New American Bible (Revised Edition)
10 Jacob departed from Beer-sheba and proceeded toward Haran. 11 When he came upon a certain place,[a] he stopped there for the night, since the sun had already set. Taking one of the stones at the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 Then he had a dream: a stairway[b] rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s angels were going up and down on it.(A) 13 And there was the Lord standing beside him and saying: I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants.(B) 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and through them you will spread to the west and the east, to the north and the south. In you and your descendants all the families of the earth will find blessing.(C) 15 I am with you and will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.(D)
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Truly, the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!” 17 He was afraid and said: “How awesome this place is! This is nothing else but the house of God, the gateway to heaven!” 18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head, set it up as a sacred pillar,[c] and poured oil on top of it.(E) 19 He named that place Bethel,[d] whereas the former name of the town had been Luz.(F)
20 Jacob then made this vow:[e] “If God will be with me and protect me on this journey I am making and give me food to eat and clothes to wear, 21 and I come back safely to my father’s house, the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone that I have set up as a sacred pillar will be the house of God. Of everything you give me, I will return a tenth part to you without fail.”Read full chapter
- 28:11 Place: the Hebrew word is often used specifically of a sacred site. The ambiguous word “place” is used here, for the text emphasizes that Jacob has no idea the place he has come upon is sacred; only when he wakes up does he realize it is sacred. The place was Bethel (v. 19), a sacred site as early as the time of Abraham (12:8).
- 28:12 Stairway: in Hebrew, sullam, traditionally but inaccurately translated as “ladder.” The corresponding verb, salal, means “to heap up” something, such as dirt for a highway or a ramp. The imagery in Jacob’s dream may be derived from the Babylonian ziggurat or temple tower, “with its top in the sky” (11:4), and with brick steps leading up to a small temple at the top.
- 28:18 Sacred pillar: in Hebrew, masseba, a stone which might vary in shape and size, set upright and usually intended for some religious purpose. The custom of erecting such sacred pillars in Palestine went back to its pre-Israelite period; but since their polytheistic associations were often retained, later Israelite religion forbade their erection (Lv 26:1; Dt 16:22) and ordered the destruction of those that were associated with other religions (Ex 34:13; Dt 12:3).
- 28:19 Bethel: i.e., “house of God”; the reference is to the house of God in v. 17.
- 28:20 This vow: knowing well that Esau’s murderous wrath stands between him and the possession of the land promised him, Jacob makes his vow very precise. He vows to make the God who appeared to him his own if the God guides him safely to Paddan-aram and back to this land.