Genesis – Week 10: Jacob’s ladder

Jacob’s ladder: Chapter 28:10-22

Literary context

Tell the story from the death of Sarah and Abraham’s purchase of land near Mamre (chapter 23) to the beginning of chapter 28 in your own words. Be very brief. You only want to highlight the most important events. Give a little more detail in respect of the focus story – Jacob’s ladder – and then provide a brief outline of what happened directly after chapter 28. The idea with this is to get a good idea of where this story fits into the larger narrative.

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Historical context

A significant part of this narrative is where it actually played out. In v 19 we read that Jacob named the place where he had the dream “Bethel”, which means “House of God.” Bethel is an important place in the Old Testament. Refer to a map in a study Bible or other resource in order to get an idea of where it is situated

While there are many references to Bethel in the rest of the Bible, probably one of the most significant (given the meaning of its name) is 1 Kings 12:25ff. This passage describes the new king of Israel, Jeroboam, making two idolatrous calves for worship by his people. The one was situated in the north at Dan and the other in the south at Bethel. One gets the impression that Bethel later became a defiled place and a centre of idol worship. Refer 2 Kings 23:4, Jeremiah 48:13, Hosea 4:15 and 5:8-9, Amos 3:14, 4:4, and 7:13. Hosea refers to Beth-el, as Beth-aven – House of wickedness as opposed to House of God. In Amos, the northern tribes of Israel refer to Bethel as the “national place of worship.”

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Analysing narrative

This narrative is clearly a report. It is definitely not a speech, and lacks the rich character and plot development of a drama. A report is usually compared to other reports of a similar nature. Our historical context has already provided an idea of where to start regarding the actual place. Are there any preliminary conclusions that can be drawn from a comparison between Jacob’s experience and later events at the location? Refer especially to Genesis 35:1-15 in addition to the references cited above.

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This report is referred to, and in many ways interpreted, in the New Testament. Read John 1:43-51. This is the calling of Nathanael as a disciple. What is the first striking contrast between the characters of Jacob and Nathanael? (see v 47)

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Jesus then makes another contrast. This is stated explicitly in in v 51. Write down the contrast in your own words.

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Reflection

A combination between what we have learned from the historical context and a comparison to Jesus’ interpretation (and assertion in John 1) should give us a very clear idea of the main lesson we can take from this passage. First we need to have a subject, and then need to be clear regarding what the Bible teaches about the subject.

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Application

Your applications are to relate to the main theme. Remember that your applications are not only limited to “things to do”, but also principles, what to believe, and promises made by God.

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