Jacob’s Dream

Jacob's Dream

Jacob’s Dream

By James L. Thornton

Have you ever had a dream that seemed so real that when you woke up it had made such an impression on you that it was indelibly implanted in your memory? And even years later you could recall every detail of it. Maybe it was something that you tried to make come true in your life. In this study we want to look at such a dream that is the most talked about, preached about, sung about, dream in the history of the world, it is even held in our own mind to the point we want it to come to pass in our own life.

The Bible records many dreams—it is one of God’s ways of communicating with a man (Job 4:12-16). Some are soothing, some are informative and some are disturbing. In this study, we will look at the most well-known dream in human history. A dream that has been preached about, sung about, and painted by artists more than any other. It is still an inspiration to everyone who reads or hears about. We are talking about Jacob’s Dream.

Why is it that this dream is so important to us? And how can we draw inspiration from someone’s dream who has been dead 35 centuries, after all, it was only a dream?  These and other question we will attempt to answer in this study.

Genesis 28:12″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.

13a. And, behold, the LORD stood above it,

Jacob, pursued by the fierce and adamant hatred of his brother Esau, for the first time in his life, had left his parental roof and, taking the wanderer’s staff in his hand, had journeyed forth to the doubtful haven of refuge, which was his uncle’s home in Haran.

On the first day of his journey the sun slowly sank from sight, and for the first time in his life, he had to sleep, not at home, but in the open, not in his tent, but under the starry sky. It needs little effort of the imagination to realize that his sleep was not a peaceful one. No man ever had more on his mind to disturb his sleep.

The nameless fear of the unknown, the very real danger of wild animals, which made him place a protective circle of stone around him, his brother Esau possibly not far behind, the hard stone which he used as a pillow, anxiety, and deep concern about the future, all these considerations combined to make his sleep fitful and disturbed, and the natural result was that he dreamed. And what a dream.

And what was his dream?  That wondrous vision of which the passage of time has not succeeded in diminishing the beauty, which makes its instant appeal at all times to every age. As we have said, the subject of song and sermon and artists that can never be exhausted.

Let us look at his dream. He dreamed that a ladder stretched from heaven to earth. At the top was the divine presence of God. At the foot was Jacob, and the link between Jacob on earth and God in heaven was a ladder, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

And Lo, God spoke to him and said: Genesis 28:13. “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;

14.  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.

15.  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” (Genesis 28:13-15).

So vivid and breathtaking was this dream that Jacob awoke from his troubled sleep very much afraid.

22. “And Jacob vowed a vow saying, 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,

21. So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:

22. 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” (Genesis 28:20-22)

Let us ask a very pertinent question and then give an answer to that question.

Surely did not that vow of Jacob constitute a serious lack of faith on Jacob’s part? Here God had appeared to him and said explicitly, “Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest.” Jacob has the faithlessness, one might say, effrontery, we could say the presumptuousness, to doubt God’s word and say, “If  God be with me, and if  he will keep me in the way I am going.”

If? But had not God said that he would?

The answer we give is simple. Jacob was not sure, If, after all, it was only a dream.


But what is a dream? One fact seems established beyond doubt and that is, that thoughts and ideas which are ruthlessly pressed into the subconscious during one’s waking hours take advantage of the removal of the guard of the conscious mind during sleep and crowd into the foreground. It is for that reason that dreams constitute such a valuable indication of the true inner, unsuspected thoughts of man.

The dream of Jacob takes on a new meaning in the light of the logic of the psycho-annalist.

Here for the first time the real inner man, which had been obscured, obfuscated, suppressed and overlaid, was revealed, and for the first time, the glimpse of future greatness was seen.

All his life Jacob had been “a plain man dwelling in tents”  (Genesis 25:27), and under these circumstances there was nothing which could enable one to plumb the hidden depths of his heart.

On the contrary, of the little we know of Jacob before this rude shock of awakening came to him, there is nothing to his credit; the sale of the birthright, the deception of his father to obtain the blessing—not in any of these things was the future “Israel” who strove with God and with man and prevailed, “Israel a Prince with God” seen.

Look back for a moment on his birth, his mother asking God why she was having so much trouble in her expectancy, and the answer from God himself setting the younger, Jacob, before his twin older brother Esau (Genesis 25:23).

We can be sure Rebekah told and retold this to Jacob many times and also explained the meaning and possibilities which went with the birthright.

Jacob grew up with this dream of the future suppressed for years and years—he was seventy-seven when he left home. “It can never come to pass,” he thought. But when his mother’s plan worked to his advantage in obtaining the blessing from his father, and after listening to the words of the blessing, all these old suppressed memories returned.

And now circumstances had conspired to bring the subconscious to the forefront of his mind, and here for the first time we see a man with vision, visions of himself as the channel through which God would come down from heaven to earth, visions of his children living in the land from which he had been driven out as a homeless wanderer.

There is not a more tragic life in history than that of Jacob. From the moment of that dream until a broken and battered old man, aged One-hundred-thirty, he passed the last seventeen years in a foreign land, dependant on his son’s bounty, his life was one succession of unrelieved tragedy.

His unremitting toil in the employ of his kinsman Laban, his unceremonious flight, his terror of Esau’s approach, the premature death of his beloved wife, the disgrace of his only daughter, the cruel act of vengeance of his sons Simeon and Levi, the shameful act of Ruben, the apparent loss of his most beloved son Joseph, one tragedy followed hard on the heels of others, and with truth he said to Pharaoh, “Few and evil have been the years of my life” (Genesis 47:9).

But throughout the whole of that tragedy of life, he hugged to his bosom the memory, the promise, the hope of that wondrous dream.

At some half-century after the dream, he lay upon his deathbed, he said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. (Genesis 48:3-4).

God did appear to me.” It is that sentence that reveals that throughout all his sufferings that the blessing and promise God made to him in a dream, sustained him.

How many of us had an experience with God some years back, and many time the devil has tried to make us believe that it was only an illusion, only a dream with no real substance to back it up? Trials and tests have come upon us, the way seems uphill all the time, but somehow we have clung to the promise, the hope, we obtained when God appeared to us.

Let us tell the devil “God did appear to me and gave me a promise, and I am not going to let it go, come what may.” Amen.

By, James L. Thornton

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