Genesis 28:1 Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan
Remember how carefully Abraham arranged for Isaac to marry from his believing relatives? (Gen. 24) Abraham specifically instructed his servant regarding Isaac, “thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites” (Gen. 24:3). Well, Isaac had allowed Esau to marry whomever he wanted. Esau chose Judith and Bashemath of the local Hittite clan. This was exactly what Abraham forbade Isaac to do. Perhaps Isaac thought Esau was mature enough to make his own choice. It was an allowance, however, that both he and Rebekah would regret, for Esau’s wives “were a grief of mind unto Isaac and Rebekah” (Gen. 26:34).
Apparently, conflict with the in-laws is as old as the history of mankind. Religion and politics are always points of conflict and both were probably problematic with the Hittite wives. Personality conflicts aside, these Hittite women had been raised in an idolatrous culture with idolatrous traditions and idolatrous relatives. It was in their blood and would continue to run in the blood of the grandchildren. Isaac and Rebekah had learned a hard lesson and wanted better for Jacob.
“The Old Testament records many instances in Israel’s struggle to choose between the true, living God and the usurpers of the claim to deity. Isaac commanded his son Jacob not to marry a Canaanite woman (see Gen. 28:1) because of the Canaanites’ idolatry. (See Ps. 106:38.) Jacob’s posterity, when freed from Egyptian bondage, soon turned to the worship of an Egyptian idol. (See Ex. 32:1–6.) Later, the Israelites were enticed in the promised land by the idol worship that had been the region’s religion before they arrived.” (David H. Madsen, “No Other Gods before Me,” Ensign, Jan. 1990, 48)
Genesis 28:4 And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed
Isaac may have intended to give this blessing to his son Esau (Gen. 27), but by now he fully realized that the Lord intended it for Jacob. You can’t steal a blessing from God. Rebekah and Jacob’s trick was the Lord’s will. They would never have succeeded if it weren’t. Isaac didn’t realize it at the time, but now he knew—the covenant blessings with all that goes with it: a numberless posterity, a huge inheritance of land, a huge inheritance of wealth, God’s blessing of prosperity, and a great lineage that would bless the entire world—they were to go to Jacob.
Genesis 28:5 Laban… the brother of Rebekah
Jacob is being sent to his uncle’s house to find a wife. He will end up marrying two of his first cousins. That may seem strange to us but cousin marriages are still allowed in 25 states.
“Twenty-five states prohibit marriages between first cousins. Six states (Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Utah, Wisconsin) allow first cousin marriage under certain circumstances (usually that the age of the couple is over 50), and North Carolina allows first cousin marriage but prohibits double-cousin marriage.” (http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/human-services/state-laws-regarding-marriages-between-first-cousi.aspx)
Genesis 28:6-9 When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob… Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took… Nebajoth, to be his wife
This is a sad and pathetic story. Esau is trying desperately to compete with his brother Jacob. He has learned too late that his parents didn’t approve of his first wives. He now thinks he can obtain their favor by doing what he should have done in the first place—sought for an eternal marriage with someone who could keep the Lord’s covenants. Esau is crying out, “Love me too! I can marry from the tribe of Ishmael!” He is still trying to secure any blessing he can, but the blessing and birthright are already gone. He despised the first and unwittingly lost out on the second by taking lightly the Lord’s covenants. Esau’s efforts are too little, too late.
“Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end… behold if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein no there can be no labor performed.” (Alma 34:33)
Henry B. Eyring
All of us will need His help to avoid the tragedy of procrastinating what we must do here and now to have eternal life. For most of us the temptation to delay will come from one or both of two feelings. They are polar opposites: one is to be complacent about what we have already done, and the other is to feel overwhelmed by the need to do more…
It is hard to know when we have done enough for the Atonement to change our natures and so qualify us for eternal life. And we don’t know how many days we will have to give the service necessary for that mighty change to come. But we know that we will have days enough if only we don’t waste them. (“This Day”, Ensign, May 2007)
Genesis 28:10 and Jacob went out from Beer-shebah, and went toward Haran
The journey is approximately 550 miles to Haran. That is a long way to go to get a wife. See introductory commentary for Genesis 29.
