Friday, September 17, 2010

Stairway to Heaven

Having just been blessed in place of his brother Esau, Jacob is now instructed by his father to NOT marry a Canaanite woman. Rather, he is told to go to his uncle and marry one of his cousins.
So we have yet another example of the Bible encouraging behavior that we reject today. Marrying one’s cousin is considered boderline incest today. Just recall the public reaction back when rock-n-roller Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin. People were apalled and disgusted. Yet, this is common everyday practice in the Old Testament.
When poor, rejected Esau hears of this, he immediately runs out and marries one of his cousins too in a seeming bid to curry favor from his father. We don’t find out if this works or not, but the passage does not that the new wife is “in addition to the wives he already had.”

On his trip to find a suitable wife, Jacob has his famous ladder dream. The ladder, or stairway to heaven, has been a popular image ever since, but the story itself is kind of disappointing. Other than the basic description of a ladder reaching to heaven with angels ascending and descending, there is no other explanation. I mean, why do angels with wings need a ladder or stairway?
Basically, it is simply a setup for God to issue the same promise to Jacob that he has already made to Abraham and Isaac.
The next morning Jacob decides to consecrate the stone he slept on with oil and then make a vow to God. It is an interesting vow because of all the conditions he puts on it. Jacob promises to worship the Lord as his God, but only if God watches over him on his journey, makes sure he has food to eat and clothes to wear, and assures that he gets home safely in the end.
Wouldn’t we all like to make vows like that?

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