Jacob’s Ladder

"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." (Genesis 28:12)

In Jacob’s journey from his father’s house to Haran, we are told of only one event. A single incident is described from what was otherwise considered an insignificant trip. Jacob dreamed a dream, a dream about a ladder which reached down from Heaven and lighted upon the earth. This ladder, or stairway, was covered with angels of God ascending and descending its steps. From the summit of this ladder stood the Lord Himself, calling down to Jacob as he slept. The Lord announced to Jacob Who He is and confirmed to him that he would inherit the land which was first promised to Abraham, his grandfather.

The imagery from this dream illustrates one of the most recognizable scenes from the entire Old Testament. But what exactly was this dream all about? What is the meaning of “Jacob’s Ladder?” What was God trying to show him? Let us consider what this dream meant to Jacob:

What The Dream Meant To Jacob

“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.” (Genesis 28:16-17)

The concept that God is not confined to any particular place is something that most modern believers understand, but imagine if we were in Jacob’s place? As far as he was concerned, he had left the God of his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham behind when he fled from the wrath of Esau (Gen. 27:43). The desolate place in which he had arrived, filled with steep rocky crags and littered with boulders stretching skyward, must have done little to reassure him otherwise. Though he had secured the blessing of his father, though he had acquired the position of “first-born” with all the rights and privileges that entailed, he was still, at this point, little more than a frightened fugitive, fleeing for his very life. The loneliness that encompassed him as he now swapped the comforts of Isaac’s household for pillows of stone must have been suffocating.

But this would not be a troubled and dreamless night. Jacob would find sleep, and in that slumber he would encounter God Himself. And what would the Lord have to say to him? Would He scold him for his unrepentant duplicity with which he had defrauded both his father and his brother? Would God chastise Jacob for his less than honorable actions? We must make no mistake, Jacob would pay a price for what he had done, but not before receiving the assurance that God would be with him always. Before arriving at the house of his Uncle Laban (where he would be outfoxed and beaten at his own game), Jacob would have this direct revelation of God’s mercy, grace, and protection that would follow him for the remainder of his life.

“Surely the LORD was in this place and I knew it not!”, Jacob declares the next morning as he reflects on his dream. Surely this is something to which we can all relate, for we have all gone to places where it seemed that any sign or indication of God’s presence was wholly lacking. But we are reminded, as Jacob was, that there is no place beyond the reach of the Lord, no place that He cannot find. We, too, find Him at work in the most unlikely locations, locations that we ourselves would never have suspected He would go.

Even more so, Jacob concludes that the very spot upon which he had lain his head was the “Gate to Heaven” itself. “This is the House of God, this is the place where Heaven and earth meet”, he thought. Having at his disposal no other way of commemorating the spot, Jacob erected the stones which he had slept on and fashioned a marker with them. He named the place “Bethel”, the “House of God”, and this very spot would serve as a rallying point to which he would later return (Gen. 35).

What The Dream Means To Us

But what exactly is the significance of this enigmatic dream for us? God used it to reinforce to Jacob His covenant which He had made to Abraham, that is, that the land of Palestine would be an everlasting inheritance for the people of Israel. But does “Jacob’s Ladder” hold any meaning for the Gentile? Fortunately, this is one Old Testament incident which Jesus Himself interpreted. In John 1:45, the Apostle Philip ran to tell his friend Nathanael that he had found the promised Messiah. Nathanael was skeptical, but agreed to come and meet Jesus. The first words that Jesus spoke to Nathanael were, “Behold an Israelite in whom is no guile!” There was deceit and trickery in the heart of Jacob, but not in Nathanael. Jesus concludes the conversation with a reference to Jacob’s dream when He announces to Nathanael:

“…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.” (John 1:51)

So, the Ladder that Jacob saw in his dream was not a place, but a Person. The Lord Jesus Christ is that Ladder which stretches from earth to Heaven, connecting man to God. Jesus is the Gateway to Heaven, and there is no other (John 14:6). The angels, the messengers of God, are seen both descending from Heaven and ascending from earth. They carry from God His blessings and provisions to those who love Him, and they come back to our Father bearing the prayers and requests of God’s children. Yet the Highway upon which they travel is none other than Jesus Christ. There is no other road which leads to God.

No one else is uniquely qualified to stand in the position which Jesus does. The Ladder reaches all the way down to earth, for He is all Man. And it rises all the way to Heaven, to the very throne of the Father, for He is all God. The Lord Jesus alone stands with one foot in Heaven and one foot on earth, bridging the gap between them. He is the Ladder by which God reaches down to man and man reaches up to God.

