Genesis 28:10-22 “Jacob’s Ladder, Part 1”

Posted on August 28, 2011. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Bryan E. Walker,August 28, 2011

Introduction to the Class: Welcome toRedeemerChurch’s Discipleship Hour and the Genesis Class. We are called the Genesis Class because we have been studying Genesis since January of 2008- about 3 and ½ years, and we are a little bit over half way through with this magnificent book, being in chapter 28. You can surmise that this is a relatively detailed study; we are not in a hurry and I do not force the class to get through a predetermined outline on a tight schedule. We like lots of questions, we will chase worthy rabbits, and, once in a while, we will depart from Genesis to address significant issues that may arise. For example, last March when the earthquake and tsunami destroyed much ofJapan I presented a lesson on Theodicy, the Justification of God and the Problem of Evil:


My Goals: The unofficial name for the class is “Genesis: Finding Answers To Life’s Crucial Questions”, and this shows what I am trying to do with my studies in Moses’ book. I believe Genesis is God’s Word and is authoritative, inerrant, infallible and reveals to us the heart and mind of our Creator. We find the gospel throughout Genesis and Jesus is here. Genesis is historical and theological with much practical application for today and sound doctrine to build us up in the faith. I have somewhat of an apologetical approach in that I believe Genesis confronts the world religions of Moses’ day, and does the same for us today. Genesis is at the point of attack by the atheistic secularists of our day because of its strong teachings on human origins. Many within theLiberalChurch totally disregard much of Genesis and, sadly, many within Evangelical ranks are abandoning what Genesis says to us as well. It is an evangelistic book in that the gospel message of our fallenness and God’s sovereign grace permeates the book. In the end, I want us to know God more deeply as we study this profound and beautiful book. I want our lives to be transformed into the image of Christ as we seek to know, love, worship and follow Christ throughout this book.


My Method: As we begin to study a section of Genesis I will present a lesson on the literary structure of the book in order to see how Moses constructed his book, and, in fact, to see how God works in history. Sometimes I will divide up the class to do the basics of Bible study (teaching you in the process a method for how to study the Bible) such as counting the number of times key words or phrases are used in a passage, outlining the passage, etc. I will try to demonstrate how the passage we are studying relates to the book as a whole, placing it in its proper context. After Discovering what Moses actually placed in the passage, we will seek to Understand it, figuring out what it meant at the time the events actually occurred, what it meant to Moses as he presented the material to Israel, how it relates to other Old Testament passages and teachings, and finally, how to interpret it through the New Testament. Along the way we always seek to Apply what we see the passage teaching. This method has an acronym: DUA– Discover, Understand, Apply. And you will find that I will not shy away from the difficult passages or the problem texts. When there are interpretive difficulties I try not to just brush them off in a simplistic way.


The Class: I hope to make this class a bit more personable this year by including more time for us to pray together and, hopefully, having a couple of meals together as a class. I think it would be good for us to aim for at least two Sunday lunches together so that we can get to know each other better and discuss Genesis, theology, life.


Read Genesis 28:10-22

10 Jacob leftBeershebaand went towardHaran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 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.”

18 So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”


Introduction to Genesis: Although I have read to you from Gen. 28 the story of Jacob’s ladder, today’s lesson is going to be primarily a review of where we have been in Genesis and kind of an overview of the book. In this class we go in pretty deep in each section of Scripture which we study so occasionally it is a good idea to step back and look at the forest in order to get our bearings and keep everything in context. So this morning I am going to look at ch. 28 in light of its broader context, and its immediate context, then, next week we will begin discovering what the text actually says.


