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Genesis Chapter Twenty-Eight


I. Content of the Chapter


Jacob Went Away From Home

A.  Isaac sent Jacob to Padan Aram (v.1-5);

B.  Esau married the daughter of Ishmael to please his father (v.6-9);

C.  Jacob slept in the open air and dreamed of the ladder and promise of God (v.10-15);

D.  Jacob called the place “Bethel” and made a vow to God after he awoke from his sleep (v.16-22);


II. Verse by Verse Commentary


Gen. 28:1Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.

YLT: “And Isaac calleth unto Jacob, and blesseth him, and commandeth him, and saith to him, `Thou dost not take a wife of the daughters of Caanan;”

The Background: it was the social custom at that time that the father had the right to decide whom the sons would marry.

Literal Meaning: “blessed him”, Isaac now had clearly known that the will of God was in Jacob, so he blessed him this time positively.

  “Charged him”, it was a commandment.

  You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan”, this was because they worshiped idols.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Here Jacob obtained his father’s blessing without deceit. How vain human ways and instrumentalities are, for they only bring us discipline of God.

  2) Believers shall not be associated with the world, for our God is a God of jealousy.


Gen. 28:2Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.

YLT: “rise, go to Padan-Aram, to the house of Bethuel, thy mother's father, and take for thyself from thence a wife, of the daughters of Laban, thy mother's brother;”

Meaning of Words: Padan Aram”: the plain of Aram, the land of Aram;

Literal Meaning: “arise, go to…”, here the tone of Isaac was not like that of Rebekah ---- “arise, flee to” (see 27:43). Therefore, at this time, Isaac did not Esau would murder Jacob. Isaac sent Jacob away for the apparent sake of his marriage, but actually it was because Rebekah was afraid that Jacob would be murdered by Esau (see 27:41-46).

  Your mother’s fatheryour mother’s brother”, it showed the close relation between Jacob and his mother.


Gen. 28:3“May God Almighty bless you, And make you fruitful and multiply you, That you may be an assembly of peoples;

YLT: “and God Almighty doth bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and thou hast become an assembly of peoples;”

Literal Meaning: when God blessed Abraham, the name of “Almighty God” had ever been used (see 17:1). Isaac blessed Jacob with this name for the following blessing was related with the blessing in chapter seventeen.

  Be an assembly of peoples”, this was an additional blessing. “Assembly of peoples”, it refers to a large multitude and interrelated relations. Probably, this was the first time in the Old Testament of mentioning the concept of “the church” or “the assembly”.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) It is never a problem to God of “being fruitful and multiplication” ---- the more, the better ---- Let Christians endeavor to preach the gospel and bring more people to believe the Lord.

  2) God is a God of “Almighty God” ---- He is mighty enough to deal with all our needs.


Gen. 28:4And give you the blessing of Abraham, To you and your descendants with you, That you may inherit the land In which you are a stranger, Which God gave to Abraham.”

YLT: “and He doth give to thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee and to thy seed with thee, to cause thee to possess the land of thy sojournings, which God gave to Abraham.'”

Literal Meaning: Isaac here was sure that Jacob was the right heir of the promised covenant of Abraham given by God.


Gen. 28:5So Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Padan Aram, to Laban the son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau.

YLT: “And Isaac sendeth away Jacob, and he goeth to Padan-Aram, unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramaean, brother of Rebekah, mother of Jacob and Esau.”

Literal Meaning: Jacob and Esau”, note Jacob was mentioned before Esau, showing that Jacob was regarded as the “eldest son”.

Enlightenment in the Word: on one hand, Jacob fled. And on the other hand, he was sent by his father. Therefore, all the environments that we meet are allowed by God.


Gen. 28:6Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Padan Aram to take himself a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan,”

YLT: “And Esau seeth that Isaac hath blessed Jacob, and hath sent him to Padan-Aram to take to himself from thence a wife -- in his blessing him that he layeth a charge upon him, saying, Thou dost not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan --”


Gen. 28:7and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and had gone to Padan Aram.

YLT: “that Jacob hearkeneth unto his father and unto his mother, and goeth to Padan-Aram --”

Literal Meaning: verse six and seven mentions three facts that Esau saw: 1) his father blessed and sent Jacob; 2) his father charged Jacob not to take a wife from the land of Canaan; 3) Jacob obeyed the word of his parents.


Gen. 28:8Also Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan did not please his father Isaac.

YLT: “and Esau seeth that the daughters of Canaan are evil in the eyes of Isaac his father,”


Gen. 28:9So Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.

