Genesis 28
"Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place - and I did not know it!'"

This meditative series will guide you through Genesis 28, helping you to explore how God is speaking to you through your dreams.
Dea Jenkins
Creative Director
As an artist devoted to following Jesus, I often feel an inner tug to push beyond rote practices and stale answers when engaging with scripture. I'm always pulling at the threads of appearances, asking, "What else is possible?" And what is possible when we engage with scripture? If we were designed in the image of the very embodiment of creativity, couldn't there be more to how we interact with the Living Word?

The Genesis 28 story of Jacob's dream of "a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven" [28:12, NRSV] is a deceptively familiar story. Brief and surface interactions with Jacob's stunning vision render this passage void of its layered meanings. This series is a call to challenge surface interactions with this text. It is an interactive experience that will allow you to deepen your own understanding of what it means to dream a dream worthy of God's very presence. Further, it is a call to open your ears to learn how to listen for how God is already speaking to you through your dreams.

The structure of this series is intentionally relaxed. You are invited to enter into this at your own pace. In fact, a slower pace is recommended. Try going through just one section at a time. As you intentionally slow down, you'll be amazed at how quickly God meets you in the dreamspace. May peace and blessings fill your journey.
Table of
Phase 1
Resting  Places
Phase 2
Dreams & Revelations
Phase 4
New Life
Resting Places
Genesis 28: 10-22


Imagine that you have walked an unfamiliar and unpaved path through dry, desert terrain. On about the second day of your journey from your father’s home, you notice that the sun is setting and that you should make camp for the night. What is going through your mind as you lay down on the hard ground with only a rock as your pillow to lull you to sleep?

Do you look at the luminous sky as the stars begin to emerge, the last trails of daylight slipping away? Do you mull over your role in your family’s drama unfolding in the wake of your abrupt departure? How challenging do you find it to finally allow your body to surrender the day’s grief and anxiety, allowing the earth to drink in your sorrows? Perhaps you sink into relief as your mind finally relinquishes thoughts on the trouble you’ve just left and the long journey still before you.

Did Jacob find it difficult to rest before he slipped into his infamous dream? Jacob’s story of a ladder between Heaven and earth is so familiar that it is tempting to allow our eyes to glaze over the text without pausing to sink into the rich layers of the story. On the surface, the story is pretty straightforward - a man on a journey falls asleep, has a dream that reveals the glory of Heaven, he names a place in honor of that dream, and then he continues on his journey. But what else emerges from Jacob’s subconscious dreamspace that can pull back Heaven’s sheer layers for us even today? What happens when we give in and fall into Jacob’s dream ourselves?


1. Read the following prayer as a centering practice:

Lord, may we have wisdom to rest, stopping in places where we can be still enough to meet You in the spaces where Your presence lingers.

2. Go on a walk and find a place that you can return to frequently during this series. This will be your meeting place with God as you journey through Genesis 28. In a journal, write about why you chose your particular place.

While Jacob may be our protagonist, it is undeniable that there is another star character leading this story. This scene would be incomplete without the role played by darkness. We would miss the majestic brilliance of Heaven’s introduction if it weren't for darkness’s presence. And what emerges from the dark that we would never be able to see in full daylight? 

In Jacob's story, darkness is the womb through which Jacob experiences the seeds of his own inner transformation. Darkness is the womb that holds the birth of Israel. There, tucked comfortably within the bosom of earth’s caverns, Jacob rests his way into his own transfiguration. The transition unfolds so smoothly that Jacob won't grasp the full weight of the moment until years later when he will unwittingly enter a divinely appointed wrestling match (Genesis 32). At this moment however, he is content to sleep, his mind set on his journey.


1. Make a habit of recording any dreams that you have during this series. You can simply write them out in a journal. Pay attention to any repeating dreams or symbols that come to you over the next several weeks. Be sure to include your day dreams as well.

2. Choose one recent dream you’ve had. Search online for symbolic meaning behind any major themes of your dream. In your journal, record what you discover, then spend a few moments listening for God’s commentary on your dreams. Pray for a deeper revelation of images or symbols that stand out to you.

