What is the meaning of Jacob’s ladder?

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The story of Jacob’s Ladder is recorded in Genesis 28:10-22. After Jacob deceived his father Isaac and took the birth right blessing from him (Genesis 27:1-29), Esau his older brother plotted to kill him (v. 41). So, Rebekah, their mother, sent Jacob away to her brother Laban in Haran to escape his brother’s threat (v. 42-46).

Jacob’s Ladder

At the close of the second day Jacob reached the vicinity of the city of Luz (v. 19). And Jacob prayed to the Lord then slept. And “he dreamed, 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).

The ladder was a visible symbol of the real and uninterrupted fellowship between God in heaven and His people upon earth. The angels ascend to present men’s supplications before God, and descend with promises of divine help and protection. The ladder appeared to rest upon the earth, where Jacob lay, alone, poor, and abandoned by men.

God’s promise

And behold, the Lord said to Jacob: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.  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 spoken to you” (Genesis 28:13:15)

The Lord not only affirmed to Jacob all the promises made to his fathers—the possession of Canaan, a great 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 granted to him protection on his journey and a safe return home. Since the fulfillment of this promise to Jacob was in the future, the Lord added the assurance, “I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Genesis 28:15).

Jacob’s vow

So, Jacob said to himself, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Genesis 28: 16).  And he set a stone as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it to consecrate it as a memorial to the mercy that have been shown to him (v. 18).

And in great appreciation, Jacob wanted to physically prove his gratitude. So, vowed, “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. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You” (Genesis 28: 20-22).

Jacob promised to submit to the divine control and to pay God the reverence of a grateful and loving heart. He also vowed to faithfully pay tithes not to earn the favor of Heaven, but in humble grateful recognition of the forgiveness and favor of God. And from that time forward, Jacob was loyal to God.

The story of Jacob’s ladder shows that it is never too late to make a new start with God not as means of gaining His favor, but as a symbol of love to Him. Then, the blessings of God may descend upon the honest believer as they did on the patriarch Jacob.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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