YLT: “and Esau goeth unto Ishmael, and taketh Mahalath, daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, sister of Nebajoth, unto his wives, to himself, for a wife.”

Meaning of Words: Mahalath”: harp, gentle;

Literal Meaning: since Esau had known that his father wanted Jacob to marry the daughter of his mother’s brother. Therefore, he went to marry the daughter of his father’s brother to please Isaac. According to the order of birth, Ishmael and Esau were both elder sons, so this marriage was a union of two elder sons. However, it could not entitle him to get the birthright nor make him an heir of the promised covenant of Abraham.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Esau took the daughter of Ishmael to be his wife for he saw the obedience of Jacob to his parents. Our obedience often becomes a good example for others to imitate.

  2) He who is religiously zealous often imitates the works of others, thinking that he will thus please God, but he does not know he has been against the will of God.


Gen. 28:10Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran.

YLT: “And Jacob goeth out from Beer-Sheba, and goeth toward Haran,”

Meaning of Words: Haran”: hilly, he who dwells on the mountain, their burning;

Literal Meaning: went toward Haran”, Haran means Padan Aram (see 27:43; 28:2). It was about five or six miles from Beersheba to Haran, which was a long journey in the ancient time. And it is rather tough and dangerous to such a lonely wanderer.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Jacob was forced to part from his parents and left for Haran (Padan Aram) alone. He deceived the blessing of his father by carnal means, but finally he got the discipline of God.

  2) Though our way before us is full of “high hills” (the meaning of the word “Haran”) and difficulties, we shall still run with endurance the race that is set before us (Heb. 12:1).

  3) Let believers consider and look unto Jesus in the face of difficulties, lest we become weary and discouraged in our souls (Heb. 12:2-3).


Gen. 28:11So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep.

YLT: “and he toucheth at a place, and lodgeth there, for the sun hath gone in, and he taketh of the stones of the place, and maketh his pillows, and lieth down in that place.”

Literal Meaning: Jacob left his warm house and wandered far afield and slept in the open air and rested his head on a stone. The miserable and lonely condition could be easily imagined.

  “That place”, it was mentioned three times in the original Hebrew with the definite article (the) ahead, showing that that was a special place. 

Spiritual Meaning: the sun had set”, it symbolized the darkness around.


Gen. 28:12Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

YLT: “And he dreameth, and lo, a ladder set up on the earth, and its head is touching the heavens; and lo, messengers of God are going up and coming down by it;”

Literal Meaning: “dreamed a ladder”, “ladder”: a ladder with a set of stairs;

  “Was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven”, it indicated that the ladder become a bridge connecting both the heaven and the earth.

  And there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it”, it pointed that the angels are responsible for delivering messages between the heaven and the earth to keep the fellowship smoothly.

Spiritual Meaning: the “ladder” connecting the heaven and the earth typifies Christ (John 1:51), who is the only way to the heaven (John 14:6) as well as the only Mediator between God and men (1Tim. 2:5).

  There the angels of God were ascending and descending on it”, it symbolizes that the angels are ministering spirits sent forth by God to minister for believers (Heb. 1:14).

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) The Lord Jesus can on one hand “stand on the earth” ---- who meets the criterion of a man and is a model of man. On the other hand, He “reaches to heaven” ---- who satisfies the criterion of God and is on behalf of God. Only the Lord Jesus is the perfect God and the perfect man.

  2) God can draw near to men through the Mediator Jesus Christ only. And man is able to come to God the Father through Jesus Christ only.

  3) Jacob found no way in the wilderness, but God did not shut up man’s way. The worldly fellowship may be blocked, but the heavenly fellowship is always smooth.

  4) It is “going up” first and then “coming down”. How can a man appropriate God’s blessings without prayer to Him? We shall let our request ascend to the heaven first, and then the help from above will descend to us.


Gen. 28:13And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.

YLT: “and lo, Jehovah is standing upon it, and He saith, `I Jehovah, God of Abraham thy father, and God of Isaac; the land on which thou art lying, to thee I give it, and to thy seed;”

Literal Meaning: the land on which you lie”, it refers to the land of Canaan;

Enlightenment in the Word: Jehovah spoke on the top of the “ladder” ---- in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son (Heb. 1:2) ---- He speaks to us in Christ.


Gen. 28:14Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

YLT: “and thy seed hath been as the dust of the land, and thou hast broken forth westward, and eastward, and northward, and southward, and all families of the ground have been blessed in thee and in thy seed.”

Literal Meaning: God particularly mentioned the descendants of Jacob here, indicating that he would take his wife in Haran and become fruitful.

You shall spread abroad to the west and the east”, you shall surmount all the barriers around (see Is. 54:3).

