What is Jacob's ladder all about (Gen. 28:12)?
Jacob’s ladder is found in the passage that you have identified. It reads as follows:
Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. (NASB) Genesis 28:10-13
Ladders and Angels
Here we are told that God spoke to Jacob in a dream. God often spoke to prophets in dreams and visions as indicated throughout scripture. The dream is unusual because Jacob sees a ladder that is placed on the earth and it reaches into heaven. The Hebrew word for “ladder” means ladder and not a stairway. Some teachers say that this is not a ladder but a staircase because angels are going up and down the ladder. But there are two key reasons to believe that this is a ladder. First, if the Holy Spirit had wanted to tell us that this was a stairway, He could have used another Hebrew word which means “stairway,” but He did not do that. Second, some say that this must be a staircase because angels are going up and down at the same time. But the passage does not say that they are going up and down at the same time. Therefore, we believe that Jacob saw a ladder in his dream with angels going up and down.
The meaning of the ladder and angels is not clear. It is not explained in scripture. However, it appears to symbolize God’s communication with men and women, since the Hebrew word for angel actually means messenger. In Jacob’s dream, God stands at the top of the ladder and repeats the covenant promises made to Abraham and Isaac regarding a homeland for their descendants. The dream is a message. The entire dream symbolizes God’s awesomeness, His control, and His faithfulness.
God wanted Jacob to understand that He was communicating with him. Have you ever felt that God was speaking with you maybe in a dream, or through someone? Well, God spoke to Jacob in a dream. God does communicate with us. He primarily uses the Bible and the Holy Spirit to talk with us. But today He will move our hearts in the direction that He wants us to go. It only requires that we are quiet and sensitive to His leading.