Munich’s year-round open-air  farmers’ market. Hardly a secret destination but well worth visiting, especially if you know which stands to hit. For quick, cheap and delicious grilled sandwiches made with generous slabs of French bread and ingredients like prosciutto, figs, mozzarella, goat cheese and more, head to Luiginos, an organic cheese stand that boasts the production of the “World Champion” winning Emmentaler cheese. Look for the yellow awning toward the eastern border of the market.
Das Maria
Munich’s year-round open-air  farmers’ market. Hardly a secret destination but well worth visiting, especially if you know which stands to hit. For quick, cheap and delicious grilled sandwiches made with generous slabs of French bread and ingredients like prosciutto, figs, mozzarella, goat cheese and more, head to Luiginos, an organic cheese stand that boasts the production of the “World Champion” winning Emmentaler cheese. Look for the yellow awning toward the eastern border of the market.
A great place to sip coffee and do some excellent people watching. Not only is the food — such as the paper and twined wrapped sandwiches — fresh, local and good, but half of the space is a thoughtfully curated shop full of curios, culinary treats and modern crafts. Make sure to wear your hipster sunglasses, and do try the delicious Mango-Mint shake.
Dreams & Revelations
As he drifts into a dream whose rippling effects will forever change his life, I imagine that Jacob must have startled upon the ladder that reached from earth to sky. I imagine that he was walking intently through his dream with the same fervor that he walked for days between his father’s land and his uncle’s home. What did he notice first? A ladder or stairway that seemed out of place in the open terrain? Or, did he see the angels, those divine beings that also moved with intention between home and purpose? Was it their vertical “ascension and descension” that made them out to be somehow different? Was their vertical journey so drastically different from Jacob’s horizontal mobility that he could not help but to classify them as something “other”? What gave them away as heavenly beings? And were they moving towards him, or did Jacob simply notice their activity and how they seemed to be in perpetual motion? Did they notice Jacob at all, or was he merely a witness to a life that flourishes within the thin veils between heaven and earth? How many ascending and descending angels had Jacob already passed through as he walked, mired by his connection to earth without the benefit of divine sight to see beyond his earth-centered concerns?


1. Where do you imagine the ladder is in this scene? Either draw a sketch of the scene as you envision it or write out a short description of what you picture when you read verse Genesis 28:12.

2. Write about a divine encounter that profoundly shaped your life. What about the encounter marked it as an experience with the divine? What made the moment significant for you and how has it had a lasting impact in your life?

Why should Jacob be given the gift of divine sight at this particular point in his journey? At his father’s request, he is on his way to Paddan Aram to his Uncle Laban’s home. Jacob is only about two or three days into a weeks-long trek. Nonetheless, he is now far enough away that it would be foolish to turn back. And he wouldn’t turn back. Not with his brother Esau still fuming over his betrayal. Who knows how his rash brother might react to his duplicitous thievery. So, onward he continues, and with his gaze forward he is rewarded with a gift offered to very few.


1. What has God promised you that has not yet been realized? Sketch or write out the vision in as much detail as you can.

2. How have you seen God bringing this promise to fruition so far? What about the process remains a mystery to you? After journaling, ask God to clarify what your next step is in pursuing the promise.

Why did the Lord choose to introduce Jacob to the Spirit realm first through a dream? Perhaps the answer rests in studying Jacob’s very nature. As “Jacob”, a name meaning “supplanter”, he is one who cannot rest - even at birth he clenches the heel of his twin brother, Esau, as they emerge from their mother’s womb (Genesis 25: 20-26). At the nearing of his father’s death, he collaborates with his mother to manipulate his way into the family blessing (Genesis 27). He will not rest in honoring tradition, but instead believes that the family inheritance would fit best upon his own shoulders so that he can maneuver through a fabricated layer of safety for his own wellbeing. It is only when Jacob is still, when he must finally rest because he is not able to see his way forward with the coming of night, that the Lord finally reveals Himself to Jacob. Jacob, in his most vulnerable state at the dawn of night, is finally able to receive, and is finally able to see more fully than he ever could with all of his own ingenuity and cunningness. 

Ironically, though, his clever nature is not discarded nor completely eradicated, even with the coming of his own transformation. When he will finally be ready to be known as “Israel” he will be rewarded for his perseverance, a trait that surely derives from his agile mind refusing to refrain from considering all possible angles by which he may win, succeed, find shelter - live. Jacob’s ultimate preoccupation is with finding safety and prolonged covering, but it is only through entering the one space where he is rendered powerless that he comes into the promise that will grant him his heart’s greatest desire - to truly be known and cared for.

The will to direct a course of action that will not render one forgotten is embedded within all of Jacob’s desperate actions. He fears not just for his physical life, but also for his very essence. Jacob’s resounding question throughout Genesis is, “Who am I?” Am I one who emerges second, after the initial joy of seeing a child enter the world for the first time has already filled my parents’ hearts? Am I one who must pass for another if I am not to be left outside of the family blessing, because I was born second? Am I one who is unknown by a God my forefathers claim as their own? Am I one not recognized even by my own kin? Am I one who must labor for that which I love, because I struggle to believe I am enough to receive great blessings? Am I one whose very name signifies my inner struggle to overcome that which is laid before me?

