Genesis 28

1So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman!
Heb “you must not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.”
2Leave immediately
Heb “Arise! Go!” The first of the two imperatives is adverbial and stresses the immediacy of the departure.
for Paddan Aram! Go to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and find yourself a wife there, among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother.
3May the sovereign God
Heb “El Shaddai.” See the extended note on the phrase “sovereign God” in Gen 17:1.
bless you! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants!
Heb “and make you fruitful and multiply you.” See Gen 17:6, 20 for similar terminology.
Then you will become
The perfect verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive here indicates consequence. The collocation הָיָה + preposition לְ (hayah + le) means “become.”
a large nation.
Heb “an assembly of peoples.”
4May he give you and your descendants the blessing he gave to Abraham
Heb “and may he give to you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your offspring with you.” The name “Abraham” is an objective genitive here; this refers to the blessing that God gave to Abraham.
so that you may possess the land
The words “the land” have been supplied in the translation for clarity.
God gave to Abraham, the land where you have been living as a temporary resident.”
Heb “the land of your sojournings,” that is, the land where Jacob had been living as a resident alien, as his future descendants would after him.
5So Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean and brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.

6 Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him off to Paddan Aram to find a wife there.
Heb “to take for himself from there a wife.”
As he blessed him,
The infinitive construct with the preposition and the suffix form a temporal clause.
Isaac commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman.”
Heb “you must not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.”
7Jacob obeyed his father and mother and left for Paddan Aram. 8Then Esau realized
Heb “saw.”
that the Canaanite women
Heb “the daughters of Canaan.”
were displeasing to
Heb “evil in the eyes of.”
his father Isaac.
9So Esau went to Ishmael and married
Heb “took for a wife.”
Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael, along with the wives he already had.

Jacob’s Dream at Bethel

10 Meanwhile Jacob left Beer Sheba and set out for Haran. 11He reached a certain place
Heb “the place.” The article may indicate simply that the place is definite in the mind of the narrator. However, as the story unfolds the place is transformed into a holy place. See A. P. Ross, “Jacob’s Vision: The Founding of Bethel,” BSac 142 (1985): 224-37.
where he decided to camp because the sun had gone down.
Heb “and he spent the night there because the sun had gone down.”
He took one of the stones
Heb “he took from the stones of the place,” which here means Jacob took one of the stones (see v. 18).
and placed it near his head.
Heb “and he put [it at] the place of his head.” The text does not actually say the stone was placed under his head to serve as a pillow, although most interpreters and translators assume this. It is possible the stone served some other purpose. Jacob does not seem to have been a committed monotheist yet (see v. 20–21) so he may have believed it contained some spiritual power. Note that later in the story he anticipates the stone becoming the residence of God (see v. 22). Many cultures throughout the world view certain types of stones as magical and/or sacred. See J. G. Fraser, Folklore in the Old Testament, 231–37.
Then he fell asleep
Heb “lay down.”
in that place
12and had a dream.
Heb “and dreamed.”
He saw
Heb “and look.” The scene which Jacob witnessed is described in three clauses introduced with הִנֵּה (hinneh). In this way the narrator invites the reader to witness the scene through Jacob’s eyes. J. P. Fokkelman points out that the particle goes with a lifted arm and an open mouth: “There, a ladder! Oh, angels! and look, the Lord himself” (Narrative Art in Genesis [SSN], 51–52).
a stairway
The Hebrew noun סֻלָּם (sullam, “ladder, stairway”) occurs only here in the OT, but there appears to be an Akkadian cognate simmiltu (with metathesis of the second and third consonants and a feminine ending) which has a specialized meaning of “stairway, ramp.” See H. R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena (SBLDS), 34. For further discussion see C. Houtman, “What Did Jacob See in His Dream at Bethel? Some Remarks on Genesis 28:10–22, ” VT 27 (1977): 337-52; J. G. Griffiths, “The Celestial Ladder and the Gate of Heaven,” ExpTim 76 (1964/65): 229-30; and A. R. Millard, “The Celestial Ladder and the Gate of Heaven,” ExpTim 78 (1966/67): 86-87.
erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens. The angels of God were going up and coming down it
13and the Lord stood at its top. He said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father Isaac.
Heb “the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.” The Hebrew word for “father” can typically be used in a broader sense than the English word, in this case referring to Abraham (who was Jacob’s grandfather). For stylistic reasons and for clarity, the words “your father” are supplied with “Isaac” in the translation.
I will give you and your descendants the ground
The Hebrew term אֶרֶץ (’erets) can mean “[the] earth,” “land,” “region,” “piece of ground,” or “ground” depending on the context. Here the term specifically refers to the plot of ground on which Jacob was lying, but at the same time this stands by metonymy for the entire land of Canaan.
you are lying on.
14Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth,
This is the same Hebrew word translated “ground” in the preceding verse.
and you will spread out
The verb is singular in the Hebrew; Jacob is addressed as the representative of his descendants.
to the west, east, north, and south. All the families of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another
Theoretically the Niphal stem can be translated either as passive or reflexive/reciprocal. (The Niphal of “bless” is only used in formulations of the Abrahamic covenant. See Gen 12:2; 18:18; 28:14.) Traditionally the verb is taken as passive here, as if Jacob were going to be a channel or source of blessing. But in other formulations of the Abrahamic covenant (see Gen 22:18; 26:4) the Hitpael replaces this Niphal form, suggesting a translation “will bless (i.e., pronounce blessings upon) themselves/one another.” The Hitpael of “bless” is used with a reflexive/reciprocal sense in Deut 29:18; Ps 72:17; Isa 65:16; Jer 4:2. Gen 28:14 predicts that Jacob will be held up as a paradigm of divine blessing and that people will use his name in their blessing formulae (see Gen 12:2 and 18:18 as well, where Abram/Abraham receives this promise). For examples of blessing formulae utilizing an individual as an example of blessing see Gen 48:20 and Ruth 4:11.
using your name and that of your descendants.
Heb “and they will pronounce blessings by you, all the families of the earth, and by your offspring.”
15I am with you!
Heb “Look, I [am] with you.” The clause is a nominal clause; the verb to be supplied could be present (as in the translation) or future, “Look, I [will be] with you” (cf. NEB).
I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you!”