Genesis 28:12 Jacob’s Ladder
If you google “jacob’s ladder,” you learn that the name has been applied to a 1990 horror movie, a song by Huey Lewis and the News, a flowering plant, a toy, an exercise treadmill, a hiking trail in Utah, and as a nautical term for a rope ladder. It is one of those Biblical terms which has developed a life all its own. In fact, the term “Jacob’s Ladder” is not in the Bible. The term was coined by bible commentators.
Often, the Ladder is used as a metaphor for Christ. Through Christ, the gap between earth and heaven is bridged. Just as the veil of the temple was rent at the Crucifixion, symbolizing man’s new access to the Holy of Holies, the Ladder allows mortal man to approach the Father. Furthermore, as disciples of Christ, we progress one step at a time until we are worthy to enter the gates of heaven. The angels of heaven ascend and descend upon the Son of Man, “Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” (John 1:51)
“Men and women often feel themselves in spiritual exile… They long for an experience like Jacob’s, to show that in the most desolate place there can be a shining something which bridges the gap between earth and heaven so that henceforth all the horizons of hope and trust are lifted and enlarged.” (The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. by G. A. Buttrick et al [New York, Abingdon Press, 1952] vol. 1, p. 688-689)
Genesis 28:13-15 I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac
“With this blessing fresh in his mind, Jacob left Beersheba on a journey that would ultimately take many years. Perhaps on the first leg of his travels, he pondered the covenants and promises extended to Abraham and his posterity by the Lord. When Jacob reached the place he would later name Bethel, he settled down to spend the night. While he was asleep a marvelous vision was opened to him…
“There are at least six significant things to ponder about Jacob’s vision:
“First, as the Prophet Joseph Smith indicated, this vision was Jacob’s opportunity to begin to comprehend for himself ‘the mysteries of Godliness’ that lead men and women to the kingdom of God (see D&C 63:23, D&C 76:5–9). From this comment we also know that Jacob was a righteous Melchizedek Priesthood holder, because the Doctrine and Covenants teaches that ‘this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God’ (D&C 84:19). Jacob would, during the course of his life, come to know God in a profound way.
"Second, Jacob’s status as a prophet was confirmed. He heard the voice of the Lord Jehovah, the premortal Christ, and, as the Apostle John later recorded, ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ (Rev. 19:10).
"Third, Jacob learned that in his seed, or through his own lineage, all the other families of the earth would be blessed. That promise was literally fulfilled in the mortal advent of the Savior, Jesus Christ (see Gal. 3:16), and it is not impossible that Jacob glimpsed that fulfillment. Moreover, this promise has also been fulfilled as Jacob’s seed—all latter-day peoples who accept the restored gospel—have become missionaries of the name and gospel of the Son of God. This gospel will ultimately bring salvation, even eternal life, to everyone who receives it (see Abr. 2:10–11).
“Fourth, Jacob learned that if he kept the covenant, God would be with him everywhere he went, that God would fulfill everything he promised to do for him, and that God would bring him back to the land of his inheritance.
“Fifth, Jacob learned that sanctity and place can be, and often are, linked together. ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. … this is none other but the house of God,’ Jacob said (Gen. 28:16–17).
“Sixth—and this point ties the other five points together—Jacob had a templelike experience on the occasion of this vision. Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
When Jacob traveled from Beersheba toward Haran, he had a dream in which he saw himself on the earth at the foot of a ladder that reached to heaven where the Lord stood above it. He beheld angels ascending and descending thereon, and Jacob realized that the covenants he made with the Lord there were the rungs on the ladder that he himself would have to climb in order to obtain the promised blessings—blessings that would entitle him to enter heaven and associate with the Lord. …
Temples are to us all what Bethel was to Jacob. Even more, they are also the gates to heaven for all of our unendowed kindred dead. We should all do our duty in bringing our loved ones through them.
