From Eternity Past


Chapter 17—Jacob's Flight and Exile

This chapter is based on Genesis 28 to 31.

Threatened with death by Esau, Jacob went out from his father's home a fugitive, but with the father's blessing. Isaac had renewed to him the covenant promise and had bidden him seek a wife of his mother's family in Mesopotamia. EP 119.1

Yet it was with a deeply troubled heart that Jacob set out on his lonely journey. With only his staff in his hand he must travel hundreds of miles through a country inhabited by wild, roving tribes. In his remorse and timidity he sought to avoid men, lest he should be traced by his angry brother. He feared that he had lost forever the blessing God had purposed to give him, and Satan was at hand to press temptations upon him. EP 119.2

The evening of the second day found him far away from his father's tents. He felt he was an outcast, and he knew that all his trouble had been brought upon him by his own wrong course. Despair pressed upon his soul, and he hardly dared to pray. But he was so lonely that he felt the need of protection from God as never before. With weeping he confessed his sin and entreated for some evidence that he was not utterly forsaken. He had lost all confidence in himself, and he feared that God had cast him off. EP 119.3

But God's mercy was still extended to His erring, distrustful servant. The Lord compassionately revealed just what Jacob needed—a Saviour. He had sinned, but he saw revealed a way by which he could be restored to the favor of God. EP 119.4

Wearied, the wanderer lay down on the ground, a stone for his pillow. As he slept, he beheld a ladder whose base rested on the earth while the top reached to heaven. Upon this ladder angels were ascending and descending. Above it was the Lord of glory and from the heavens His voice was heard: “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac.” “In thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” This promise had been given to Abraham and to Isaac, and now it was renewed to Jacob. Then the words of comfort and encouragement were spoken: “Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” EP 119.5

The Lord in mercy opened up the future before the repentant fugitive, that he might be prepared to resist the temptations that would come to him when alone amid idolaters and scheming men. The knowledge that through him the purpose of God was reaching its accomplishment would constantly prompt him to faithfulness. EP 120.1

In this vision the plan of redemption was presented to Jacob in such parts as were essential to him at that time. The mystic ladder revealed in his dream was the same to which Christ referred in His conversation with Nathanael: “Ye shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” John 1:51. The sin of Adam and Eve separated earth from heaven, so that man could not have communion with his Maker. Yet the world was not left in hopelessness. The ladder represents Jesus, the appointed medium of communication. Christ connects man in his weakness and helplessness with the source of infinite power. EP 120.2

All this was revealed to Jacob in his dream. Although his mind at once grasped a part of the revelation, its great and mysterious truths were the study of his lifetime and unfolded to his understanding more and more. EP 120.3

Jacob awoke in the deep stillness of night. The vision had disappeared. Only the dim outline of lonely hills and the heavens bright with stars now met his gaze. But he had a solemn sense that God was with him. “Surely the Lord is in this place,” he said, “and I knew it not... . This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” EP 121.1

“And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.” He called the place Bethel, or “the house of God.” And then he made the solemn vow, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that Thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto Thee.” EP 121.2

Jacob was not seeking to make terms with God. The Lord had already promised him prosperity, and this vow was the outflow of a heart filled with gratitude for the assurance of God's mercy. Jacob felt that the special tokens of divine favor demanded a return. EP 121.3

The Christian should often recall with gratitude the precious deliverances that God has wrought for him, opening ways before him when all seemed dark and forbidding, refreshing him when ready to faint. In view of innumerable blessings he should often ask, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” Psalm 116:12. EP 121.4