Revelations from the Word

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Jacob and the stone used as a pillow

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"Truly, truly, you will see henceforth the heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending over the Son of man" (John 1:51).

"So he came to [paga] a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones [eben] of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it" (Genesis 28:11-12).

Jacob left Beersheba to go to Haran. He arrived in a place where he spent the night for the sun had already set. Encouraged by his father Isaac, he was going to look for a wife in Paddan Aram at the house of his uncle Laban, at the same time as fleeing from the hatred of his brother, Esau. It is then that he "prayed [paga] in the place where he spent the night"; the Hebrew verb paga also means to pray, to intercede, to beg, to touch, to reach, as in the passage from Isaiah which speaks of Jesus, "He interceded [paga] for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12). Fear of his brother and the fact of being in an unknown place led Jacob to ask for God's protection.

Then Jacob took a stone and made it his pillow, that is to say the stone became the top of his bed. Jacob implored the God of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, the stone [eben] symbolising both God's protection and covenant:

  • "the stone [eben] that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone" (Psalm 118:22),

  • "the Lord gave to Moses the two tablets of stone [eben], the tablets of the covenant" (Deuteronomy 9:11).

That was the night that God revealed Himself in a dream. Jacob (who will later become Israel) saw a ladder which was linking earth and heaven, and angels who were ascending and descending. And God revealed Himself to him as being the God of Abraham and Isaac, and He renewed his promises, "The land on which you are lying, I will give to you and your descendants... Behold, I am with you, I will keep you everywhere you go..." (Genesis 29:13-15). Then Jacob made a vow and this stone that he had erected as a pillar, became the House of God (Genesis 29:20-22), i.e. a place where man comes to meet God.

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards Him, He said to him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit" (John 1:47). After Nathanael had said to him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God, You are the King of Israel" (John 1:49), Jesus answered him, "Because I have told you that I saw you under the fig tree, you believe; you will see greater things than these" (John 1:50), then added, "Truly, truly, you will see henceforth the heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending over the Son of man" (John 1:51). He who leans on the cornerstone (Jesus) fears nothing and he as well, like Jacob, will see the heaven open above him (Isaiah 28:16).