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Jacob's Vow At Bethel

It was a time of family turmoil and uncertainty. To save his life from his own brother's rage, Jacob was fleeing north to take refuge with his uncle Laban:

"27:41 And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him [see Why Did Esau Lose The Blessing?]: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob [see Cain and Esau].

27:42 And these words of Esau her elder son were told to Rebekah: and she sent and called Jacob her younger son [see Blessing The Favorites], and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. 27:43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother to Haran; 27:44 And tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away; 27:45 Until thy brother's anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done to him: then I will send, and fetch thee from thence: why should I be deprived also of you both in one day?" (Genesis 27:41-45 KJV)

"This stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee"

Jacob made rapid progress on his journey. The thought of not being caught and killed in the open country, away from his parents' protection (but as Jacob was soon to learn, never away from the LORD's protection) by his skillful hunter brother Esau likely gave "quiet" Jacob more than a little extra energy to run (i.e. "Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents" Genesis 25:27 KJV).

Bethel Jacob arrived at Luz (which Jacob would soon rename as Bethel) and stopped for the night (perhaps a cold, dark night because he may have realized that a campfire would provide a deadly homing beacon for Esau; if Esau had been coming after him, he would likely have taken to the highest ground possible and scanned in all directions for a campfire - and then attacked his sleeping brother out of the darkness). But Esau was not pursuing - nor would it have mattered if he was. That night, Jacob had his famous "ladder to heaven" (also known as the "stairway to heaven") dream. The LORD assured Jacob that not only would he safely go away, and return, but that the land would belong to him and his descendants.

"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. 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 28:10-15 KJV)

When Jacob awoke, he knew that it was not just an ordinary dream (see the Fact Finder question below); the LORD really did speak to him. "And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first." In Hebrew, Beth means house; El is a Name 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 [see Heavens Below, Heavens Above].

28:18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. 28:19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first." (Genesis 28:16-19 KJV)

Jacob then made a vow to the LORD to do two things.

"28:20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 28:21 So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: 28:22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." (Genesis 28:20-22 KJV)

Fact Finder: How were visions and dreams sometimes used to deliver Prophecy? How will they be used in the future?
See Visions and Dreams

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