Bible passage: Genesis 28:10-15
Written: As early as 1400 BC
Some 4,000 years ago a young man hurried across an expanse of land, bringing a great distance between him and the threat of death that awaited him in the town of his home. Weary from his travel, he lowered himself to the ground and rested his head on a rock.
He slept and dreamt of a future far removed from the conflict that had haunted him that day. His name was Jacob and he was fleeing from his brother Esau, who had sworn to kill him. Jacob had reason to fear his brother. Esau was known for his skills as a hunter and for his acumen in the wild.
Jacob, in contrast, was known more for staying close to the tents of the family's settlement, within the land of Canaan.
For a fight to the death, Jacob might seem outclassed. But as the events of this conflict ran their course, the brothers reversed their roles. Whereas Jacob fled into the wilderness, to escape his brother's wrath, Esau stayed close to home, choosing not to pursue him.
Although they were twins, born only moments apart, Esau was born first. And it was the first-born son who was to be specially treated when it came to matters such as inheritance. But Jacob deceived their blind-and-ailing father, who then gave Jacob the blessings that traditionally would have gone to the first-born son.
Esau vowed to kill his brother. Jacob fled.
In time, Jacob would prevail. He would survive the anger of his brother. And the land from which he was fleeing would one day carry his name, and not that of his brother.
The night that Jacob rested his head on a rock and slept in the wilderness was the night that he dreamt a vision known as "Jacob's Ladder." In this vision, he was told, among other things, that his descendants - none of whom had been born yet - would inherit the land on which he slept.
Jacob's name was later changed to Israel, as was the land beneath him.
This was the land that God had promised to the descendants of Jacob's father, Isaac, and Jacob's grandfather, Abraham. And now, God was promising it to their descendants through Jacob/Israel. This is the land that became the homeland of the Israelites, the people who would record the words of the Bible. And this is the land that became the birthplace of the Messiah, a descendant of Jacob.
This is the land from which Christianity would spread throughout the world, to a vast array of people who look back upon Israel as the Holy Land, the land of the Bible, the land of the Messiah.
This prophecy also indicates that Jacob would be a ancestor to the Messiah, through the use of the word "blessed" in verse 14, and the mention of a worldwide impact in verse 14. Both are fulfilled in Jesus, a descendant of Jacob, and the spread of Christianity throughout the world. Jesus lived about 2,000 years after the time of Jacob.
Jacob/Israel became the father of the 12 Tribes of Israel. His descendants later conquered the land, seizing control of it about 3,400 years ago from the various groups of people who resided there. The conquest is described in the Bible's Old Testament book of Joshua. Some of the other books of the Old Testament speak of the history that followed, the centuries during which the Israelites lived and prospered within the land of Israel, the land where Jacob dreamed.
Here is Genesis 28:10-15 (NIV):
10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 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. 12 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. 13 There above it[a] 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. 14 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.[b] 15 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."
Genesis 28:13 Or There beside him
Genesis 28:14 Or will use your name and the name of your offspring in blessings (see 48:20)