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When Jacob had obtained the patriarchal blessing from the lips of his father, the blessing which comprehended the hope of the life that now is and that of the world to come; his personal safety became endangered by the resentment of his brother Esau. His mother therefore, (under a pretext that was real and solid, though she was influenced by a more powerful motive, an apprehension for the life of her favourite son which she seems to have concealed from Isaac) induced the patriarch to send him to Padan Aram to seek a suitable wife in her own family, who continued in the true faith from which the Canaanites, among whom Isaac sojourned, had apostatized. Isaac immediately concurred in a proposal which piety dictated, and Jacob was dismissed with additional benedictions from his father, but without any other attendants, to undertake a long journey. It is probable that the necessity of concealing his departure from Esau, or a fear of exciting in his mind any envious feeling, prevented Jacob's taking any companion with him.
But the Christian adage, that “a believer is never less alone than when alone,” was exemplified in the experience of Jacob. At the end of the first day after leaving his father's residence, he lay down to sleep on a spot, which afterwards became famous in sacred story from what occurred during that highly favoured night. He
needed consolation, and the God of his fathers vouchsafed it abundantly to him.
The account of this Divine Revelation is as follows. Gen. xxviii. 10, &c. “And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went towards Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set : and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set upon the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angles of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac : the land whereon thou liest to thee will I give it, and to thy seed. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth : and thou shalt spread abroad to the west and the east, and to the north and to the south: and in thee, and in thy seed, shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land ; for I will not leave thee, till I have done that which I have spoken to thee.-And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.—And he was afraid, and said-How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil on the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel : but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. And Jacob vowed 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 raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then shall the LORD be
God. And this stone which I have set for a pillar shall be God's house ; and of all that thou shalt give me, I will give the tenth unto thee.”
Such is the remarkable history of the first immediate revelation of Himself with which God favoured his servant Jacob. I shall trouble
you with a few remarks on the circumstances which preceded his Divine dream, on his dream itself, and on his feelings and conduct after it.
The place where Jacob rested had before been noticed by Moses, more than once, as the place where Abraham had built an altar unto the LORD. Whether Jacob was acquainted with the circum stances of his grandfather's visits to this spot, and, under feelings of reverence and faith, employed the stones of which Abraharn’s altar had been constructed, for his pillow or bolster, and was thereby in some measure prepared
by sweet and solemn meditation for what followed, may be made a question. Certainly, the circumstances of privation, solitude and peril, together with the uncertainty of his future prospects, in which he was placed, called for the exercise of faith and prayer, and would naturally lead the thoughts of a pious mind to the covenant of personal and universal mercy, revealed to his fathers by Him who had vouchsafed to assume the name of “the ALEIM of Abraham and of Isaac.” It seems not improbable that Isaac or Rebecca, in giving him directions for his journey, as they naturally would do, had mentioned Abraham's visit to Bethel, as so called by the historian in anticipation of the name which the spot was to receive from Jacob, and had pointed it out to the notice of the traveller on his way to Padan Aram : but as there is no authority in the record for this supposition, it is mentioned only as a conjecture.
Mr. Parkhurst contends that the stone spoken of, was not used by Jacob for a pillow or bolster; but that it was placed at, or near to, his pillow. He thinks that the patriarch, before his dream, considered this stone as having a sacred character in consequence of Abraham's previous visit to this place, and therefore placed it near his head when he lay down to sleep. But I can discern no sufficient evidence for this supposition.*
* Heb. Lexicon on the word w8n. It is admitted that in the texts which Mr. P. quotes in confirmation of his remark (viz.
certain that it afterwards had such a character assigned to it, as we shall presently be led to observe.
The dream with which Jacob was favoured was unquestionably enigmatical. This might safely have been assumed, had ulterior Scriptures afforded no comment on it. It was intended for the consolation of the wanderer, and adapted to his present distressing situation. But it had, as we shall find, a scope and aim beyond the temporal consolation of the patriarch. intended to afford spiritual and eternal comfort to all those, who, like him, are pilgrims and strangers upon earth." We shall therefore inquire into its immediate and more remote object, after having offered a conjecture on the image which was presented to the patriarch's imagination.
The word which is rendered a ladder* occurs only in this place. It is not found as a verb in
1 Sam. xxvi. 7, 11, 16. xix. 13, 16. 1 Kings xix.
preposition “a must be understood as usual before a noun,” and that the preposition in these texts must mean at or near to. But in this history of Jacob, I see no reason for supplying any preposition, as the word pillow or bolster may be considered as being in apposition with the stone which Jacob used. placed one of the stones, his (or, as his) pillow. Or, why may not , prefixed to the word way, be itself a preposition, and be rendered for according to Mr. Parkhurst's own interpretation of that prefix. See Lex. in .
* obo.-LXX. Kamak Vulg. Scala.
“ He put or