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A City Of God
The Hebrew word pronounced shaw-ar means gate or city. It is variously translated as such, sometimes even within the same verse e.g.
"23:10 And Ephron dwelt among the children of Heth: and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience of the children of Heth, even of all that went in at the gate [shaw-ar] of his city [again, shaw-ar]" (Genesis 23:10 KJV).
Jacob spoke the same Hebrew word, shaw-ar, when he used the (translated into English) term "gate of heaven," meaning a city, which is the reason that he renamed the city (formerly known as Luz) as Bethel, which means House of The Lord.
"This is none other but the house of God and this is the gate of heaven"
Jacob was on route north to his uncle Laban (see Jacob and Laban). When he stopped to camp for the night, he experienced his famous "ladder" (sometimes rendered "stairway") to heaven dream.
"28:10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. 28:11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. 28:12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it." (Genesis 28:10-12 KJV)
It was more than just a vision; it was an assurance that The Lord was with Jacob, not merely for his sake, but for a far greater purpose in time, including a family line that led directly to Jesus Christ through Jacob's (yet unborn) son Judah.
"28:13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 28:14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 28:15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." (Genesis 28:13-15 KJV)
In the morning, Jacob gave that place, on this earth (see also Earthly Cities and Spiritual Cities), the new name - Bethel, which means, according to the literal meaning of the Hebrew word that he spoke, gate, meaning a city, of God.
"28:16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. 28:17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
Fact Finder: Where are the "gates of hell"?