God’s word from verse thirteen to fifteen had confirmed Isaac’s blessing to Jacob in verse four. God rebuked Jacob nothing, but gave him a series of promises and blessings. He told Jacob “He is the Lord” in the very first. And then His promises extended from the past to the future, from the place where Jacob was now to the all directions of the land, from the individual of Jacob to the whole human beings.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) “And in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed”. That we are useful in the hand of God is not due to our own nature, but the will of God. Our hope does not lie in ourselves, but in the faithfulness of God.

  2) The gospel shall be preached all over the world, and the kingdom of God will be thus extended, and then the end will come (see Matt. 24:14).

  3) Where there is the preaching of the gospel, there are blessings.


Gen. 28:15Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”

YLT: “`And lo, I with thee, and have kept thee whithersoever thou goest, and have caused thee to turn back unto this ground; for I leave thee not till that I have surely done that which I have spoken to thee.'”

Literal Meaning: here God concentrated his blessings on Jacob and promised him five things:

1.    “Be with you” ---- God would be with Jacob so that Jacob would not be alone;

2.    “Keep you” ---- God would cover and protect Jacob so that Jacob would not be hurt;

3.    “Bring you back” ---- God would guide Jacob so that Jacob would not be lost;

4.    “Will not leave” ---- God had promised Jacob so that Jacob would not be forsaken;

5.    “Until I have done” ---- God had promised Jacob so that Jacob would not lose hope;

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) The God we believe is an omnipresent God. Wherever we go, He will be with us.

  2) The God we believe is a faithful God. Whatever we have committed to Him, He will keep it until that Day (2Tim. 1:12).

  3) Whatever is promised by Him, He will take the full responsibilities. Let believers not ask the consequences, but whether it is of God.

  4) God did not rebuke Jacob for taking the father’s blessing with deceit, but manifested to him and promised Him, which indicated that our God is a God with abundant grace.

  5) God personally revealed to Jacob and helped him when he was in the poorest and most distressful condition. He is truly our consolation in all tribulations (2Cor. 1:4).


Gen. 28:16Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.

YLT: “And Jacob awaketh out of his sleep, and saith, `Surely Jehovah is in this place, and I knew not;'”

Literal Meaning: Jacob meant that he thought God had forsaken him, so he was alone and homeless with grief. However, God was still even with him. This night of Jacob enabled him to know a constant fact, i.e. the changelessness of the LORD’s presence ---- He is always close to us.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Many times God is indeed with us, but we just don’t know it.

  2) Meeting God is the first step of spiritual growth to believers.


Gen. 28:17And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”

YLT: “and he feareth, and saith, `How fearful this place; this is nothing but a house of God, and this a gate of the heavens.'”

The Background: people at that time thought man would die if he saw God face to face (see Judge 6:23).

Literal Meaning: here it was the first time for Jacob to see the largeness of God ---- He is above all, so “the gate of heaven” could be opened to Jacob wherever he was and thus he was just like in “the house of God”.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Where there is the presence of God, it is just the heaven.

  2) Since the church is the house of God (1Tim. 3:15), let unbelievers see that God is truly among us (1Cor. 14:25). Through the church, the gate of heaven is open to unbelievers so that they are enabled to enter into the heavenly realm.

  3) It is fearful to the carnal ones that there is the righteousness and holiness of God in the house of God. If the flesh of man is not dealt with, the house of God is a fearful place to such man.


Gen. 28:18Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it.

YLT: “And Jacob riseth early in the morning, and taketh the stone which he hath made his pillows, and maketh it a standing pillar, and poureth oil upon its top,”

The Background: in the ancient times, stone pillar was used to be a sign for covenant (see 31:52). Pouring oil was a custom of separation (see Ex. 30:25; Lev. 8:10-12; Num. 7:1). Moreover, the ancient Jews often carried oil in case of need when going out (see 31:13; 35:14).

Literal Meaning: took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar”, setting the stone up as a pillar is for remembrance, reminding him that God had ever revealed to him here (see 31:13; 35:14).

  Poured oil on top of it”, it showed that he separated himself unto God.

  The stone pillar represents the testimony that man meets God rather than “God” Himself. Later since the Gentiles set sacred pillars to worship, God forbid the Israelites to set such pillars (see Ex. 23:24; Lev. 26:1; Deut. 7:5).

Spiritual Meaning: the church is characterized by “pouring oil on stones”. Oil typifies the Spirit in the Scriptures. Stones symbolize all those who are born again (1Pet. 2:5). Pouring oil on top of it means the Holy Spirit (oil) works in believers (stones) so that we will be perfected as the church.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Believers shall be both living stones as well as pillars in the house of God (Rev. 3:12; Gal. 2:9) so that the testimony of the truth of the church shall be established (see 1Tim. 3:15).

