What does Genesis 28:12 mean?
ESV: And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!
NIV: 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.
NASB: And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
CSB: And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching the sky, and God's angels were going up and down on it.
NLT: As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
KJV: 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.
Verse Commentary:
Jacob has fled his home in Canaan, both to escape the wrath of his brother Esau (Genesis 27:41) and to find a wife among his people in Mesopotamia (Genesis 28:1–2). Apparently, Jacob either left too quickly to gather supplies, or simply did not plan well and found himself out in the wilderness at night without aid.

Sleeping with his head on a stone on the ground, Jacob begins to dream. As the Lord did with Abraham (Genesis 15:12), He will now appear to Jacob in a dream. He will reaffirm, in person to Jacob, that all of the covenant promises made to Abraham will be for him, as well.

As the dream begins, Jacob sees a structure connecting earth to heaven. The Hebrew word for this object is sul'lam, which appears only here in the Bible. The term is often translated as "ladder," but it could possibly be interpreted as a "staircase." Either way, this construction is occupied by God's angels ascending and descending. The text states this with a sense of astonishment, perhaps expressing the feelings of Jacob in the dream.
Verse Context:
Genesis 28:10–22 describes the Lord's appearance in a dream, given to Jacob while on the road to Haran in Mesopotamia, the region where Rebekah's brother Laban lives. Forced by nightfall to sleep on the ground with a rock for a pillow, Jacob dreams of a ladder, connecting earth to heaven, and full of angels going in both directions. Atop the ladder, the Lord stands and gives to Jacob the very promises He gave to Abraham. He also promises to be with Jacob on his journey from and back to the land of promise. Jacob wakes up and worships the Lord, vowing to make the Lord his God.
Chapter Summary:
Isaac sends Jacob away from his household to find a wife in Mesopotamia, in Paddan-aram, where Rebekah's brother lives. First, though, he gives to Jacob the full blessing of the promises of Abraham. Esau marries one of the daughters of Ishmael to try to please Isaac. The Lord appears to Jacob in a dream, giving to him the promises of Abraham personally, along with the assurance that He will be with Jacob to Mesopotamia and back again. Jacob vows that if the Lord does this, he will make the Lord his God and will worship Him and tithe to Him.
Chapter Context:
The previous chapter concluded with Rebekah urging Jacob to run for his life to her brother's household in Mesopotamia to escape the wrath of Esau. Now Isaac, too, sends Jacob to Laban, except to find a non-Canaanite wife. Hearing this, Esau marries one of the daughters of Ishmael. On the road to Mesopotamia, the Lord appears to Jacob in a dream. God personally delivers the covenant promises of Abraham and assurances to be with Jacob. In awe and fear, Jacob renames the place Bethel, ''house of God,'' and vows to worship the Lord as his God. In the next chapter, Jacob will get a taste of his own deceptive medicine, as he seeks a wife.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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