  1. I.                   Literary Analysis of Genesis 28:10-22
    1. A.      Broader Context/Review
      1. 1.        Genesis has a Prologue and Ten Books with the word toledoth, “These are the generations of…” (ESV) or “these are the records of the generations of…” (NASB) or “This is the account of…” (NIV), being the key word for marking out the ten books. Here is the outline of Genesis in two forms:

Primeval History with Four Big Events 1:1-11:26

  1. a.      Creation ch.1-2
  2. b.      The Fall and Spread of Sin ch.3-5
  3. c.       God’s Judgment Upon Sin and Grace to Noah ch.6-9
  4. d.      The Dispersing of the Nations ch.10-11:26

                                        Patriarchal History with Four Great Men 11:27-50:26

  1. e.      Abraham 11:27-20:18
  2. f.        Isaac 21-26
  3. g.      Jacob 27:1-37:1
  4. h.      Joseph 37:2-50:26

From this outline you can tell that we are in the next to the last section of Genesis, yet only just over half way through the book by volume! That already instructs us in what Moses was wanting to accomplish.


  1. 2.         The next way to outline the book uses the toledoths
  2. a.      Prologue, 1:1-2:3
  3. b.      The Generations of the Heavens and the Earth 2:3-4:26
  4. c.       The Generations of Adam 5:1-6:8
  5. d.      The Generations of Noah 6:9-9:29
  6. e.      The Generations of the Sons of Noah 10:1-11:9
  7. f.        The Generations of Shem 11:10-26
  8. g.      The Generations of Terah 11:27-25:11
  9. h.      The Generations of Ishmael 25:12-18
  10. i.        The Generations of Isaac 25:19-35:29
  11. j.        The Generations of Esau 36:1-37:1
  12. k.      The Generations of Jacob 37:2-50:26

Using this outline we are in the ninth part of the book and the eighth toledoth, The Generations of Isaac. But notice that the toledoth of Terah is really all about Abraham and the toledoth of Isaac is mainly about Jacob and the toledoth of Jacob is mainly about Joseph. Also notice the uneven lengths of the divisions that Moses has included in his work. Things like this drive us 21st century Americans nuts. We want nice, even chapters.