  2) Let believers on one hand ask God to pour out the Holy Spirit abundantly on us (Titus. 3:6), and on the other hand prepare more oil on the vessels (Matt. 25:4) so that we will be “full of the Spirit” (Acts 11:24 the original).


Gen. 28:19And he called the name of that place Bethel;[a] but the name of that city had been Luz previously.

YLT: “and he calleth the name of that place Bethel, and yet, Luz the name of the city at the first.”

Meaning of Words: Bethel”: the house of God; “Luz”: refuge, hard, almond;

Literal Meaning: Bethel”, it was the place where Jacob dreamed; “Luz”, it was the name of a city near Bethel, and then the name of Lus was changed into Bethel (see Judge 21:23).

Spiritual Meaning: Bethel”, it symbolizes that the church is the house of God in which all the saints are built (Eph. 2:21-22) and is the manifestation of God in the flesh (1Tim. 3:15-16).

Enlightenment in the Word: Bethel was called “that place” (see v.11), but it then became a famous city due to the manifestation of God. As long as there is the revelation of God, no matter the people or the time or the place it is, they will be worthy of everlasting remembrance. 


Gen. 28:20Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on,

YLT: “And Jacob voweth a vow, saying, `Seeing God is with me, and hath kept me in this way which I am going, and hath given to me bread to eat, and a garment to put on --”

Literal Meaning: “God will…”, this was a conditional and self-centered confession of God with a tone of bargain.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Those that are of the flesh care for the problem of clothing, and have not seen the will and plan of God.

  2) God had just promised He would be with Jacob, but Jacob woke up and said “if” God would be with him. We are often moved by the word of God when reading the Scriptures, but forget it at all when finishing it.

  3) The self-centered one often does not trust in others, but his own feelings only.

  4) Jacob took the blessing with deceit previously, but now he found that even his food and clothing became a problem. 


Gen. 28:21so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.”

YLT: “when I have turned back in peace unto the house of my father, and Jehovah hath become my God,”

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) The thought of Jacob was characterized by exchange. His fellowship was merely a kind of bargaining.

  2) Many Christians’ faith is still staying in the self-centered stage like Jacob here. All religions in the world are based on such kind of bargaining belief. For example, it is totally self-centered of burning incense and prostrating oneself before the image of Buddha.

  3) Christians who have truly grown up will transfer his concentration from themselves to God ---- they will no longer seek their own profits, but respond to the love of God and seek His profit on us. 

  4) Only when we believers have truly experienced all the provision and protection of God, will the objective knowledge of God (your God) be turned into subjective knowledge (“my God”).


Gen. 28:22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

YLT: “then this stone which I have made a standing pillar is a house of God, and all that Thou dost give to me -- tithing I tithe to Thee.'”

Literal Meaning: “and this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house”, here it indicated that the pillar was to remember the experience of Jacob’s meeting God in Bethel (the house of God). Jacob answered to give a tenth, confessing that Jehovah was his God. In the times of the Old Testament, giving a tenth was voluntary before it was set as the law. And believers in the New Testament still keep it (see 1Cor. 16:2).

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) The building of the church (the house of God) does not depend on the number of believers, but whether we have personal experience (pillar).

  2) We offer what is given by God to Him. therefore, the more we offer, the more shall be rewarded.


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


A Picture of the Church

A.  Be blessed by Isaac (v.1) ---- be blessed by God in Christ;

B.  Not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan (v.1-2)---- not be united with the world;

C.  Be made fruitful and multiply and become an assembly of peoples (v.3) ---- fill the earth;

D.  inherit the land In which you are a stranger (v.4) ---- wait for a better country by faith;

E.  Be sent to a foreign land (v.5-7) ---- be a sojourner on the earth;

F.   Which is not of human labor, but of the gracious election of God (v.8-9);


The Conditions that the Church is Supposed to Have

A.  Dream of the ladder set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven (v.10-12) ---- know that Christ is the way to God;

B.  Obtain the word of God (v.13-14) ---- be called by God;

C.  Be with God (v.15-17) ---- manifestation God on the earth;

D.  Pour oil on the pillar (v.18) ---- be transformed and renewed by the Spirit;

E.  Call the name of that place “Bethel” (v.19) ---- be a dwelling-place of God;

F.  Make a vow (v.20-22) ---- satisfy both God and men;


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

Translated by Mary Zhou