Jacob’s Stairway To Heaven


‘Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: ‘I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’ He was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.’ Genesis 28:10-17

After a trip of around 300 miles, Jacob is about to experience something miraculous, something he simply wasn’t expecting. I would imagine he’s feeling isolated and scared and tired from the long journey. He took a stone, using it as a pillow and fell asleep and whilst sleeping he dreamt of a stairway resting on the earth but reaching heaven. The stairway was symbolising a connection between heaven and earth.

‘When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.’ Jesus said, ‘You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ He then added, ‘Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.’ John 1:47-51

The greater thing to be seen mentioned in verse 50 were better explained in verse 51. This probably refers to the story of Jacob, Genesis 28:12. Perhaps what Nathanael is reading under the fig tree. Both involve idea of communication between heaven and earth.

Here, Jesus takes the place of the ladder. Nathanael sees that HE is the link between heaven and earth, the One through whom God’s will is fully revealed to man, the One alone through whom we have access God. John 14:6 / 1 Timothy 2:5 / Romans 5:2.

However, this would have been a method of drawing attention to the role of Christ as mediator between God and man, the idea of heaven being open to all men and communication allowed between God and man via the Son, not an earthly entity.

Jesus Himself is the ladder, giving access to God. For a Jew, such as Nathanael to declare anyone King in this manner was the greatest statement of faith he could ever make. The idea being portrayed was one of total and immediate spiritual dependence on the one accepted as King, that is Christ.

The angels who seem to act as messengers between God and man, or guardian angels, Hebrews 1:14, are ascending and descending. We would think that they would be descending and ascending, in other words, coming down from heaven to earth but they’re not.

The purpose of the event was to reassure Jacob that through him the promises made to Abraham would be continued, Genesis 12:1-3, but more importantly to remind him that God is present wherever he goes, Psalm 139:7.

God speaks words of comfort and repeats the covenant promises to Jacob and this was going to be a life changing experience for Jacob, Philippians 1:6. Jacob after he awakes, proceeds to worship God and puts emphasis on this place, says ‘this is the house of God’.

‘Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.’ Genesis 28:18-22

Notice that Jacob did three things after his dream.

1. Jacob set up the stone he used for a pillow and anointed it with oil to memorialize the location.

Over the years all kind of theories have come about concerning this stone. Some suggest it was taken to Jerusalem, some suggest it was taken to Spain, others suggest it was taken to Ireland, and still others claim it was taken to Scotland, upon which, the Kings of Scotland sat to be crowned. Even today in Scotland they claim this stone is kept at the now-ruined Scone Abbey in Scone, near Perth, Scotland.

2. Jacob changed the name from Luz to Bethel.

A little later in Genesis God, Himself when he’s speaking to Jacob calls Himself, the God of Bethel, Genesis 31:13. Bethel was later to become a high place for idolatry, 1 Kings 13:32 / Hosea 10:15 / Amos 4:4.

3. Jacob made a vow to return to God a tenth of those blessings that would come his way by the blessing of God.

Interestingly, this is only the second time that tithing in the Old Testament has been mentioned, the other being in the instance of Abraham’s tithes to Melchizedek, Genesis 14:20 / Hebrews 7:2.

Notice that Jacob made a vow with God, after the event, in other words, it’s possible that he didn’t fully trust God up to this point.  Maybe it’s now a case of seeing is believing, Philippians 4:13, Nahum 1:7. God is teaching him and will continue to teach him lessons on humility.

Notice the following:

Please note that God is still willing to accept him, even after his worldly prayer.

What a merciful and loving God we serve.



"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

John 16:33