  1. 3.        Another way to divide Genesis is geographically. Chapters 1-11 are, broadly speaking, in Mesopotamia from Creation to about 2090 BC; chapters 12-36 take place in the Promised Land from 2090-1897 BC; and, chapters 37-50 are primarily in Egypt 1897-1804 BC (MacArthur, p.8).
  2. 4.        What is Moses’ Purpose? Moses is writing and teaching these things whileIsrael is wandering in the wilderness, preparing to enter the Promised Land. He is answering some basic questions for these liberated slaves while preparing them to do what God has called them to do. The basic questions are: Who are we? Where did we come from? Who is God? What does God require of us? Where are we going? What is our purpose? He is telling them that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of creation and that all other gods are false. All humanity has a common ancestor in Adam, and a common sinful nature. But God is a God of grace as well as judgment and has called Abraham and his descendents to be his special people, to enter into a covenant with Him, and become a blessing to all peoples on earth. The proper response is to believe God and follow Him into theland ofPromise as a worshiping people. Moses is showing his people that they have inherited the promised three-fold blessing of land, descendants, and blessing which God originally gave to Abraham. Along the way he also shows obstacles such as barrenness, famine, family fights, war, threats of polluting the line through foreigners taking the wives of the patriarchs.
  3. 5.        John MacArthur writes: “In this book of beginnings, God revealed Himself and a new way of viewing the world to the children ofIsrael, which contrasted, at times sharply, with that ofIsrael’s neighbors. The author made no attempt to defend the existence of God or to present a thorough explanation of His person and works. Rather,Israel’s God distinguished Himself clearly from the alleged gods of her neighbors. Theological foundations are revealed which include God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, man, sin, redemption, covenant, promise, Satan and angels, kingdom, revelation, Israel, judgment, and blessing,” (p.8).
  4. 6.        MacArthur continues: “Genesis 1-11 reveals the origins of the universe…and many of the firsts in human experience, such as marriage, family, the Fall, sin, redemption, judgment, and nations. Genesis 12-50 explained toIsrael how they came into existence as a family whose ancestry could be traced to Eber (hence the ‘Hebrews’; Gen. 10:24-25) and even more remotely to Shem, the son of Noah (hence the ‘Semites’; Gen. 10:21). God’s people came to understand not only their ancestry and family history, but also the origins of their institutions, customs, languages, and different cultures, especially basic human experiences such as sin and death.”
  5. 7.        Application: Moses was founding a new nation that did not exist before. He is taking a people who had been slaves for generations and forging them into a nation. How is he doing that? First he is giving them a written language by writing down their history which had been primarily oral. In doing this he is establishing Hebrew as their language. A nation must be defined by a language that is both spoken and written. As slaves they would have had to use Egyptian as their business language in dealing with their masters. In writing the five books of the Law, Moses does what Martin Luther would do in the Reformation by giving a German translation of the Scriptures to the German people, he creates a national language. This is basic for a country. You can apply that as you see fit to our country today.
  6. 8.        Second, Moses is giving the people a history. A shared or common history is essential in founding a nation. That is one reason why he gives so much attention to the second half of Genesis, the stories of the four great men, the Patriarchs. “You are the promised offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; You are the 12 tribes ofIsrael.”  Many of the events in the lives of the Patriarchs point forward to the trials and temptations thatIsrael would face. If a people do not know where they have come from, do not know their history, they will be rootless and tempted to wander aimlessly through life and miss their calling. It is essential for Americans to know their history. You can look at many of our problems today as a country and realize that we have made choices that went against what history teaches; therefore, we are suffering consequences. As a church, we need to know Church History which can be used of God to help keep us from errors.
  7. 9.        Third, Moses is giving the people geographical boundaries. While it would be left for Joshua to leadIsrael into the Promised Land and occupy it, the boundaries were set by God with Abraham in the Covenant. A nation must have strong, clear borders that are meaningful. A major theme in the story of the Patriarchs is the Promise of descendants and land. This is repeated time and again throughout the stories of the Patriarchs. Look at Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-7; 17:1-9; 22:16-18; 26:1-5; 28:3-4, 13-5.
  8. 10.    Fourth, Moses is giving the people a unified religion and worldview. Moses is teaching the people about God’s actions toward the Patriarchs in regards to God’s covenant and what God requires of them. There is very clearly strong doctrinal content throughout the Genesis and the rest of the Law along with the particulars about how to worship and how to relate to one another. The Jewish religion demanded exclusive worship of the one true God and ethical treatment of others (see Deut.4:1-8; 6:5; Lev.19:18, 33-34). In Egypt and all the other nations around Israel there were a multitude of gods and goddesses with gross immorality as part of the worship of these false gods. God, through Moses, was calling Israel to be set apart from the world, different, holy. A nation cannot exist apart from a unified set of core religious beliefs and morals. The Law is stated in the Ten Commandments in Ex. 20:1-17 and restated in Deut. 5:1-21 but summarized in Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18, 33f as Love God and Love your Neighbor as Yourself. Sounds very New Testament, doesn’t it?! (Matt.5:43-48; 7:12; Mark 12:28-32) But clearly Moses was not teaching a salvation by works because he shows that Abraham was justified by faith in Gen. 15:6 “And he believed the LORD and He counted it to him as righteousness.”
  9. 11.    Apply: I think that one of the huge problemsAmerica is facing, the root cause of many of our more noticeable problems, is a lack of a dominant (let alone unified) worldview/religion. I think thatAmerica was once a “Christian Nation” in the sense that the Bible was widely believed and the dominant religion was Christianity of the Protestant variety. Even for those who were not truly born again, their worldview was largely shaped by Christianity.  Founded by Protestants and Calvinists primarily, we have in the last 100 yrs. become so diverse that we are no longer a “melting pot” so much as an ad hoc collective. If there is no widespread agreement on our core values, beliefs, morals, history and purpose then you cannot stay a strong nation long. It says a lot about the state of our country that of the last three Presidents we have had a Southern Baptist who was liberal and immoral, a Methodist who, though devout, believed that the god of islam and the God of Christianity were the same god whom we just worshiped in different ways, and now a man who comes out of Black Liberation theology with a muslim background and celebrates islam more than Christianity despite his claims to being a Christian. We are so divided spiritually as a nation that we cannot agree on much of anything at all. All throughout Genesis it is made abundantly clear that Abraham and his descendants were to be separate, different from those who occupied the Land. We need that same theological clarity today!
  10. B.      The Context of This Toledoth, 25:19-35:29
    1. 1.        As with most of the histories which Moses relates to us in Genesis, there is a tightly woven structure known as Chiastic Structure which uses parallelism in the story telling to bring our focus on his main point. (See Waltke, p.352.)