16 Then Jacob woke up
Heb “woke up from his sleep.” This has been simplified in the translation for stylistic reasons.
and thought,
Heb “said.”
“Surely the Lord is in this place, but I did not realize it!”
17He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is nothing else than the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!”

18 Early
Heb “and he got up early…and he took.”
in the morning Jacob
Heb “he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
took the stone he had placed near his head
See the note on this phrase in v. 11.
and set it up as a sacred stone.
Heb “standing stone.”
Sacred stone. Such a stone could be used as a boundary marker, a burial stone, or as a shrine. Here the stone is intended to be a reminder of the stairway that was “erected” and on which the Lord “stood.” (In Hebrew the word translated “sacred stone” is derived from the verb translated “erected” in v. 12 and “stood” in v. 13. Since the top of the stairway reached the heavens where the Lord stood, Jacob poured oil on the top of the stone. See C. F. Graesser, “Standing Stones in Ancient Palestine,” BA 35 (1972): 34-63; and E. Stockton, “Sacred Pillars in the Bible,” ABR 20 (1972): 16-32.
Then he poured oil on top of it.
19He called that place Bethel,
The name Bethel means “house of God” in Hebrew (see v. 17).
For location see Map4-G4; Map5-C1; Map6-E3; Map7-D1; Map8-G3.
although the former name of the town was Luz.
20Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God is with me and protects me on this journey I am taking and gives me food
Heb “bread,” although the term can be used for food in general.
to eat and clothing to wear,
21and I return safely to my father’s home,
Heb “and I return in peace to the house of my father.”
then the Lord will become my God.
22Then this stone
The disjunctive clause structure (conjunction + noun/subject) is used to highlight the statement.
that I have set up as a sacred stone will be the house of God, and I will surely
The infinitive absolute is used before the finite verb for emphasis.
give you back a tenth of everything you give me.”
Heb “and all which you give to me I will surely give a tenth of it to you.” The disjunctive clause structure (conjunction + noun/object) highlights this statement as well.

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