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This event that climaxes in the famous dream of the ladder to heaven may very well have been the point of conversion for sinful Jacob. In the previous chapter, his besetting sins of lying and deceit were much in evidence. Surely this encounter with God’s sovereign grace must have overwhelmed Jacob as he reflected on God’s decision to set His love on him and confirm the Abrahamic promises to him as opposed to his brother Esau. The spectacular promises communicated in such dramatic fashion serve as a model for Jesus who presented Himself to Nathanael (John 1:51) as the ultimate revelation of God and the only way to access the true God of heaven.

The fleshly attempts of Esau to try to worm his way into the primary blessing of his father Isaac remind us of the futility of seeking God’s favor apart from the working of His sovereign grace. Copy-cat spirituality will fail miserably every time.

But Jacob is surprised on his journey back to his family relatives (on his mission of obedience to obtain a suitable bride) by the intervention of God who wants to cement a faith relationship with His chosen child of promise. The response of Jacob in consecrated devotion should be duplicated in the lives of all of God’s children as they as well are overwhelmed by God’s gracious blessings.


A. (:1-5) Jacob Receives the Blessing of His Father as the Seed of Promise

1. (:1-2) Blessing of a Wife

“So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.’”

The blessing is coupled with a charge – this is the divine pattern

God’s sovereignty – the blessing comes by way of grace … yet that does not remove human responsibility – we are still charged with obedience

This journey was going to require effort and courage on the part of Jacob

Instructions are very specific

2. (:3-4) Blessing of Posterity

a. (:3) Patterned After Creation Blessing – Resulting in Plentiful Seed

“And may God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples.”

MacArthur: Significantly, El Shaddai was the name Isaac chose to employ when blessing Jacob. It was the name of sovereign power with which God had identified Himself to Abraham in covenant reaffirmation (17:1) which must have been an encouraging factor to both him and his son.

This is our prayer as we start a new church – it all hinges on the blessing of God Almighty and flows out from there to impact the lives of others; eventually the impact reaches “a company of peoples”

b. (:4) Perfected After Abrahamic Blessing – Rooted in the Promised Land

“May He also give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you; that you may possess the land of your sojournings, which God gave to Abraham.”

God has never forgotten His land promise; His people did not begin with full possession; the land was actually full of enemies and God’s elect are described as sojourners; but the nation of Israel will one day fully possess the land where the law of God will be the law of the land.

3. (:5) Blessing of Family

“Then Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Paddan-aram to Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.”

Instant and complete obedience is always the key

B. (:6-9) Esau Seeks Blessing According to the Scheming of the Flesh

1. (:6-7) Cunning Scheming Always Looks to Gain An Edge

“Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram, to take to himself a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he charged him, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan,’ and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and had gone to Paddan-aram.”

Hughes: Parenthetically, the account tells us that Esau saw all of this . . . and that when Esau perceived that his Hittite wives were unpleasing to his father, he too decided to marry a cousin, a daughter of Isaac’s half-brother Ishmael. Unspiritual, immoral Esau was slow to connect the dots. Esau was so clueless that he thought imitating Jacob’s marriage might curry his father’s blessing. Instead it demonstrated that he had no idea at all as to what God was about.

W. H. Griffith Thomas: Esau is one of those who . . . tries to do what God’s people do in the vain hope that somehow or other it will be pleasing to God (Dods, Genesis, in loc.). He will not do precisely what God requires, but something like it. He will not entirely give up the world and put God first in his life, but he will try to meet some of God’s wishes by a little alteration in his conduct. Instead of renouncing sin he will cover it with the glory of small virtues; but it is one thing to conform to the outward practices of God’s people; it is quite another to be thoroughly and truly godly at heart.

2. (:8-9) Copy-Cat Spirituality Fails Miserably Every Time

“So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac; and Esau went to Ishmael, and married, besides the wives that he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.”


A. (:10-15) Jacob’s Dream

1. (:10-11) Setting for the Dream – Sleeping on a Stone

“Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place.”

Parunak: This is a trip of 470 miles as the crow flies, and much longer by foot. We hear nothing of the details of the journey, except this one episode. From Beersheba to Bethel is at least a four-days trip (over 80 km).

12:8; 13:3 — The name “Bethel” became attached to the city by the Israelites, following Jacob’s use of it for a location outside the town where God had met with him and previously with Abraham.

So the stage is set. He “lighted upon the place.” Evening just happens to overtake him as he is near the place where Abraham sacrificed. His own cultural background leads him to camp in the country rather than lodging in the city. It looks perfectly accidental, but God has led him there for an encounter that will change his life.

Lonely night:

– Esau could be trailing him

– Leaving his comfort zone behind

– Not knowing what lay ahead in his future

2. (:12) Symbolism of the Dream – Angels on a Heavenly Ladder

“And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”

Gen. 11 – Tower of Babel represents man’s attempts to reach into heaven and glorify himself; here we have God reaching down to man and glorifying Himself

John 1:51 quotes this passage – remember, angels serve as God’s messengers

MacArthur: Jesus’ point to Nathaniel was that just like Jacob experienced supernatural or heaven-sent revelation, Nathanael and the other disciples would experience supernatural communication confirming who Jesus was. Moreover, the term “Son of Man” replaced the ladder in Jacob’s dream, signifying that Jesus was the means of access between God and man. . .

The expression occurs 13 times [in John] and is most commonly associated with the themes of crucifixion and suffering (3:14; 8:28) and revelation (6:27, 53) but also with eschatological authority (5:27, 9:30).

3. (:13-15) Spectacular Promises = the Substance of the Dream

a. (:13a) Relationship Promise

“And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, ‘I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac;”

b. (:13b) Land Promise

“the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants.”

c. (:14) Seed Promise

“Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south;

and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

d. (:15) Relationship Promise – Fourfold:

i. Abiding Presence

“And behold, I am with you,”

ii. Assured Protection

“and will keep you wherever you go,”

iii. Assured Guidance and Provision

“and will bring you back to this land;”

iv. Abiding Fulfillment

“for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

B. (:16-17) Jacob’s Dread

1. (:16) Awareness of the Presence of the Lord

“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.’”

2. (:17) Afraid of His Intimate Access to God

“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.’”

C. (:18-22) Jacob’s Devotion – Expressed in 3 Concrete Ways

1. (:18) Monument of Remembrance

“So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on its top.”

2. (:19) Change of Identity

“And he called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz.”

3. (:20-22) Vow of Consecration

“Then Jacob made a vow, saying,”

a. Conditions – Fourfold:

i. Abiding Presence

“If God will be with me”

Tone is more like “Since” God has already committed to do the following . . .

There is a Greek construction that would signify that …

ii. Assured Protection

“and will keep me on this journey that I take,”

iii. Assured Guidance and Provision

“and will give me food to eat and garments to wear,”

iv. Abiding Fulfillment

“and I return to my father’s house in safety,”

b. Commitment

i. Expressed in Loyalty — Togetherness

“then the LORD will be my God.”

ii. Expressed in Liturgy = Temple Worship

“And this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house;”

iii. Expressed in Liberal Giving = Tithing

“and of all that Thou dost give me I will surely give a tenth to Thee.”


What is our response to being overwhelmed by God’s Sovereign Grace?

What is our response to being the recipient of God’s Spectacular Promises?