The Bible is filled with promises. Some of God’s promises apply to us today, but there are many promises which were made to specific people. Though they were specific, they often teach us about the nature and character of God and includes principles that still apply today.
Genesis 28 15 is one of those promises that were made to a particular individual but carries principles that are applicable for us today.
The Context of Genesis 28 15
Jacob and his mother, Rebekah had deceived Isaac and stolen the blessing meant for Esau (Genesis 27:1-8). As could be expected, Esau was enraged and wanted to kill his brother (Genesis 27:41).
To protect her favorite son, Rebekah hatched a plan. “If Jacob takes a wife from among the women who live in Canaan,” she told her husband Isaac. “My life will be so miserable.” (Genesis 27:46)
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Isaac agrees with Rebekah and tells Jacob to leave the country in search of a wife. Jacob is to go to Paddan-aram, Rebekah’s hometown several hundred miles away. He is to go to his uncle Laban and find a bride among his people.
Somewhere along the journey, Jacob makes camp for the night and has a dream, well, a vision really. He saw a ladder connecting heaven and earth and angels ascending and descending on it. God stood at the top of the ladder and spoke to Jacob and made him a promise (Genesis 28:13).
And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.
“Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” (Genesis 28:13-15 NKJV)
God’s Promise to Jacob
God’s promise to Jacob in Genesis 28 15 has several layers, so let’s look at each of them so we can fully understand what God was trying to say.
When God first appeared to Jacob, He introduced Himself. He gave His covenant name and then declared Himself to be the God of Jacob’s father and grandfather.
The impression you’re left with is that Jacob doesn’t know who God is and definitely does not have a personal relationship with Him. This impression carries over from Genesis 27:20. When Isaac asked how he had managed to find an animal so quickly, Jacob’s response was, “Because the LORD your God brought it to me” (emphasis added).
God’s promise to Jacob is the same one He had made to both Isaac and Abraham: the land in which they now lived as a foreigner would be theirs and would be given to their descendants.
God then tells Jacob that his descendants would be as numerous as dust and through them all the nations of the world would be blessed. This was the Messianic promise and confirms the words spoken to Jacob by his father before he had left home.
“May God Almighty bless you,
And make you fruitful and multiply you,
That you may be an assembly of peoples;
And give you the blessing of Abraham,
To you and your descendants with you,
That you may inherit the land
In which you are a stranger,
Which God gave to Abraham.”
– Genesis 28:3-4 NKJV
God then goes on to make a specific promise to Jacob, He would be with him wherever he went and would bring him back to his family home one day.
Genesis 28 15 Meaning
Jacob was at least forty years old when he left home (Genesis 26:34) so it must have seemed strange for him to be on his own in a land he did not know. He may have heard stories about Padam-Aran but the Bible doesn’t say whether he had ever gone there before.
What we do know is that God felt it necessary to make this promise to Jacob. So, let’s look at some of the words in the original language to see if they can deepen our understanding of the text.
As you may notice from the verse below, much of what has been translated as a phrase in our English Bibles were actually a single Hebrew word. I have included the Strong’s numbers that we’ll be looking at for today’s passage.
And, behold, I [am] with thee, and will keep H8104 thee in all [places] whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee H5800, until I have done H6213 that which I have spoken H1696 to thee of. (Genesis 28:15 KJV)
H8104: shâmar, (pronounced shaw-mar’) means to hedge about (as with thorns), i.e. guard, to protect, or attend to.
H5800: ʻâzab, (pronounced aw-zab’) means to loosen, i.e. relinquish. It could also have been translated as commit self, forsake, or, leave (destitute, off).
H6213: ʻâsâh, (pronounced aw-saw’) which means to do or make, or accomplish.
H1696: dâbar, (pronounced daw-bar’) which could have been translated to mean command, declare, or promise.
As we look at the Hebrew words, we realize that God had promised to protect and care for Jacob wherever he was.
God recognized that Jacob was apprehensive and scared about the journey. God wanted him to know that he would not go alone, God Himself would be with him to not only keep him, but to bring him back to his family (Genesis 28:14).
How Genesis 28 15 Applies to Us
Even though Genesis 28 15 is a promise that was made directly to Jacob, it contains elements we can claim.
Jacob may have felt lonely as he left every familiar thing behind, but God wanted him to know that he was not alone.
Just like Jacob, God has not left us alone to go through the experiences of our lives. God is with us and He will never leave us. When you feel alone or afraid, remember Psalm 139:7-12. There is nowhere on heaven or earth that we can go that will take us out of the presence of God.
Understanding Jacob’s Dream
The ladder in Jacob’s dream represented Jesus. Christ is the bridge between heaven and earth. More appropriately, Jesus is the One who reconnects fallen humanity to God, the Father.
God was reaffirming the promise of the seed that would save the world (Genesis 3:15) He was saying to Jacob,
“Hey, you did something wrong. You deceived your father and stole from your brother. But in spite of your behavior, my promise to save you still stands.”
Our sin separates us from God. There’s no going around that. He’s a holy God and anything that’s not holy will be destroyed in His presence. But.
But God wants to save us. There is nothing that we can do that will make Him give up on us. Jehovah hates some of the things that we do, but He loves us so much He keeps trying to save us. Over and over again. Wonderful. Merciful. Savior.
The Promise of Genesis 28 15
God desires an intimate relationship with us. He draws close to us when we are going through difficult times. He walks beside us when life is good. He has promised that He will always be with us. Like Jacob, you can believe that when God makes a promise, He will not leave you until He has accomplished it.
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