What does Genesis 28:18 mean?
ESV: So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.
NIV: 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.
NASB: So Jacob got up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had placed as a support for his head, and set it up as a memorial stone, and poured oil on its top.
CSB: Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. He poured oil on top of it
NLT: The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it.
KJV: And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
Verse Commentary:
The Lord has visited Jacob in a dream, giving to him the promises of Abraham, as well as reassurance that God will be with him and bring him back to the land of promise (Genesis 28:10–15). When he wakes up, Jacob is overwhelmed by what he identifies as the holiness of the place where he slept. He calls it "the house of God" and "the gateway to heaven" (Genesis 28:16–17).

Now Jacob commemorates the holiness of this place. He takes the stone where his head rested during his dream and sets it up as a pillar. This might mean that Jacob took what was once a long, flat-laying stone and stood it upright on end. He pours oil on the top of the stone as part of this ceremony. This stone should not be confused with an altar. Jacob's marker here is a post or standing stone, an indication of this holy place which Jacob will formally name in the next verse.
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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