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Jacob's ladder, a stairway to heaven

Stairway to Heaven: The Story of Jacob's Ladder

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Jacob’s ladder is the name given to the stairway that appears in the dream of the Biblical Patriarch Jacob. But the ladder has also come to symbolize a connection between Earth and Heaven (or the cosmos), as well as the history of mankind, in which the steps of the ladder represent the succession of kingdoms that have ruled the world.

Jacob’s Dream in the Bible

Jacob’s dream occurred during his flight from his twin brother, Esau, who intended to kill him. In this dream, Jacob saw a ladder (or in some translations, a stairway) that connected heaven to earth. Additionally, Jacob is said to have seen God at the top of the ladder, and also angels, who were ascending and descending this structure. The story of Jacob’s Ladder is in the Book of Genesis.

According to the Book of Genesis, Jacob is said to have stolen his brother Esau’s birthright, which was his claim to inheritance and his father’s blessing. As a result of this, Esau was furious with Jacob, and sought to kill him. Jacob was warned of his brother’s intention by Rebekah, their mother. He was also told to flee, and to go to the house of his uncle, Laban, in Haran, until Esau’s fury subsided. Jacob obeyed his mother, and set off for his uncle’s house.

Esau Selling His Birthright (painting circa 1627 by Hendrick ter Brugghen)

Esau Selling His Birthright (painting circa 1627 by Hendrick ter Brugghen) ( Public Domain )

Jacob arrived at a ‘certain place’, and as the sun had already set, decided to stay there for the night. According to one source, this place was the site of the “future  Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which was also the site of the binding of his father, Isaac.” Jacob then took a rock from the place to use as pillow, and fell asleep. It was while he was sleeping that Jacob had his dream about the ladder that connected heaven to earth. Jacob’s dream has been described as such:

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.

God, who was standing at the top of the ladder, then spoke to Jacob:

I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

When Jacob woke up in the morning, he took the rock that he had used as a pillow, and set it up as a pillar. He poured oil on it , and named the place Bethel, meaning ‘House of God’, though it is said that it was originally known as Luz. After making a vow, Jacob continued his journey.

What Does Jacob’s Ladder Mean?

Jacob’s ladder has been interpreted in a variety of ways. One of the most common interpretations is that the ladder represented the connection between heaven and earth. Some believe that this connection is symbolic and represented by Jacob’s family and the patriarch’s divine connection with God’s graces. This idea of Jacob’s recognition of his destiny is perhaps seen in his vow following his vision: "If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear so that I come again to my father's house in peace, the Lord shall be my God."

Another well-known interpretation of Jacob’s ladder is that it is said to be a representation of the history of mankind. According to this interpretation, the steps of Jacob’s ladder symbolize the succession of kingdoms that rule the world and the ups and downs of humanity.

Jacob's Dream by William Blake (c. 1805, British Museum, London)

Jacob's Dream by William Blake (c. 1805, British Museum, London) ( Public Domain )

Yet another interpretation is that Jacob’s ladder stood on the boundary of the Land of Israel and the rest of the world. The angels who had accompanied Jacob during his journey in Israel are said to return to heaven by ascending the ladder. For his travels outside Israel, the angels whose domains are outside Israel descend the ladder to accompany Jacob.

Picture of the Jacob's Ladder in the original Luther Bibles (of 1534 and also 1545)

Picture of the Jacob's Ladder in the original Luther Bibles (of 1534 and also 1545) ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )

 

Finally, there is also a more mystical interpretation of Jacob’s ladder, which proposes that the ladder may be read as a means to achieve spiritual elevation or ascension. In this case, the angels have been interpreted variously as representations of reincarnation (ascending and descending of bodies/souls) or human souls rising in virtue or falling in sin. With this interpretation, could performing virtuous acts be seen as a way to “ascend Jacob’s ladder”?

With so many possibilities, Jacob’s ladder can be seen as a tool to teach various moral lessons , but the true meaning may be something far beyond current human understanding.

Fresco of Jacob's Ladder. ( oleg_ru Adobe Stock)

Top Image: Jacob’s ladder is a stairway angels use to pass between heaven and earth. Source: Jürgen Fälchle /Adobe Stock

By Ḏḥwty

Updated on June 10, 2020.

References

The Bible : Standard King James Version , 2014. [Online]
Available at: http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/

Charlap, J., 1997. The Meaning of Jacob's Dream. [Online]
Available at: http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/eng/vayetze/harlap.html

Dubov, N. D., 2016. The Ladder. [Online]
Available at: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/361883/jewish/The-Ladder.htm

McDowell, C., 2016. Jacob’s Ladder: Bible Story Summary and Lessons. [Online]
Available at: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/jacobs-ladder-bible-story-summary-and-lessons/

Zavada, J., 2016. Jacob's Ladder - Story Summary. [Online]
Available at: http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestorysummaries/a/Jacobs-Ladder.htm

Comments

Hi DHWTY,

One thing I forgot to say it's about the Angels who serve God there are two angels in general who have wings Cherubims and the Seraphims. Cherubs have two wings and Seraphims mentioned in Isaiah and Ezekiel has 6 wings according to Ezekiel those Seraphims move fast my guess they move as fast as hummingbirds do when flapping their wings drinking nectar from flowers an lightening.

