New English Translation
Jacob’s Dream at Bethel
10 Meanwhile Jacob left Beer Sheba and set out for Haran. 11 He reached a certain place[a] where he decided to camp because the sun had gone down.[b] He took one of the stones[c] and placed it near his head.[d] Then he fell asleep[e] in that place 12 and had a dream.[f] He saw[g] a stairway[h] erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens. The angels of God were going up and coming down it 13 and the Lord stood at its top. He said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father Isaac.[i] I will give you and your descendants the ground[j] you are lying on. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth,[k] and you will spread out[l] to the west, east, north, and south. And so all the families of the earth may receive blessings[m] through you and through your descendants. 15 I am with you![n] I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you!”
16 Then Jacob woke up[o] and thought,[p] “Surely the Lord is in this place, but I did not realize it!” 17 He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is nothing else than the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!”
18 Early[q] in the morning Jacob[r] took the stone he had placed near his head[s] and set it up as a sacred stone.[t] Then he poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[u] although the former name of the town was Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God is with me and protects me on this journey I am taking and gives me food[v] to eat and clothing to wear, 21 and I return safely to my father’s home,[w] then the Lord will become my God. 22 Then this stone[x] that I have set up as a sacred stone will be the house of God, and I will surely[y] give you back a tenth of everything you give me.”[z]Read full chapter
- Genesis 28:11 tn Heb “the place.” The article may indicate simply that the place is definite in the mind of the narrator. However, as the story unfolds the place is transformed into a holy place. See A. P. Ross, “Jacob’s Vision: The Founding of Bethel,” BSac 142 (1985): 224-37.
- Genesis 28:11 tn Heb “and he spent the night there because the sun had gone down.”
- Genesis 28:11 tn Heb “he took from the stones of the place,” which here means Jacob took one of the stones (see v. 18).
- Genesis 28:11 tn Heb “and he put [it at] the place of his head.” The text does not actually say the stone was placed under his head to serve as a pillow, although most interpreters and translators assume this. It is possible the stone served some other purpose. Jacob does not seem to have been a committed monotheist yet (see v. 20-21) so he may have believed it contained some spiritual power. Note that later in the story he anticipates the stone becoming the residence of God (see v. 22). Many cultures throughout the world view certain types of stones as magical and/or sacred. See J. G. Fraser, Folklore in the Old Testament, 231-37.
- Genesis 28:11 tn Heb “lay down.”
- Genesis 28:12 tn Heb “and dreamed.”
- Genesis 28:12 tn Heb “and look.” The scene which Jacob witnessed is described in three clauses introduced with הִנֵּה (hinneh). In this way the narrator invites the reader to witness the scene through Jacob’s eyes. J. P. Fokkelman points out that the particle goes with a lifted arm and an open mouth: “There, a ladder! Oh, angels! and look, the Lord himself” (Narrative Art in Genesis [SSN], 51-52).
- Genesis 28:12 tn The Hebrew noun סֻלָּם (sullam, “ladder, stairway”) occurs only here in the OT, but there appears to be an Akkadian cognate simmiltu (with metathesis of the second and third consonants and a feminine ending) which has a specialized meaning of “stairway, ramp.” See H. R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena (SBLDS), 34. For further discussion see C. Houtman, “What Did Jacob See in His Dream at Bethel? Some Remarks on Genesis 28:10-22, ” VT 27 (1977): 337-52; J. G. Griffiths, “The Celestial Ladder and the Gate of Heaven,” ExpTim 76 (1964/65): 229-30; and A. R. Millard, “The Celestial Ladder and the Gate of Heaven,” ExpTim 78 (1966/67): 86-87.
- Genesis 28:13 tn Heb “the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.” The Hebrew word for “father” can typically be used in a broader sense than the English word, in this case referring to Abraham (who was Jacob’s grandfather). For stylistic reasons and for clarity, the words “your father” are supplied with “Isaac” in the translation.
- Genesis 28:13 tn The Hebrew term אֶרֶץ (ʾerets) can mean “[the] earth,” “land,” “region,” “piece of ground,” or “ground” depending on the context. Here the term specifically refers to the plot of ground on which Jacob was lying, but at the same time this stands by metonymy for the entire land of Canaan.
- Genesis 28:14 tn This is the same Hebrew word translated “ground” in the preceding verse.
- Genesis 28:14 tn The verb is singular in the Hebrew; Jacob is addressed as the representative of his descendants.
- Genesis 28:14 tn The translation understands the Niphal stem to be middle voice here; the normal passive for בָּרַךְ (barakh) is Pual. The middle voice may be expressed here as “they may consider themselves blessed,” “they may receive/find blessing,” “the may become blessed.” See the notes at 12:3 and 18:18.
- Genesis 28:15 tn Heb “Look, I [am] with you.” The clause is a nominal clause; the verb to be supplied could be present (as in the translation) or future, “Look, I [will be] with you” (cf. NEB).
- Genesis 28:16 tn Heb “woke up from his sleep.” This has been simplified in the translation for stylistic reasons.
- Genesis 28:16 tn Heb “said.”
- Genesis 28:18 tn Heb “and he got up early…and he took.”
- Genesis 28:18 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Jacob) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Genesis 28:18 tn See the note on this phrase in v. 11.
- Genesis 28:18 tn Heb “standing stone.”sn Sacred stone. Such a stone could be used as a boundary marker, a burial stone, or as a shrine. Here the stone is intended to be a reminder of the stairway that was “erected” and on which the Lord “stood.” (In Hebrew the word translated “sacred stone” is derived from the verb translated “erected” in v. 12 and “stood” in v. 13.) Since the top of the stairway reached the heavens where the Lord stood, Jacob poured oil on the top of the stone. See C. F. Graesser, “Standing Stones in Ancient Palestine,” BA 35 (1972): 34-63; and E. Stockton, “Sacred Pillars in the Bible,” ABR 20 (1972): 16-32.
- Genesis 28:19 tn The name Bethel means “house of God” in Hebrew (see v. 17).
- Genesis 28:20 tn Heb “bread,” although the term can be used for food in general.
- Genesis 28:21 tn Heb “and I return in peace to the house of my father.”
- Genesis 28:22 tn The disjunctive clause structure (conjunction + noun/subject) is used to highlight the statement.
- Genesis 28:22 tn The infinitive absolute is used before the finite verb for emphasis.
- Genesis 28:22 tn Heb “and all which you give to me I will surely give a tenth of it to you.” The disjunctive clause structure (conjunction + noun/object) highlights this statement as well.