Haran was some 500 miles from Beersheba, and this first event on the way to be mentioned by the sacred record occurred evidently about the third night after his departure.
Bethel was some fifty or sixty miles distant from Beersheba.
“He lighted upon a certain place …” This was not some “holy” location honored by the pagan populations of Canaan.
It had nothing whatever to do with cultic shrines, or anything of that nature. It was altogether a “chance location,” exactly at the place where the sun went down on him.
“And he dreamed, and, behold a ladder!” The word here is ladder, not stairway or staircase. It is most reprehensible that critical scholars pervert what is written here by changing ladder to stairway.
Seeing that what the word means is ladder, why do the critics want to change it?
First, why did the Holy Spirit use this word?
Surely the word for a terraced staircase was known in those days.
And, therefore, we must conclude that this word was chosen to indicate that it was not such a staircase.
Here is the reason why the change is advocated:
The Mesopotamian ziggurats were equipped with a flight of stairs leading to the summit.
Only a stairway can account for Jacob’s later description of it as a `gateway to heaven.’
So, there is no textual basis whatever for changing “ladder” to “staircase.”
The reason lies in the purpose of making this dream purely a human dream without God anywhere visible in it.
Note the prejudice here that a “steady stream of angels” (where did he read that) could not go up and down at the same time on an ordinary ladder!
Also, how does the critic know that angels could not ascend and descend at the same time on the device Jacob dreamed of here?
The critic did not tell us where he got all that information about how many angels could stand on the point of a needle!
As we have pointed out, the medieval disputants never did solve that problem.
Have the modern critics done so?
As a matter of faith, changes in the sacred text that are supported solely by the undependable opinions of men should be rejected.
Once they have made this dream a vision of the stairway of some pagan shrine, they attribute this dream to Jacob’s having seen such a ziggurat, like the tower of Babel, of which there is no proof whatever.
It is a similar denial to make this vision the result of the steppe-like terrain where Jacob rested.
The fact of our Lord Jesus Christ having referred to himself in words that unmistakably come from this vision here, removes all question as to the accuracy and inspiration of the vision. (See John 1:51).
Due to its importance, we shall return to this vision of the ladder a little later.
“One of the stones of that place …” Men cannot leave the Word of God alone. Josephus was sure that it was not a single stone, but a whole group of stones that Jacob gathered. That would have been some pillow!
THE MEANING OF JACOB’S LADDER
Jacob had engaged in multiple deceptions and falsehoods.
And, angrily, his brother Esau had vowed to kill him, so he was fleeing from his home and native land in order to escape.
He was the heir of great wealth, but this journey would appear to have been taken on foot with minimal provisions.
The mention of bread … and clothing” (Genesis 28:20) is equivalent to, “just enough to subsist on. He no doubt felt rejected, ashamed, and frightened.
But that night, God appeared to him in a dream. As the author of Hebrews said (Hebrews 1:1), God spoke to the fathers “in various ways.”
In this instance, it was by a dream.
God told him of his ultimate destiny as the head of the Chosen Nation. But what was the meaning of that fantastic ladder, reaching all the way to heaven (not to the summit of a Babylonian ziggurat)?
Many dreams are not even remembered the next morning, and in rare cases any longer than a few days, but this one has haunted the imaginations of men for millenniums of time.
The Son of God himself spoke of it!
It was not merely intended to bless Jacob, but all subsequent generations of mankind as well.
Among the great teachings that are inherent in it are the following:
The continual interest of God in his human creation is evident.
Earth is not isolated from God or from heaven.
There is a line of communication. Countless angels are busy as divine servants “doing service for them that shall be the heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14)
Jacob was away from home, in a strange land, and fleeing from the wrath of a brother, but one cannot flee beyond the watchful eye of the Lord.
No more could Jacob than Jonah, run away from God. Every man must discover (soon or late) that “Surely God is in this place (every place)” whether men know it or not.
The ladder is also a type of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The ladder was “the way” between earth and heaven; and Christ affirmed that he is indeed “The Way” (John 14:6); and, as Jacob saw the angels of God ascending and descending upon that ladder, Jesus affirmed to Nathaniel that he would “see angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:51).
Christ is the only avenue of communication between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5), just as this ladder in the dream was the only way to God’s presence.
To miss this significance of the ladder is to lose the most important thing in the chapter.