God promised Abraham multiple descendants and a homeland to bless the world. The fulfillment would come through Abraham’s son, Isaac. When Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, became pregnant the babies in her womb were jostling and the Lord revealed that there were two peoples in Rebekah’s womb and that the older son would serve the younger (Gen. 25:23). Now when Isaac was old and blind he wanted to bless Esau before he died. But Rebekah disguised Jacob as Esau and Jacob claimed to be Esau, so that unknowingly blessed Jacob. Isaac said the nations and his brothers would serve him. Also, Isaac restated the blessing given to Abraham (Gen.12:1-3) that whoever cursed him would be cursed and whoever blessed him would be blessed. Later Esau came in to be blessed and Isaac trembled violently when he realized he had blessed Jacob. Isaac told Esau that he had given the blessing to Jacob and that Jacob would be blessed! Isaac made it clear that even though Jacob had acted deceitfully the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant belonged to Jacob. Esau wept bitterly and comforted himself with the thought of killing Jacob.
When Rebekah found out that Esau wanted to kill Jacob she told to flee to her brother Laban in Haran. When Esau was no longer angry Rebekah would send for Jacob. Then Rebekah told Isaac that her life wouldn’t be worth living if Jacob took a Canaanite wife. So Isaac commanded Jacob not to take a Canaanite wife but to a wife from among the daughters of Laban, his mother’s brother. Isaac blessed Jacob and said, “May God Almighty bless you and your descendants with blessing given to Abraham.” Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way to Laban, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau. Now this takes us to the story of Jacob’s dream at Bethel (Genesis 28:10–22). Watch or listen to the story and read the comments.
Jacob’s parents, Isaac and Rebekah, sent Jacob to Haran to get a wife from Laban, Rebekah’s brother. Yet, Jacob was also fleeing from his brother Esau, who wanted to kill Jacob for taking Esau’s blessing. The scene quickly darkens reminding us that this is a dark time in Jacob’s life. The setting of the sun also recalls the time when God made His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15). That put a stone under his head shows us that Jacob now has nowhere to lay his head. He rests his head on a stone, falls asleep and sees in a dream a stairway resting on the earth and reaching up to heaven. So Jacob is being exiled from the ‘promised land’ for stealing his brother’s birth-right and his father’s blessing.
Jacob sees this stairway intersecting heaven and earth and the angels of God are ascending and descending on the stairway. Above the stairway is the Lord who speaks to Jacob saying, “I am the Lord, the God of your fathers Abraham and Isaac.” Jacob is being ‘exiled’ but the Lord speaks to Jacob. The Lord chooses to reveal Himself to Jacob while Jacob is running for his life. This is the God of Jacob’s father’s Abraham and Isaac and He promises to give that the land promised to Abraham and Isaac would be given to Jacob and Jacob’s descendants. Jacob’s descendants will be as innumerable as the dust of the earth and they will spread out in every direction and all people throughout the earth will be blessed through them.
The Lord also promises that Jacob’s journey will be a successful one. Not only will Jacob find a wife and have children but the Lord will be with Jacob and watch over Jacob wherever Jacob goes. The God of Jacob’s fathers is identifying Himself with Jacob and promises Jacob innumerable descendants to bless the world. In addition to these massive promises the Lord adds the promise of God’s own personal presence so that the Lord will watch over him wherever Jacob goes. So the Lord of his fathers will be with Jacob, the deceiver, and will not only watch out for Jacob wherever Jacob goes but the Lord will bring Jacob back to this land. The land where Jacob is laying his head will be his and the Lord will fulfill His promise for Jacob.
Jacob awoke and thought of how he didn’t even realize that the Lord was in that place. The reality of the presence of the Lord in that place was awe inspiring for Jacob. Jacob must have felt like he had really messed up and so even as Jacob was fleeing Esau God shows up and reveals Himself to Jacob. Jacob was unaware of God’s presence and had no idea that God would show up and confirm that Jacob would inherit the Abrahamic blessing. He was fleeing because his brother Esau wanted to kill him but the God of Abraham and Isaac shows up to bless Jacob. The presence of was so real, so awesome that Jacob in holy ‘fear’ Jacob said, “This is an awesome place! This is the house of God! It is the gate of heaven!” So for Jacob that place would become for Jacob the house of God and very gate of heaven!
So early that very next morning when Jacob woke up he took the stone from under his head and he set it up as a pillar. For Jacob the stone would become a kind of monument or a reminder of the Lord’s presence. Jacob poured oil on the stone and he called the place Bethel (God’s house). Then Jacob vowed that if God would be with Jacob, watch over him, provide him food and clothing, and bring him safely to his father’s house then the Lord would be Jacob’s God and Jacob would give God a tenth of whatever he would receive from the Lord. So Jacob vows that if God will do what God had said then God will be Jacob’s God. Jacob adds the further condition of the provision of food and clothing and a safe return to his father’s house. So Jacob makes this conditional vow to that is dependent upon God fulfilling his promises to Jacob. Jacob has done nothing to deserve God’s favor and his conditional vow shows that Jacob has a long way to go but