Just thought I share that.

Hi Rwthless,

In the Ancient World which comes up a lot in the Bible Dreams were viewed as messages from the gods so the ancient world surrounded themselves with Astrologers, Wise men, an Magicians to interpret the meaning of the Dreams it Became a hazard to their health when King Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon requested since He forgot what he had even dreamed for his Astrologers, Magicians, and Wise men to not only tell him what He had Dreamed but, what the Dream meant All 3 groups of Wise Men had to admit that Only the gods could tell him what He'd Dreamed they could only Interpret the Dream.

That's when King Nebuchadnezzar ordered all of his Wise men to be Put to Death see the king realized that his so called wise men had been lying to Him the whole time about what his Dreams meant luckily since it was in The Bible A Wise Man did complete what was asked of Him The Prophet Daniel right Daniel in Hebrew means Vindication.

I am reminded of Moses in Exodus and the Book of Numbers when God informs him that No Man or Animal may look upon His Face and live back in Eden when Sin came in to the World it Separated Us from God that up close and personal face to face contact we once enjoyed with God was no more everything had changed.

In the Book of Numbers however Moses is enjoying his one on one contact with The Almighty when God asks him what does Moses want? Moses tells him He wants to See God so God tells Him He could see his back parts as He's walking away from Him for no Man or Animal may look upon My Face and live I mean the Glory is so intense the Seraphims who attend God at his Throne have to Keep their face covered with their Wings to shield themselves from his glory that's in Isaiah chapter 6, getting back to Moses but, then God tells Moses that He will put his hand over Moses eyes so He won't die upon seeing Him I'm telling you when I read that part in Numbers I felt as though it was happening to me; that I was seeing God's back parts as He walked away, the only difference; unlike Moses, I wasn't shining brighter than the Sun.

That was the best Bible Study ever.

Revelation Chapter 9:11 Did you know that Apollo is mentioned in Revelation chapter 9:11?

That his name in Hebrew is Abbaddon The Bible spells his Greek Name Apollyon rather than the more familiar spelling of Apollo apparently, The Creator appoints Abbaddon aka Apollyon King over the Bottomless Pit giving him Power over the Manticores who are to punish the guilty for whatever Sins they committed in their lives. off.

This testimony from Revelation tells me these beings that were worshipped as gods in the ancient world; may in fact have been Fallen Angels. According to the cast out Biblical Book of Enoch it was about 200 of them angels.

The irony with Lucifer he wanted to be the only one in the Universe; with uncheck power hence the reason, why, He wanted the throne of God; correction wanted to be God, Lucifer wouldn't have wanted these other Fallen Angel's around that's why Lucifer asked of God to surrender to Him 10 Evil-Spirits to tempt Man with but for all the other Fallen Angel's send them straight to Hell.

Contrary to popular belief Hell is not of Earth it's in the 2nd Heaven and 5th Heaven's.

Main reason why Lucifer made that request because He couldn't control the other one's like Abbaddon Apollyon oh wait a minute you said Semele died when seeing the glory of Apollo?

I thought it was the glory of Zeus because Semele was pregnant with Diyonius said to have been God of wine.

Well now I know that the Zeus being existed; once God changed the languages at the Tower of Babel the Angels with names like Abbaddon and Baraqiel or Baraqel became Apollo/Apollyon an Baraqiel or Baraqel (the angel Baraqiel his name means Lightening Giver in Hebrew), became Baal weather god of the Sidonians, Baalek, Baal-Peor this was the deity of the Midianites made known in Book of Numbers, Marmaduke King of the gods in Sumeria, Jupiter god of the Romans, and finally Zeus King of the Greek gods.

Frankly we won't be seeing these guys till Judgement Day Thank God for That.

I'll share something which I know none of my fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ would ever agree with; The Bible teaches; that Christ came to our World to save Us All from Sin, and that's true but, I also feel that Christ came to try and save someone else along with Us; whom we often over look or choose not to see it, Lucifer.

The sad thing is Lucifers Pride would not allow him to admit that He was wrong on everything. The window to save himself was open for three in half years that Christ ministered unto Us, till Christ died on the Cross; declaring It Is Finish, then that door for Lucifer was then shut closed now He is on Death row, due to die from the Second Death where all Probation comes to an End and He knows, It he and his 1000 fellow angels that were cast out with him from Heaven. Lucifer is going to take down as many people that He can with him.

