Jacob has cheated his twin brother, Esau, and his birth right; and he has cheated his father, Isaac, of the blessing intended for Esau. Esau is furious, and Jacob flees. The first night, Jacob awakes suddenly, is terrified, and exclaims, “God is here!” “This is no other than God’s house; this is the gate of heaven.” In the morning, filled with awe as, he erects a stone as a memorial pillar to God in gratitude of the blessings he has received that night. He names the place “Beth-el”, or “house of God”.
The Protestant interpretation of the story, as I have come to know it, is simply that God has chosen to bless Jacob, despite his dishonesty; and God tells him in his dream that night. Nothing more. Dreams are one way that God uses to speak to us. If we face the facts and dare to claim the obvious in this passage, clearly the dream connects earth with heaven; a ladder ascending and descending between the two.
The imagery of this passage is common in the ancient world. A cave painting associated with the Persian God, Mithras, depicts souls descending to earth then returning to heaven through “the seven planetary spheres.”There are Egyptian sculptures also depicting souls ascending and descending from heaven to earth on a ladder. Likewise in India.
The pillar of stone that Jacob erected at the site is similar to other forms of phallic worship in the ancient world.
There is a related notion of the transmigration of souls taught not only by Jews, but also by Indians, Buddhists, and other areas world, including the Americas. It is also evident in the New Testament. In Mark 8:27, 28 Jesus asked his disciples, “whom do men say that I am?” 28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” In John 9:1, 2, upon seeing a man who was blind from birth, the disciples asked Jesus who sinned, the blind man or his parents. The question itself suggests a principle of transmigration of the souls, since the man had been blind since birth, and by implication, could only have sinned in a former state. See also Matthew 17. Such a notion was common in Hinduism, Buddhism, ancient Egypt, even in North America and Mexico.
The divine, the transcendent is revealed throughout the world.
Would you please share your own faith story?