What did the ladder in Jacob’s dream mean?

After Jacob deceived Isaac his father and stole Esau’s birth right, he fled for his life to escape his brother’s revenge (Genesis 27). In the wilderness, Jacob was alone and destitute. And the Lord comforted him by a special dream: “and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12). Jacob woke up and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (v. 17).

The ladder was a visible symbol of the living fellowship between God in heaven and His people on earth. The angels ascend to present our needs and prayers before the Creator, and descend with promises of help and protection.

The ladder appeared to rest upon the earth, where Jacob laid forsaken by men. Above, in heaven, stood the Lord proclaiming Himself to Jacob as the God of his fathers. The Lord not only affirmed to him all the promises made to his fathers—the possession of Canaan, numerous offspring, and blessing to all men (Genesis 12:2, 3; 13:14–17; 15:5, 7, 16; 17:2–6, 16; 17:8; 18:18; 22:17, 18; 26:3, 4, 24)—but promised to protect him on his journey and give him a safe return home.

Since the fulfillment of this promise to Jacob was still in the future, God assured him, “I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Genesis 27:15). Jacob realized his unworthy and sinful state. But despite his alarm, he knew the place to be “the house of God,” Beth–’Elohim, a house of peace and safety.

Jacob made a monument to commemorate the revelation he had received from God. He set a stone and poured oil upon it to consecrate it as a memorial to the mercy there revealed to him. Then, Jacob made a vow to the Lord, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. … I will surely give a tenth to You” (Genesis 28:20-22).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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