"Thanks to Elder Romney’s insight, Latter-day Saints can more fully understand that their temple experiences are really the experiences of every Saint in every dispensation. Jacob’s faithfulness was rewarded with an opportunity to make eternal temple covenants. But the great promises and blessings proffered to Jacob in Bethel at that time were conditional rather than absolute. Nowhere does the text say they were sealed or ratified with surety at this point, as is sometimes supposed; Jacob would have a long time to prove his loyalty and secure for himself the unconditional guarantee of all the terms of the covenant. Neither does the text say that Jacob’s dealings with the Lord at that time constituted the ultimate theophany, or revelation of God, which the scriptures promise to the faithful. This would come later, after years of his righteousness. But Jacob undoubtedly came away from Bethel understanding the order of heaven, the possibilities for exaltation, and the promises of the Abrahamic covenant if he proved faithful. So it is with all of us." (Andrew C. Skinner, “Jacob: Keeper of Covenants,” Ensign, Mar. 1998, 51-52)
Bruce R. McConkie
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… each of them in turn, for themselves and for their seed, received the promise that through celestial marriage they and their seed after them would have posterity as numerous as the sands upon the seashore and as the stars of the heavens. They were also promised that in them and in their seed all generations would be blessed. (“A New Commandment: Save Thyself and Thy Kindred!” Ensign, Aug. 1976, 9)
Genesis 28:14 thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad…
“The Lord renewed this [Abrahamic] promise with Isaac (see Gen. 26:4) and again with Jacob, saying that his descendants would ‘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.’ (Gen. 28:14.)
“This spreading would come as Moses foretold: Israel would someday be scattered ‘among the nations, and … be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead [them].’ (Deut. 4:27.) This would be a thorough dispersion. As the Lord said in Amos 9:9, he would ‘sift the house of Israel among all nations.’ But he also promised that he would not forget Israel. Eventually, the children of Israel would be gathered ‘out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.’ (Ps. 107:3.)
“Although Israel would be scattered throughout the world, the countries north of Israel were particularly singled out as lands from which Israel would be gathered. Jeremiah wrote that ‘the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
“’But, The Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them.’ (Jer. 16:14–15; see also D&C 110:11; D&C 133:26.)
“It is no wonder that Jesus sent his Apostles out into all the world to preach the gospel (see Mark 16:15) or that he said they should go ‘to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ (Matt. 10:6.)
“Israel’s peoples have been scattered a long time now. As far as we know, only a portion of Judah retained its identity over the centuries. With the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, many members who have received their patriarchal blessings have been identified with the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh and a sprinkling of other tribes. It is also significant that among the first to accept the gospel in this dispensation were people who lived—or who had ancestors who had lived—in the very countries that received Israelite migrations.” (Terry M. Blodgett, “Tracing the Dispersion,” Ensign, Feb. 1994, 70)
Genesis 28:15 I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places wither thou goest… for I will not leave thee
What a comforting promise! We think of the Old Testament as portraying a cold, judgmental, even harsh God. All the mercy seems to come from the pages of later scripture, but here the Lord promises to support Jacob to the end. It sounds like the New Testament or the Doctrine and Covenants, “whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)
God promised Jacob that He would remain with him. Moses received the same promise, “And lo, I am with thee even unto the end of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage” (Moses 1:26). To Joseph Smith, “For I am the Lord thy God, and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father.” (D&C 132:49)
Neal A. Maxwell
Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come (D&C 68:6).
I . . . will be in [your] midst (D&C 32:3).
Ye cannot bear all things now (D&C 50:40).
Be of good cheer, for I will lead you along (D&C 78:18).