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13 responses

  1. Thinking of Jesus as our ladder makes me cry. . .but then I’m extra teary today for some reason. Everyone’s blog is bringing me to tears! Thank you for so directly explaining this! There is something else, Loren, that you do that helps me so much. You explain the human -ness of the individuals of the bible. I tend to think that they are somehow more equipped than we. . .better in some regard. God bless you and your family! You are a blessing to me! deb

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  2. Deb,

    I sure hope that all your tears are tears of joy :)

    Thanks so much for your encouraging words, I really appreciate all of the great support you have given me.

    You mentioned something that I find to be one of the most remarkable features about the Holy Bible: and that is the fact that the people we meet in it are not presented as perfect, larger-than-life superheroes. Heroes of the Faith, great men and women who became fully yielded to the leading of the Lord; yes. But infallible people? No. Their mistakes, shortcomings, fears, anxieties, sins, and disabilities are not covered up, omitted, or glossed over. The rough edges are not polished away by the writers’ pens. They are presented to us exactly as they were; not that their faults would be paraded before us, but that we might see the potential for the extraordinary things that can be accomplished by ordinary people when God moves upon their lives. If God could do great things through these people, then maybe he can use someone like us :)

    “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

    I love the following poem, and you may have seen it before, but it is definitely worth reading again. Thanks again, Deb, and God bless you and yours:

    “There are many reasons why God would not want
    you–but don’t worry. You’re in good company.

    Moses stuttered.
    David’s armor didn’t fit.
    John Mark was rejected by Paul.
    Hosea’s wife was a prostitute.
    Amos’ only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning.
    Jacob was a liar.
    David had an affair.
    Solomon was too rich.
    Abraham was too old.
    David was too young.
    Timothy had ulcers.
    Peter was afraid of death.
    Lazarus was dead.
    John was self-righteous.
    Naomi was a widow.
    Paul was a murderer. So was Moses.
    Jonah ran from God.
    Miriam was a gossip.
    Gideon and Thomas both doubted.
    Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal.
    Elijah was burned out.
    John the Baptist was a loudmouth.
    Martha was a worrywart.
    Samson had long hair.
    Noah got drunk.
    Did I mention that Moses had a short fuse?
    So did Peter, Paul–well, lots of folks did.

    But God doesn’t require a job interview. He doesn’t hire and fire like
    most bosses, because He’s more our dad than our boss. He doesn’t look at
    financial gain or loss. He’s not prejudiced nor partial, not judging,
    grudging, sassy, nor brassy, not deaf to our cry, not blind to our need.
    As much as we try, God’s gifts are free.

    We could do wonderful things for wonderful people and still not be…
    wonderful.

    Satan says, “You’re not worthy.”

    Jesus says, “So what? I AM.”

    Satan looks back and sees our mistakes. God looks back and sees the
    Cross. He doesn’t calculate what you did in ’98. It’s not even on the
    record.

    Sure. There are lots of reasons why God shouldn’t want us. But if we are
    magically in love with Him, if we hunger for Him more than our next
    breath, He’ll use us in spite of who we are, where we’ve been or what we
    look like.

    Step out of your limitations into the illimitable nature of who God is.”

    -Author unknown

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  3. Oh my . . .how I loved that poem! And your comment was like a whole new wonderful teaching post! :) thank you so much for taking the time for us all . . .being like Jesus! God bless you! deb

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  4. Loren,

    Amen. We are truly blessed to know that Jesus has bridged the gap between God and man…and we have access into the heavens right here from earth. What a beautiful message!

    God bless you.

    Gladwell

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  5. Thank you so much, Gladwell :)

    God bless you, too.

    Loren

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  6. i just found your blog the other day as i was reading about jacob in the bible and i decided to do a web search on the meaning of jacob’s dream and i found your blog. loved reading it, i was the best description of the dream. it really spoke to me. i appreciate the time you take to write down what you’ve learned. many blessings.

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  7. Thanks, Joy, for reading this and taking the time to share your thoughts :)

    I really appreciate your words of encouragement and am so happy to hear that you enjoyed this post. Please feel free to come back anytime to read other posts and share any comments you wish. May the Lord bless you and yours.

    In Christ,

    Loren

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  8. THANK YOU FOR A POEM OF GREAT ENCOURAGEMENT

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  9. I had a dream of Jacob ‘s ladder, the night , Jesus found me. He relate it with the cross. I want to praise and thank the Lord for this dream. It strengthen me everytime when my heart get discourage.

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  10. I loved this’

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  11. Thanks so much for explaining this in such a great way! I was blessed when I read this!

    Like

  12. Leonard Spurling

    A wonderful read! Touched my soul. God Bless.

    Like

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