YA'AQOV DREAMS ANGELS AND MEETS YAHH Gen 28:10-22
CONTEXT:This brief but popular story is so nicely knit together from two sources, J (Yahwist, Y’hudah, Y’rushalayim) and E (Eohist, Ephraim, Israel the northern Kingdom) that it presents a useful and compelling illustration of the literary process. BeytEl, located twelve or so miles north of Y’rushalayim was one of two sites in the northern kingdom, Israel, where Y’rov’am built a temple following the breakaway from the united kingdom of Sha’ul, David, and Sh’lomo. The E version links their temple to the patriarch. And, apart from the characteristic Elohim for the deity, E’s theophanies rely on dreams or visions (e.g. Avimelech in Gen 15:1; Ya’aqov in Gen 46:2). J, of course, refers to the deity as Yahh (YHVH) and brings him right into the scene to communicate anthropomorphically (e.g. the annunciations to Avraham in Gen 18).
In v. 13, the skillful editor introduces Yahh with “behold” following two uses of the same word (hineh) in v. 12 describing the dream. It is as if Yahh were part of the stair dream rather than a figure standing by him and speaking to him. Ya’akov’s reply is the vow in vs. 20-22, which follows the E material, vs. 16-19, about awe and assigning a new name to the place.
In two verses I have taken the liberty to emend the divine names in keeping with the content of the text. (My emendations are in Times font. The original is in 10 point Ariel, parenthesized.) V. 16 where Ya’aqov wakes from his dreaming sleep and is awestruck by the presence of Elohim. V. 20 where Ya’aqov speaks his vow to Yahh who had just promised him protection. By reversing these names, the ancient editor may have been adjusting the two versions into a single story. It is also possible that a later hand, that of a scribe, may have “corrected” the text towards consistency.
10Ya’aqov went out from B’erSheva and walked towards Haran. 11He touched the place. He camped there for the sun had set. He took one of the rocks of the place and set it at his head. He lay down in that place.
12And then he dreamed: Behold, a stair, set on land, its head touching the sky. Behold, angels of God ascending and descending it.
13Behold, Yahh standing near him, “I am Yahh, god of your father Avraham and god of Yitschak. The land on which you lie, I give to you and your seed. 14Your seed shall be like the dust of the land: you shall burst westward, eastward, northward, and southward. Through you and your seed will all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will guard you wherever you go and I shall return you to this ground. For I will not leave you till I shall have done that which I have spoken to you.”
16Ya’aqov woke from his sleep and said, “Indeed! There is God (Yahh) in this place, and I, I didn’t know it.” 17He was awestruck and said, “How awesome is this place. This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of the sky.” 18When he rose early in the morning he took the stone he had set at his head and set it a standing stone. He poured oil on its head. 19He called the name of the place, BeytEl, though at first the name of the town had been Luz.
20Ya’aqov vowed a vow: If Yahh (God) will be with me, and protect me on this road I am walking, and give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21and I return in shalom to my father’s house; then Yahh will be mine as god 22and this rock which I have set as a standing stone will be a house of god and all that you give me, a tithe I will tithe for you.