After receiving his parents’ blessings to go seek a wife among his mother’s relatives, Jacob leaves his home in Beersheba and heads in the direction of Haran. Along the way, he stops to rest, dreaming that night of a tall ladder reaching up to the heavens. In his dream, Jacob sees angels ascending and descending the ladder. God is atop the ladder, and He tells Jacob that He will protect him in his journey. He also reiterates His promise to Jacob — to give his descendents the land He promised to Abraham and Isaac, and to make his offspring as numerous as the dust of the earth.
Jacob awakens with a start, not having realized he had gone to sleep on holy ground. He identifies the place as the house of God and the gateway to heaven. In the morning, he erects a monument on the site, calling it Beit El, or House of God. Years earlier, Abraham had also visited the same area, calling the nearby city Beit El. The Israel Bible points out that the name Beit El will become synonymous in the Bible with an ideal location for prayer.
Jacob vows to turn his monument into a house of worship for God and to offer Him a tenth of everything he owns if God protects him in his travels and brings him safely back to the land of his fathers.
The place where Jacob slept that night is none other than the future site of the First and Second Temples, known today as the Temple Mount. According to Rabbi Chaim Clorfene, cited in the Israel Bible, the Temple was known as the House of God because there, “God’s revealed presence – the shechina – dwells with His people, just as a husband dwells intimately with his wife in their home.”
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Considering that in Jacob’s dream God already promised to be with him in his journey, Jacob’s vow seems to contain an unnecessary condition that God protect him. What do you think Jacob wants from God in this vow that He may not have already promised him?