In Genesis 28, the Lord does not yet answer Jacob’s unspoken questions, but He does plant the seeds that will lead Jacob further into his path of self-discovery.
While Jacob stands in awe of the magnificent site of angels moving to and fro, the Lord makes His own presence known. Translators read this part of the text with distinct differences. Where exactly is the Lord when He introduces Himself to Jacob? Is He standing above the ladder looking down at Jacob? Does Jacob have to crane his neck back and stare up at the sky at a distant yet powerful God? Does this reorientation of Jacob’s gaze serve to turn Jacob’s attention from the familial stresses that fill his vision, placing it instead on broad and deep heavenly purpose? Is the Lord essentially calling Jacob to a higher train of thought?

Or, is the Lord beside Jacob, commenting on what Jacob is witnessing by granting context to his experience? If the Lord is beside Jacob then this becomes a passage not entirely about the vertical relationship between the Lord and Jacob, but rather about the triangular effect of Jacob’s purposeful life unfolding horizontally across the earth by way of the power vertically descending from divine purpose and plan. In this way, the Lord situates Jacob in his rightful place by acknowledging his connection to the ground, but also through dispensing divine aid in heavenly and earthly pursuits. The appearance of the angels emerge like a shimmering mirage, but somehow the Lord’s presence grounds them in reality. The ladder may serve as a divinely designed bridge or portal, but it is the Lord who becomes Jacob’s true bridge.

The mobility of the divine serves to reorient our own standing. While we look up at a divine Father who sees all and knows the paths that we must take, we are also guided by One who walks alongside us, even as we have yet to become aware of His presence. What is even more awe-inspiring than a God you can only catch a small glimpse of from far, far up above you is the God who would dare to allow you to experience His presence up close and personal. He is not a god trapped by the constraints of distance or the appearance of power. In His full power He dares to go where He pleases and challenges you to reconsider your own position to the divine. His earthly presence - in all His many forms - serves to remind us that we have the capacity to adjust, shift, change, morph - transform. As He moves and we reorient ourselves based on His movements, we progressively morph into more accurate reflections of such gracious presence. 

Here is the secret of the text - that by locating the Lord’s presence we realize that we are not actually in Jacob’s dream, but that we are stepping into the Lord’s own divine visions - visions that see no distinction between heaven and earth, the two enmeshed as one, the tangible folding into and falling over and emerging out of the full realness of heaven. This is the crux of the secret - that the divine is always and so incredibly within reach. Our challenge is to learn how to rest our way into divine flow so that our own eyes may be opened enough that we may easily see that there is no real distinction between the workings of heaven and earth.
The first matter that the Lord settles with Jacob is His own identity, but He immediately connects this Self revelation to Jacob’s history. He calls on the stories Jacob heard from his father Isaac, about his legendary grandfather, Abraham. Undoubtedly, Isaac told Jacob the story about how his father nearly sacrificed him at the request of the Lord (Genesis 22:1-19). Surely Jacob has heard about the familial promise that God would care for them and would grant them land. However, how much of these stories remained abstract, unsolidified by personal experience or cause for care? How much did Jacob really know about this strange God his father and grandfather served?

So, the first matter for the Lord is to kindle the seeds of connection planted by Isaac. With this one line, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac,” the Lord begins the movement from being the God of forefathers to being the God of Jacob’s present. The Lord elongates Jacob’s timeline, stretching the promise given to Abraham into Jacob’s now. He does this by repeating elements of the promise spoken two generations ago to Abraham. And why this promise of descendants and land? Further, in addition to land, what other gifts does Jacob stand to gain?


1. Can you imagine that God is saying to you the same words shared in Genesis 28:15? Create a visual collage that reminds you of a time when God clearly demonstrated that God is always with you.

2. What did this memory make you feel? Is this a memory that comes to mind often for you, or do you often forget that God has promised to remain faithful to you? Practice remembering God's faithfulness by finding a simple token that reminds you of God's constant presence. Keep the token near you for a week, pausing two to three times a day to say a simple prayer of gratitude to God for being present.

Genesis 32 reveals that the unveiling of the Spirit realm is a lingering gift for Jacob. In Genesis 32 we see that Jacob’s sight has been forever enhanced when Jacob is able to see what no other in his camp can perceive - chiefly the Lord’s host of angels filling the in-between places of before and next. This altered ability to see within the thin places of the world enables Jacob to understand the wisdom of dwelling in spaces where the Lord’s presence is revealed; the places where the spiritual and the physical cease their dichotomous living and instead fuse into the expressed totality of full life.
Did Jacob leave the dreamspace through soft emergence or did he startle awake? How strongly did his dream images linger in his mind?

The weight of his experience pressing on him, he utters, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” This awareness is the key to Jacob’s life story. Jacob’s ability to perceive the Lord’s presence and the Lord’s hosts of angels is forever altered. In this way, Jacob’s dream is a revelatory apocalyptic vision. It is an initiating act that will ultimately lead to his transformation into Israel. The leading question at the close of Genesis 28 is what will it take for Jacob to be transformed? What will be required to produce his becoming?


