A Daily Genesis

Genesis 28:16-19

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[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 28:16-17a . . Jacob awoke from his sleep and said: Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it! Shaken, he said: How awesome is this place![/B]

Actually Jacob was very frightened. I believe that place gave him the creeps. It isn't unusual for an encounter with God to unnerve people. Even the very best saints get shook up by it. Daniel just about fainted when God talked with him (Dan 10:17. And Moses was very frightened when God descended upon Mt. Sinai. (Heb 12:18-21)

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 28:17b . .This is none other than the house of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.[/B]

The Hebrew word for "house" is somewhat ambiguous. It can indicate one's dwelling, and it can indicate one's entire estate. For example; Pharaoh's house at Gen 12:15 consisted of a palace while Abraham's house at Gen 14:14 consisted of all that he owned and possessed. Jacob apparently assumed (probably correctly) that the site where he met with God was a favorite of God's in Canaan, and had it staked out for himself: and who's to argue with that?

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 28:18a . . Early in the morning, Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar[/B]

The word for "pillar" is from [I]matstsebah[/I] (mats-tsay-baw') which is something stationed; viz: a column or (memorial stone)by analogy, an idol. All over the Mojave Desert in California are man-made stone monuments that mark the location of historical events and/or sites. One of my favorites is the Foot And Walker pass where Butterfield stagecoach passengers had to disembark and walk because the slope was too steep for horses to pull the coach with them inside it.

Jacob's pillow stone became a souvenir of his very first close encounter with the Bible's God. To set it up, he would need something to elevate it and make it prominent. So he probably gathered more stones into a pile, like a cairn, and then put his pillow block on the very top as the cap stone.

[B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 28:18b . . and poured oil on the top of it.[/B]

The Bible doesn't say where Jacob got the idea to pour oil on his historical marker; so we'll just have to take an educated guess at it. It's very likely, considering the situation, that anointing the pillow stone with oil (probably either an edible, or medicinal oil rather than a petroleum based lubricant) dedicated it as a memorial to Jacob's contractual bond between himself and God.

There's reported to be widespread evidence (I haven't seen it for myself) from the ancient Near East, for the use of oil in international treaty relationships, and in effectuating business contracts. The practice seems to have been a token of peace, friendship, and assumed obligation. In Jacob's case, the anointing is connected with the making of a vow that bound him to specific commitments.
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[/COLOR][B][COLOR=#ff0000]†.[/COLOR] Gen 28:19 . . He named that site Bethel; but previously the name of the city had been Luz.[/B]

Luz retained it's original name for a long time afterwards. On his way back home after twenty years with Laban, the name hadn't yet been changed to Bethel (Gen 36:6). Precisely when the site's name was officially changed to Bethel is difficult to ascertain.

The word for "Bethel" is from [I]Beyth-' El[/I] (bayth-ale') which means (what else?) house of God.

According to Jewish folklore, the stone Jacob chose for his pillow was actually one of the stones Abraham used to construct the altar where he bound Isaac. Jewish folklore also believes the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to be the site where Abraham offered his son. Those lore imply that Bethel and the Temple Mount are geographically the same. But it's highly unlikely. The Temple Mount is in Jerusalem; and Bethel was about 12 miles to the north. The exact geographic location of the offering of Isaac is totally unknown at this time.

In the days of Solomon's rule, Israel became divided into a north and a south, sort of like America's fracture during the Civil War. A king named Jeroboam ruled the northern part and another king named Rehoboam ruled the southern part. The northern part was called Israel, and the southern part was called Judah. Jeroboam became concerned that his subjects in the north might change sides due to the Temple being located in the south. (1Kgs 12:26-29)

Point being, the Temple Mount was at Jerusalem in Rehoboam's realm; and Bethel was on Jeroboam's turf in the north; and if the people really wanted to get on God's bad side, they worshipped in the north.

"Come to Bethel, and transgress" (Amos 4:4)

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