A-Births and genealogy 25:19-24

  B-Digression: Rebekah in Foreign Palace, Foreigners 26:1-33

    C-Jacob steals Esau’s blessing 26:34-28:9

      D-Jacob receives the blessing but is in exile 28:10-32:32

        1-Encounter with God atBethel28:10-22

          2-Conflict with Laban inHaran29:1-30

            3-Birth of the 12 Tribes 29:31-30:24

          2’-Jacob prospers but flees Laban 30:25-31:55

        1’-Encounters with God 32:1-32

    C’-Reconciliation with Esau 33:1-17

  B’-Digression: Dinah in Foreign Palace, Foreigners 33:18-34:31

A’-Births and Deaths 35:1-29


  1. 2.        The focus of this toledoth then, is Jacob’s children from whom come the 12 Tribes of Israel, thus answering the questions: Who are you and where did you come from? The focus of our text in 28:10-22 is Jacob’s encounter with the LORD atBethel.Israel in Moses’ day was having an encounter with God atMt.Sinai.
  2. 3.        Still another pattern that is seen in this context (Waltke,p.385)is:

A-Jacob and Angels atBethel28:10-22

B-Israel establishes equality withAram29:1-31:55

A’-Jacob and Angels at Mahanaim  32:1-32

B’-Israelestablishes equality withEdom33:1-17


  1. 4.        The above outline shows how relevantIsrael’s history was for Moses andIsrael’s present day situation as they sought to form a new nation. They could face the other nations with confidence because of how the LORD protected and blessed the Patriarchs.


  1. C.      Literary Analysis of 28:10-22 Jacob’s Ladder
    1. 1.        Key Characters: Jacob, angels, the LORD
    2. 2.        Key Geography: from his home in Beersheba where his life was threatened, to his family’s ancestral home in Haran where he will be swindled. “a certain place…”, Beth-el (house of God), Luz (Canaanite city). Notice that he is sleeping under a rock, not in an inn in the city.
    3. 3.        Key Words: taking…stone vs.11> took stone vs.18, 22. Place in vss. 11 (3x), 16 and 17, 19. Top in vss.12 and 18. Heaven in vs.12 and 17. Earth vss.12, 14. God– 7x. LORD– 4x. Offspring– 3x. Angels of God– vs.12. This is one of two places this phrase is used in Genesis. See 32:1. Set up on the earth v.12> the LORD stood above v.13> set it up for a pillarvs.18> set up for a pillar vs.22.
    4. 4.        Transition: This episode, this vision, forms a transition point in the bigger story of Jacob’s life. Prior to this event the tension had been between Jacob and Esau; now, the tension will be between Jacob and Laban. In ch.32 the conflict with Esau arises again and there will be another night-time encounter with an Angel. In a typical Moses fashion, he gives us a word in the first line that points back to what has gone before, Beersheba, and then a word that points forward to what is coming, Haran. The story is framed by the use of a stone in v.11 and v.22.
    5. 5.        The outline:
    6. a.      Jacob Encounters God, vss.10-15
    7. b.      Jacob’s Reaction, vss.16-19
    8. c.       Jacob’s New –Found Faith, vss. 20-22

Conclusion: Next week we will begin examining what this event meant in Jacob’s life, what it meant to Moses andIsrael, and what it means to us today.


Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Authentic: Exhibiting Real Faith in the Real World (Gen. 25-50). Chariot Victor Publishing: Colorado Springs, CO. 1997 (pp.32-36).

 Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan:Grand Rapids, MI. 2001 (pp.385-398).

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Handbook. Thomas Nelson Publishers:Nashville,TN 2003.



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