The Ladder of Jacob: Ancient Interpretations of the Biblical Story of Jacob and His Children

By James L. Kugel | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
THE LADDER OF JACOB

Jacob left Beer Sheba and went off toward Haran. He happened on a certain place and decided to spend the night there, since the sun had set. He took some of the stones from the place and put them down at his head; then he lay down in the place to sleep. He had a dream; a ladder was stuck into the ground and its top reached up to heaven, and the angels of God were going up and down on it. And the Lord was standing over him and He said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying I am giving to you and your descendants. And your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, so that you will spread out westward and eastward, to the north and to the south; by you and your descendants will all the families of this land be blessed. And I will be with you and watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this spot; I will not leave you until I have done what I have just said.” Jacob woke up from his sleep and said, “The Lord is indeed present in this place, though I did not know it!” And he took fright and said, “How fearsome is this place! This is the very house of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.” Early that morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar, and he poured oil on its top. And he called the place by the name Bethel, although previously the city was called Luz. Then Jacob made a vow: “If God is with me and watches over me on the journey that I am making, and gives me food to eat and clothes to wear, so that I return safely to my father's house— then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up

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