesus himself employed this dream of the patriarch as A TYPICAL PROPHECY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. "Heaven open, and the angels of God Ascending and descending upon the Son of man," the true Jacob, the Prince prevailing with God and with men (John 1:51). The cross is the ladder of mediation. It was set up on the earth. It was not of earthly origin as a means of atonement, but its foot was on the earth as it came forth out of the method and course of earthly history in connection with Divine counsels. Its top reached to heaven, for it was a Divine Mediator whose sacrifice was offered upon it. Angels of God ascended and descended upon the ladder, for only through the atoning merit of Christ is angelic ministration maintained. It is for them "who shall be heirs of salvation." At the summit of the cross, representing the whole mediatorial work of Christ, is the Lord standing, speaking his word of covenant, and stretching forth his right hand on behalf of his people. Resting at the foot of the cross we hear the voice of a faithful Guide, saying, "I will not leave thee," &c. In every place one who is conscious of surrounding covenant mercy can say, "This is none other but the house of God," &c. - R.

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. Jacob in fear of his life leaves home. The last kiss of his mother is taken. During the day Jacob goes forward cheerfully. Night comes on at length. The path is no longer distinct. The wind moans sadly. A sense of loneliness creeps over him. Fear of Esau haunts him. He sees the figure of his brother behind this shrub and that rock. Had Esau outrun to murder him in that lonely spot? He trembles at every shadow, and shudders at every sound. He thinks of the God of his father and mother, and prays. He lies down in the desert; a furze-bush is his only shelter, and a stone his hard pillow. He looks up into the dark vault all glittering with the silent stars. More intense becomes his loneliness, for the stars have no voice for him. Plotting and far-seeing Jacob had deep home-longings, mystic inquirings, and a wealth of affection in his nature. Of such God can make something; to such God can reveal something. To idolatrous, carnal Esau's how little can God make known. Selfishness hinders. Here in the desert Jacob draws his camel-hair robe more tightly over his feet, and dreams of parents and home, and heaven and God. It might surprise us that he could have such sweet dreams when he was fleeing from the one whom he had undoubtedly wronged. God would over-rule the wrong, and therefore sent him this vision.

I. ALL HAVE DREAMS OF A HEAVEN. A heaven is that for which all men are seeking, whether sought in the way of business, or pleasure, or politics, or literature. Even skeptics have their heaven in their doubt and intellectual pride. That which is our highest object is our heaven. As water cannot rise above its level, so the heaven of some cannot be above their thoughts. There will be a future state answering to the highest longings of the believer, a place of existence in glory far beyond anything here.

II. ACTUAL COMMUNICATION WITH HEAVEN IS POSSIBLE. One author (Hazlitt) says, In the days of Jacob there was a ladder between heaven and earth, but now the heavens are gone further and become astronomical." True science opens up an infinite number of worlds and densely-peopled spaces. Material discoveries lessen the sense of spiritual realities. It need not be so. If the universe is great, how great also is the soul, which can embrace in its thoughts the universe! And it is in the soul that God can and does reveal heaven. Peace, hope, love is the spirit of heaven, and that is revealed by Christ. Purify the spirit and heaven comes near.

III. EARNEST EFFORT IS NEEDED TO MAINTAIN COMMUNICATION WITH HEAVEN. In the dream of Jacob he saw a picture of his own struggling ascent in life. Angels might flit up and down, but man had to struggle and put forth earnest effort to maintain the union. Early in life the ascent seems easy. A mountain never appears so far to its summit as it is in reality. As we go on we become more conscious of the difficulties in the way of maintaining the open communications. Often we find ourselves with heads between our hands, pondering whether we shall ever overcome the evil and attain to the good.

IV. THERE IS ALWAYS HELP FROM THE HEAVENS IN THE EFFORT TO MAINTAIN THE COMMUNICATION. A voice comes to Jacob. A promise of guidance and support was given. Christ in his conversation with Nathaniel shows us how all good comes through him. In Christ all goodness centers. All heaven rays out from him in the pardon and reconciliation he has brought. He is the Word made flesh. He is the Divine voice from above. Through him the Holy Spirit is given, and that Holy Spirit shows us things to come, makes heaven plain, and the way direct. One day we shall be called to follow the way the angels go, and after death shall ascend that stairway which "slopes through darkness up to God." - H.

Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest. Among things believed; but not sufficiently realized, is the truth of God's constant overruling care. We can trace cause and effect a little way, then lose the chain, and feel as if it went no further, as if events had no special cause. This a common evil in the life of Christians. Its root, walking by sight more than by faith. Jacob - what made him try craft? Did not trust God fully. Had no habit of faith. But God had not forgotten him. And as he slept on the stone at Bethel the reality of God's presence was made known to him (Isaiah 43:2; Matthew 28:20) and recorded for our learning.

I. GOD DOES ALWAYS WATCH OVER AND GUIDE. The ladder was not a new thing; it had existed always. The vision showed what exists everywhere (2 Kings 6:17). The ladder shows the truth which should stamp our lives. God is love, and love means care. This is for all. Not our love that causes it. Our love, trust, life spring from that truth. The living God is close to us. His hand touches our life at every point. How is it that we are unconscious of this?

II. GOD'S WORKING IS HIDDEN AND SILENT. Jacob was startled to find him near. Because year by year the world goes on as before, unbelievers deny God's active presence, worldly men think not of it, and even godly men sometimes forget, for we cannot see the top of the ladder. But God, there, directs all.

III. HIS PURPOSES ARE ACCOMPLISHED BY MANY AGENTS. Many angels, messengers (Psalm 104:4; Hebrews 1:14); natural agents, the elements, &c.; human agents, men good and bad alike carrying out his will; spiritual beings (Psalm 91:11). How often those who pray for spiritual blessings forget that common things also are ruled by God. Thus a great door of communion is closed.

IV. BUT THERE IS SO MUCH CONFUSION IN THE WORLD. We often cannot trace God's hand. How often is trust confounded, wise schemes frustrated, earnest self-denial in vain; prayers, real and intense, without apparent answer. Nay, these are but seeming confusions, to teach the lesson of faith. Through all these, by all these, God's purposes are surely carried out. One great truth is the key of all - the love of God revealed in Christ. This is the ladder from which he proclaims, "Lo, I am with thee" (cf. Romans 8:32). He who wrought out redemption, can he fail?

V. GOD'S GOVERNANCE IS FOR OUR SALVATION, in the fullest sense of the word, giving us the victory over evil. God was with Jacob. He had been from the first, though not recognized. He was so to the end. Not giving uninterrupted prosperity. Many a fault and many a painful page in his history; but through all these he was led on. The word to each who will receive it - "Behold, I am with thee." Not because of thy faith, still less of thy goodness. Oh that every Christian would practice trust (Psalm 5:3); hearing our Father's voice, "Commit thy way unto the Lord," and gladly believing "the Lord is my Shepherd." - M.

I. THE TRUE LIFE is that which starts from the place of fellowship with God and commits the future to him. We can always find a pillar of blessed memorial and consecration. The Bethel.

1. Providential care.

2. Religious privilege.

3. Special communications of the Spirit.

God with us as a fact. Our pilgrimage a Bethel all through.

II. THE TRUE TESTIMONY that which erects a stone of witness, a Bethel, where others can find God.

1. Personal. The pillow of rest the pillar of praise.

2. Practical. The testimony which speaks of the journey and the traveler.


1. Coming out of fellowship.

2. Pledging the future at the house of God, and in sight of Divine revelation.

3. Blessed exchange of gifts, confirmation of love. Jehovah keeping and guiding and feeding; his servant serving him and giving him a tenth of all he received. The patriarch's vow was the result of a distinct advance in his religious life. The hope of blessing became the covenant of engagement, service, worship, sacrifice. The highest form of religious life is that which rests on a solemn vow of grateful dedication at Bethel. The end before us is "our Father's house in peace." - R.

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