Hello Zucchini
Maybe some people short of experience might wish they had had this experience, but actually Jacob's experience was of peculiar relevance to him. It was his subconscious speaking to him in somewhat exaggerated terms to get his attention.

Children often see life at it is, without seeking an inner meaning and their dreams guide them in how to respond to it. They are no different to adults except in the number of mistakes made by themselves and others. I agree that a sight of angels is probably better than horrors.

The story of Semele who when she saw Apollo in his full glory, it killed her. Lucifer's fall denoted a lack of ability to plan an effective coup. Was he as bad as someone who nurtured the pleasure of causing suffering? Perhaps he was also puzzled by God's forgiveness of cruelty and malice. Seeing God and understanding how one's depraved tastes have harmed people and limited one from the ecstasy of Heaven would be punishment enough.

Hi DHWTY,

This is the best article ever.

I often wondered though if people in general when they read this particular testimony; if perhaps their jealous Jacob got to have this experience.

All honesty I'm not sure people could handle this, I mean for me this Biblical Account is like receiving a Heavenly Ytube video from God and He's directly speaking to you the individual not only hear him but See him too and Smell Him you can't convince me a single human being can handle experiencing such a phenomenal event.

Okay maybe a Child could experience this encounter Jesus did say that A Child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. I'd rather children see God than the one who was cast out of Heaven.

One other thing DHWTY you mentioned "in a certain place Jacob saw the Angel's of God Ascending and descending on a ladder that went from Heaven to Earth"?

Certain place is in Bethlehem, originally it was called Luz it is also where Rachel was buried after dying from complications in child birth where Benjamin was born.

Hi Rwthless,

Jacob would have learned of Heaven through his grandfather Abraham due to Abraham having and open dialogue with God in Genesis Chapter 11 to Genesis Chapter 27 or 28.

Jacob and Esau were 15 years old when Abraham died. Esau did inherit a little something but not as much as Jacob for Jacob was chosen by God.

First Samuel when the Prophet is sent to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse's Sons to be the next King in place of King Saul's family.

Each son was presented to Him Samuel made the Human mistake of thinking just from their looks that this was the one God chose till God himself tells Samuel your looking on the outside what I look for in a person is on the inside what lies within their Heart. 8 Sons of Jesse none were worthy but the baby son David.

King Saul's daughter Michael did not have children because She rebuked King David for how He worshiped God.

For punishment God then denied her motherhood (it is unwise to come between God the Father and His Children that worship Him) she died without ever having any children she and her family were of the Tribe of Benjamin which is said to mean Son of my Right Hand that part makes me laugh because all the Ancestors of Benjamin genetically were all Left Handed.

Going back to being chosen by God before Earth was made When God called Jeremiah to be his Prophet; he instructed him not to say that He was but a child, for before, I formed thee in your mother's womb before the foundations of this world, I chose you to be my prophet, so this is where I was coming from when speaking of Jacob being chosen by God before Earth's Creation to carry Jesus.

Let's be honest when it comes to the Bible its a Book basically asking you the individual if you believe in the Impossible to ignore Human reasoning and logic, if you say yes to any Holy Writing whether it be the Bible or Sacred Text regarding Hindu Beliefs then your saying Yes I believe that the Impossible Can happen so then in my case I'm saying with what I've learned from Sunday school and later Sabbath School Jacob was the one whom God chose for the Redeemer to come through not Esau on the basis God saw something in Esau He didn't like very much perhaps a little like Cain therefore removed the inheritance of having Jesus come through his bloodline.

I do however believe that the Edomites may still be here I thought that the Canaanites were no longer here I found out from my favorite TV game show Jeopardy that the Canaanites live in Lebanon seems they quit worship Baal and Ashetah so now they follow Islam; which I think that the Edomites maybe practicing Islam as well.

Sorry hope I answered your questions Mary I think the mother of Jesus she might have been of Levi while Joseph her husband the Carpenter was of the Tribe of Judah from the Line of David reason why I say that Elizabeth was Mary's much older Cousin married to A High Priest in the Service of God Zechariah and only Levi was anointed by God to lead Israel in worship of God.

That all changed with first John the Baptist, then Jesus ministry while Tiberius ruled in Rome 27 B.C.E, Jesus closed up Joseph's carpenter shop and went to John to be Baptized by him then Christ received his Anointing from God when the Heavens opened up and the Dove descended on him when He came up from the water being baptized.

Jesus ministry was modeled after Melchadezzaic probably spelled his name wrong (it means King of Righteousness), we meet him in Genesis timeline. He is described as a wealthy Priestly King living in Salem who worships The Living God and Blesses Abraham because God gave him victory at Sodom involving Five King's and the kidnapping of his Nephew Lot.

Abraham gave 10 percent of his tithes and offerings to God for this reason King Melchadzziac blessed him and his Faithfulness with God.

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