The Lord thus has His own ways of letting us know that He is with us in our individual furnaces of affliction. (If Thou Endure It Well [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 7)
You must preach the Gospel, do your duty, and the Lord will stand by you. Earth and hell shall not prevail against you. "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell." And I would say to our friends, that is the spirit that vibrates in the bosoms of tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints in these mountains. We stand upon this pedestal. This is our platform. What fear have we with regard to our enemies? Why should we fear? We are in the hands of God. We have come to this earth in this time upon a mission. We have been born on purpose in this generation to take part in this work. The Lord required an element to labor with. He will build up Zion. And I bear my testimony here to all men, and would to all the world if I had the power, that the work in which this people are engaged, small and insignificant as it may appear, is the work of God. It will roll forth. It will become a mountain. It will fill the whole earth. It will break in pieces all other kingdoms, and it will stand forever; for God Almighty has decreed it. Write it down. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 25: 217, italics added)
Genesis 28:17-19 this is none other but the house of God… And he called the name of that place Beth-el
This is a good time to understand some Hebrew linguistics. Beth is a common prefix in Hebrew place names and means “house of.” In this case “house of El” which is short for Elohim or God. We see this same pattern in other Hebrew cities including Beth-lehem, “house of bread,” Beth-saida, house of fish, etc. So Beth-el means literally, “the house of God.”
“Abraham built an altar there previously (Gen. 12:8;13:3-4), and it will be here that Jacob’s name will be changed to Israel (Gen. 35:10-15). Excavations have shown that Bethel was founded about 2000 B.C.E… It is more frequently mentioned in the bible than any other town except Jerusalem.” (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, ed. by W. Gunther Plaut [New York, The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981], 33)
The second item worthy of mention is the author’s intent to catalogue holy sites for his Jewish readers. Since Abraham first came into Canaan, the locations of his altars were given (Gen. 12:6-8), the location of the sacrifice with Isaac was given (Gen. 22:2), and now a new holy site is placed in its historical and spiritual context—the city of Beth-el.
Genesis 28:22 I will surely give the tenth unto thee
This is the second time the principle of Tithing has been referenced in the book of Genesis. The first was when Abraham gave tithes unto Melchizedek (Gen. 14:20)
Dallin H. Oaks
We should not think that the payment and blessings of tithing are unique to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tithe paying is commanded in the Bible. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek (see Gen. 14:20). Jacob covenanted to ‘give the tenth’ unto God (Gen. 28:22). After the children of Israel were brought out of Egypt, the prophet Moses commanded that they should give a tenth to the Lord (see Lev. 27:30–34). (“Tithing,” Ensign, May 1994, 34)
Howard W. Hunter
The word "tithe" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon meaning "a tenth." It may be defined as a tenth of property or income which is paid over or dedicated for sacred uses or purposes. The history of the word, as traced through biblical and extra-biblical history, focuses our attention upon some very interesting information.
The "Tithe" of Abraham
The first distinct mention of the word "tithe" in the Bible is in the very first book of the Old Testament. Abram, returning from the slaughter of the four kings, was met by Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God. Melchizedek blessed him, and Abram "gave him tithes of all." (Gen. 14:20.)
A few chapters later in the same book, Jacob, at Bethel made a vow in these words:
"If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
"So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:
"And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." (Ibid., 28:20-22.)
The third mention is in connection with the Levitical law. The Lord spoke through Moses:
"And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord." (Lev. 27:30.)
Of the Levites
Under this Levitical law the tithes were given to the Levites for their maintenance, and they in turn were charged with the paying of tithes on that which they received as shown by the words of the Lord as he instructed Moses:
"Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the Lord, even a tenth part of the tithe." (Num. 18:26.)
This clearly indicates that the law of tithing was a part of the Levitical law and paid by all people—even the Levites themselves who were directed to pay tithing on the tithes which were received by them.
A Universal Law
There are some who take the position that the law of the tithe was only a Levitical institution, but history confirms the fact that it has been and is a universal law. It was basic in the Mosaic law. It had existed from the beginning and is found in the ancient Egyptian law, in Babylonia, and can be traced throughout biblical history. (Conference Report, April 1964, Afternoon Meeting 34)