The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Genesis 28

Gen 28:1

"Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone" (Gen 35:3). Bethel was a turning point in the life of Jacob.

See Lesson, Jacob's life, a type of Israel.

DO NOT MARRY A CANAANITE WOMAN: As did Esau (Gen 26:34; 36:1-3). Cp v 6.

Gen 28:3

Isaac now realizes that his trust in Esau was wrong. "By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future" (Heb 11:20).

// Gen 13:16; 17:1-6; 22:17,18; 35:11.

Gen 28:4

// Gen 12:1-3,7; 15:5-7,14-17; 15:18-21; 17:6-8; 22:17,18; Psa 72:17; Rom 4:7,;8 Gal 3:8,14.

Gen 28:6

DO NOT MARRY A CANAANITE WOMAN: Considering all the trouble this would cause Ishmael and Esau (Gen 26:34,35; 36:1-3).

Gen 28:9

MAHALATH: Prob same as Basemath (Gen 26:34; 36:3).

See Lesson, Jews and Arabs are cousins.

Gen 28:11

Jacob had traveled about 50 miles, or 3 days, from home.

"I wonder if Jacob felt particularly 'spiritual' as he lay down to sleep at Bethel with his head on a rock. He was running for his life from his angry brother. He had deceived Esau twice by taking his birthright and blessing. If I were Jacob, I would not have felt particularly close to God. I would have felt alone, scared and maybe even rejected. But it was at this low point in his life that Jacob found himself in the presence of God. As he slept the LORD appeared to Jacob to confirm the promises he had given to Abraham and Isaac and to reassure Jacob that God would be with him. 'I am with you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.'

"There may be times in our lives when things are going well that we think we are close to God, but really it is when we are alone, scared, running or rejected that we are often closest to God, and our God is closest to us. It is when God strips us of all we put our faith in, and brings us to our knees before him, that we really learn that he will never leave us and that he is with us all the way.

"So let us put our confidence in the LORD and go on in the strength of his promise" (RP).

Gen 28:12

See Lesson, Jacob's ladder. Angels have no need for a ladder (or stairway); this vision was for the man who lay at the foot -- demonstrating to him that his God was everywhere present by His Spirit!

Gen 28:13

The Land of Canaan, promised to Abraham (Gen 13:14-17), to Isaac (Gen 26:1-4). Repeated in Gen 35:11,12.

Gen 28:14

TO THE WEST... EAST... NORTH... SOUTH: a repetition of Gen 13:13-16. In Luk 13:25-30 Jesus himself speaks of those who come from all 4 directions sitting down in the kingdom of God and here the context is clear that he is referring to godly Gentiles.

ALL PEOPLES ON EARTH WILL BE BLESSED THROUGH YOU AND YOUR OFFSPRING: // Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; Psa 72:17; Act 3:25; Gal 3:8,16.

Gen 28:15

I AM... WILL... I WILL... I WILL... UNTIL I HAVE DONE: The repeated 'I AMs' and 'I WILLs' recall the Name of Yahweh and are expressive of His Purposes. They convey the ideas of the Divine presence, the Divine protection, the Divine preservation, and the Divine promises.

"I am with you" is perhaps the most fundamental of these promises: cp Gen 15:1; 17:2,4,7,8; 26:3,24. Also, cp Jer 31:33; Heb 8:10; 2Co 6:16; Rev 21:3.

Gen 28:16

SURELY THE LORD IS IN THIS PLACE, AND I WAS NOT AWARE OF IT: "If God is present at every point in space, if we cannot go where He is not, cannot even conceive of a place where He is not, why then has not that Presence become the one universally celebrated fact of the world? The patriarch Jacob... gave the answer to that question. He saw a vision of God and cried out in wonder, 'Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.' Jacob had never been for one small division of a moment outside the circle of that all-pervading Presence. But he knew it not. That was his trouble, and it is ours. Men do not know that God is here. What a difference it would make if they knew" (AWT).

Gen 28:18

"But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel" (Gen 49:24). Jacob finds an altar broken down, but nevertheless associated with God's covenants of promise to his fathers. The "stone" is raised up and anointed after the sleep and awakening of God's appointed servant (WJ 38).

EARLY THE NEXT MORNING: Early prayers and devotions: Abraham got up very early to stand before the Lord (Gen 19:27). Jacob woke up with the first light of the morning to worship God after having seen a vision of angels in the night (Gen 28:18). Moses went early to meet the Lord at Sinai (Exo 34:4). Joshua got an early start when he prepared to capture Jericho (Jos 6:12). Gideon made his way at dawn to examine the fleece he had placed on the ground to discern Yahweh's will (Jdg 6:38). Job left his bed at an early hour to offer sacrifices to the Lord in behalf of his children (Job 1:5).

PILLAR: A legal barrier, or separation, and thus demarcation of property (Gen 31:13,45-52).

Gen 28:19

Jacob's 3 memorials: (1) "House of God": God's presence: Gen 28:17-19; (2) "Host of God": God's power: Gen 32:2; (3) "Face of God": God's favor: Gen 32:30.

THE CITY USED TO BE CALLED LUZ: Actually, after Jacob's day, when the Canaanites built a city on the site of his vision.

Gen 28:20

Vv 20,21: Jacob is not making a deal with God. All initiative is with God, who promises. "Since God has blessed me, then I vow to..."

Gen 28:21

"The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore" (Psa 121:8).

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