1. Create a mind map of five to ten of your biggest dreams. Which of these dreams seem too farfetched or grand? If you are excited about the ideas, what steps can you take that will help bring those dreams into reality?

New Life
Marveled by the sight of Heaven’s activity, Jacob seeks to honor his experience by renaming the place that granted him access to the inner workings of Heaven. When he wakes and proclaims, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it,” he chooses to name the location “Bethel”, meaning “house of God”. Jacob’s presumed authority to name the location Bethel is peculiar, because the place already had a name - Luz. Throughout the Old Testament we see that it is common for Abraham’s descendants to name and rename locations based on their perceptions of places and based on key interactions with God and neighboring peoples, regardless of existing local histories. 

Saul B. Cohen notes, “Affixing names to places is inextricably linked with nation building and state formation.” Even at this premature stage, Jacob is acting on cultural impulse to expand his people’s territory. Cohen also associates the instinct to name and rename places as key to developing a nation’s “collective conscience”.

The heart of the matter is that while Jacob renames a place, he will ultimately be renamed by God. Eventually Jacob will flourish into his true namesake as “Israel”, the father of the twelve tribes that will carry God’s promise and Abraham’s seed across generations. The reworking of “place-names” denotes an inherited trust and authority in a God whose promise for collective blessing will ultimately envelope all of humanity.


1. Research the meaning behind several names that interest you and list out 3-5 alternative names for yourself. After choosing one, write about an alternative life you could imagine living based on your chosen name. Are there elements about this alternative life that you would like to carry over into your current life? Choose one element from this alternative life and try implementing it into your current reality.

2. Schedule a time to return to the place you chose to visit at the beginning of the series. Before you go, learn about the history of the place. Did the location have a different name at a different point in time? Was it significant to a particular group of people? When you visit your chosen place, consider all the stories and histories that have entered that space before you and consider how your presence is impacting the space for those who will visit after you.


1. Create an anthology of your dreams. This can include visions, ideas, dreams you've had while sleeping, dreams that you can turn into goals, etc. You may choose to include images, graphics, poetry, prayers, and drawings in your dream anthology.

2. Return to your dream anthology periodically. Notice how your dreams change over time. Notice which dreams keep recurring. Add to your anthology as you are inspired. This is also a great practice for creative prayer sessions.

After waking, Jacob’s next task will be to learn what it means to walk as the embodied fusion of the physical and spiritual, as a dual citizen of heaven and earth. This early call to purpose will eventually make its way, through generation to generation, to the Church. Eventually we learn that, like the angels, we may move between worlds. Their movement is a spiritual enactment, ours, physical expression. We learn as we become aware that the two actions, the spiritual and the physical, have correlating effects. Through this lens, Jacob’s dream is a seed of our own realization that our actions have both physical and spiritual implications.

We are then left with a single question: “What is real?” Can we truly say that the physical is more literal than the spiritual when we begin to reckon with how it is often the Spirit realm that initiates our encounters with the divine? Birthed from Spirit, our literal, physical forms will know the full cycle of what it means to spiral through birth to death and then to rebirth. In this way, we complete our cycle of transformation, discovering the necessary perseverance that will render us capable of bearing the full weight of our true identity.
In Genesis 28, Jacob cannot know that his appointed encounter with the Spirit realm would lead to his transfiguration, but what he does know, he acts upon. He initiates an offering to the Lord by setting up a pillar, by renaming the ground on which he laid, and by promising an offering in exchange for God's revelation and provision.

Jacob cannot yet know that the promise of God will move far beyond his physical nourishment and care - they are only the beginnings of a life entirely inverted. Where before Jacob cared primarily for his physical well being (as demonstrated in his attempts to receive his father's material blessings), his internal drive towards self-preservation will be inverted as the nation of Israel is pulled from his inner being. In him will come the twelve tribes of Israel and ultimately the Christ, the full expression of both mergence and inversion.
Das Maria
Munich’s year-round open-air  farmers’ market. Hardly a secret destination but well worth visiting, especially if you know which stands to hit. For quick, cheap and delicious grilled sandwiches made with generous slabs of French bread and ingredients like prosciutto, figs, mozzarella, goat cheese and more, head to Luiginos, an organic cheese stand that boasts the production of the “World Champion” winning Emmentaler cheese. Look for the yellow awning toward the eastern border of the market.
A great place to sip coffee and do some excellent people watching. Not only is the food — such as the paper and twined wrapped sandwiches — fresh, local and good, but half of the space is a thoughtfully curated shop full of curios, culinary treats and modern crafts. Make sure to wear your hipster sunglasses, and do try the delicious Mango-Mint shake.