Jacobs Dream

What Does Jacob’s Dream Mean?Jacob's dream meaning

In the Book of Genesis there is a long narrative about Jacob and his brother Esau. Jacob had tricked their father, Isaac, with the help of his mother, into giving Jacob, Esau’s inheritance. Jacob was forced to run away from his home because Esau vowed to murder him once their father died. Jacob was in essence a fugitive on the run. Jacob was on the run because he had stolen his brother’s inheritance from their father.

One night Jacob was exhausted from walking all day and fell asleep on the side of a road. Jacob had a dream. In the dream, God told him, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth…Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go….”

Jacob’s dream symbolized the Jewish belief that God was always present.  One scholar summarized the symbolism of Jacob’s dream as, “But God is always present. We’re the ones who show up.  For the ancient Jew, the world is soaked in the presence of God.”

Jacob’s dream also symbolized the forgiving nature of God. Jacob had committed a great sin against his family and his god. God not only forgave Jacob for his crime but also promised to be with him. The promise that God made to Jacob in his dream was a continuation of the promise that God had made to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham. The language used by the writer of this narrative, “like the dust of the earth” echoed the promise God made to Abraham, “as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.”

The altar that that Jacob built to God after he woke up from his dream was symbolic of the faith of the Israelite people. Jacob named the place Bethel. Bet is the Hebrew word for house. El is one the names of God. Bethel translates into the House of God.
The narrative of Jacob’s dream in the Book of Genesis was symbolic of the belief that God was always present and all forgiving. Jacob’s dream recalled earlier promises that God made to Jacob’s ancestors. These promises were symbolic of the generations between Adam and Jacob. 

1 Genesis 28:13-15 (New Revised Standard Version)2 Bell, Rob. Velvet Elvis. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.  Pg 44. 3 Genesis 28:14 (NRSV)4 22:18 (NRSV)