Jacob's Ladder

May 19, 2012
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I know what it says in scripture - that Jacob dreamt of a ladder with the foot on earth and the top in heaven, with angels going up and down - but I always feel as if I am missing the significance in this passage. Can anyone help? Thoughts?
 
May 10, 2014
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I like reading commentaries so I looked it in a couple ...

The verses
And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. 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. 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. 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; 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. 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. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. 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. (Gen 28:10-17 KJV)

And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (Joh 1:51 KJV)
Matthew Henry's comments
1. The encouraging vision Jacob saw, Gen_28:12. He saw a ladder which reached from earth to heaven, the angels ascending and descending upon it, and God himself at the head of it. Now this represents the two things that are very comfortable to good people at all times, and in all conditions:

(1.) The providence of God, by which there is a constant correspondence kept up between heaven and earth. The counsels of heaven are executed on earth, and the actions and affairs of this earth are all known in heaven are executed on earth, and the actions and affairs of this earth are all known in heaven and judged there. Providence does its work gradually, and by steps. Angels are employed as ministering spirits, to serve all the purposes and designs of Providence, and the wisdom of God is at the upper end of the ladder, directing all the motions of second causes to the glory of the first Cause.

The angels are active spirits, continually ascending and descending; they rest not, day nor night, from service, according to the posts assigned them. They ascend, to give account of what they have done, and to receive orders; and then descend, to execute the orders they have received. Thus we should always abound in the work of the Lord, that we may do it as the angels do it, Psa 103:20, Psa 103:21.

This vision gave very seasonable comfort to Jacob, letting him know that he had both a good guide and a good guard, in his going out and coming in, - that, though he was made to wander from his father's house, yet still he was the care of a kind Providence, and the charge of the holy angels. This is comfort enough, though we should not admit the notion which some have, that the tutelar angels of Canaan were ascending, having guarded Jacob out of their land, and the angels of Syria descending to take him into their custody. Jacob was now the type and representative of the whole church, with the guardianship of which the angels are entrusted.

(2.) The mediation of Christ. He is this ladder, the foot on earth in his human nature, the top in heaven in his divine nature: or the former in his humiliation, the latter in his exaltation. All the intercourse between heaven and earth, since the fall, is by this ladder. Christ is the way; all God's favours come to us, and all our services go to him, by Christ. If God dwell with us, and we with him, it is by Christ. We have no way of getting to heaven, but by this ladder; if we climb up any other way we are thieves and robbers.

To this vision our Saviour alludes when he speaks of the angels of God ascending and descending upon the son of man (Joh 1:51); for the kind offices the angels do us, and the benefits we receive by their ministration, are all owing to Christ, who has reconciled things on earth and things in heaven (Col 1:20), and made them all meet in himself, Eph 1:10.
Albert Barnes notes on the Bible
Jacob’s dream and vow. Setting out on the way to Haran, he was overtaken by night, and slept in the field. He was far from any dwelling, or he did not wish to enter the house of a stranger. He dreams. A ladder or stair is seen reaching from earth to heaven, on which angels ascend and descend. This is a medium of communication between heaven and earth, by which messengers pass to and fro on errands of mercy.

Heaven and earth have been separated by sin. But this ladder has re-established the contact. It is therefore a beautiful emblem of what mediates and reconciles Joh 1:51. It here serves to bring Jacob into communication with God, and teaches him the emphatic lesson that he is accepted through a mediator. “The Lord stood above it,” and Jacob, the object of his mercy, beneath
 
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May 19, 2012
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Hmmmm....Jesus as the ladder makes alot of sense to me and while I have even used this image before - I never connected it to Jacob's ladder. Thanx for the post!
 
Feb 5, 2013
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I know what it says in scripture - that Jacob dreamt of a ladder with the foot on earth and the top in heaven, with angels going up and down - but I always feel as if I am missing the significance in this passage. Can anyone help? Thoughts?
I think Christians commonly believe it to represent Jesus.. Interested read from Wikipedia.. On what Jews believe it to represent.. Of course not Jesus!! This is straight from Wikipedia

The classic Torah commentaries offer several interpretations of Jacob's ladder. According to theMidrash, the ladder signified the exiles which the Jewish people would suffer before the coming of the Messiah. First the angel representing the 70-year exile of Babylonia climbed "up" 70 rungs, and then fell "down". Then the angel representing the exile of Persia went up a number of steps, and fell, as did the angel representing the exile of Greece. Only the fourth angel, which represented the final exile of Rome/Edom (whose guardian angel was Esau himself), kept climbing higher and higher into the clouds. Jacob feared that his children would never be free of Esau's domination, but God assured him that at the End of Days, Edom too would come falling down.[citation needed]

Another interpretation of the ladder keys into the fact that the angels first "ascended" and then "descended". The Midrash explains that Jacob, as a holy man, was always accompanied by angels. When he reached the border of the land of Canaan (the future land of Israel), the angels who were assigned to the Holy Land went back up to Heaven and the angels assigned to other lands came down to meet Jacob. When Jacob returned to Canaan he was greeted by the angels who were assigned to the Holy Land.

The place at which Jacob stopped for the night was in reality Mount Moriah, the future home of the Temple in Jerusalem.[citation needed] The ladder therefore signifies the "bridge" between Heaven and earth, as prayers and sacrifices offered in the Holy Temple soldered a connection between God and the Jewish people. Moreover, the ladder alludes to the giving of the Torah as another connection between heaven and earth. The Hebrew word for ladder, sulam (סלם) and the name for the mountain on which the Torah was given, Sinai (סיני) have the same gematria(numerical value of the letters).

The Hellenistic Jewish Biblical philosopher Philo Judaeus, born in Alexandria, (d. ca. 50 CE) presents his allegorical interpretation of the ladder in the first book of his De somniis. There he gives four interpretations, which are not mutually exclusive:[2]

  • The angels represent souls descending to and ascending from bodies (some consider this to be Philo's clearest reference to the doctrine of reincarnation).
  • In the second interpretation the ladder is the human soul and the angels are God's logoi, pulling the soul up in distress and descending in compassion.
  • In the third view the dream depicts the ups and downs of the life of the "practiser" (of virtue vs. sin).
  • Finally the angels represent the continually changing affairs of men.
 
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Wow, I loved that post Rav. (and yours too Porcupine). I just learned a whole bunch of stuff. I liked all the different interpetations, too. Wondering if that is wrong? Could they all be kinda right?
 
Feb 5, 2013
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Wow, I loved that post Rav. (and yours too Porcupine). I just learned a whole bunch of stuff. I liked all the different interpetations, too. Wondering if that is wrong? Could they all be kinda right?
Theologically speaking, people call it as typology.. I don't think there is anything wrong with this.. As long as the message does not contradict to rest of the Bible and does not add to rest of the Bible, it is okay! That would be the key for me :)
 
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I guess I was too lazy to google it - but I had something happen a while ago, where the term "Jacob's Ladder" came up and as much as I read the passage, I gained no significance to it other than angels going up and down. My younger brother and I were closest, thru most of our lives, but there had come a time when we fell out and I also felt he was "too toxic" to me and broke off relations, altogether. It's too long a story - but I got breast cancer (stage 4) and altho I told my older brother not to tell him - he did. My younger brother left a "peace offering" on my porch - a bag of shiny gold buckels with costume stones. About 100 of them. So I strung them on a ribbon, clipped it to my ceiling and called it (why I don't know) Jacob's Ladder. Your post connected to several points in the whole story. Thanks again. My brother passed about a year and a half after.