Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (July 23rd)

Pastor's Summary of Genesis 28:10-19a

Isaac has dispatched Jacob to find a wife for himself in Haran. He, like Isaac, is expected to marry one of his own clan, but unlike Isaac, is sent on the journey himself. On the way, Jacob stops for the night at Bethel (meaning house of God) and dreams. (Travellers slept on the ground using hard pillows!) The word translated "place" (v. 11) implies that the place is sacred. The scene is reminiscent of a ziggurat, on which there was a stairway ("ladder", v. 12) to the top, where the deity was believed to live. The Tower of Babel (meaning gateway to a god) was probably a ziggurat. The angels "ascending and descending" suggest contact with God. God speaks, identifying himself as God of the patriarchs, Abraham and Isaac, i.e. not just a local god of that place alone, as was common in the region. The promises in vv. 13-14 are those made to Abraham, but the one in v. 15 is specially for Jacob: God will watch over ("keep") him wherever he is; God is present everywhere, not just here.

In v. 17, Jacob is awe-struck ("afraid") and says that the place is awe-inspiring ("awesome"). This, he says, is the "house of God" (hence Bethel) and the "gate of heaven". Next morning, Jacob sets up his stone pillow to mark the presence of a deity, as was the local custom. He consecrates it with "oil" (v. 18).