Genesis 28:20 MEANING

Genesis 28:20
(20-22) Then shall the Lord (Jehovah) be my God.--This is a false translation, and gives a wrong sense. Jacob, in his vow, which implies no doubt on his part, but is his acceptance of the terms of the covenant, says: "If Elohim will be with me, and will protect me on this journey that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I come again in peace to my father's house, and Jehovah will be my Elohim, then this stone which I have set up as a pillar shall be Beth-Elohiin; and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely pay thee tithes." Genesis 28:20-21 are a recapitulation of the mercies of which he was to be the recipient, while in Genesis 28:22 Jacob states what shall be his vow of gratitude.

But what was a Beth-Elohim? It has been supposed that it was a sort of cromlech, set up to be itself an object of adoration. Attention has also been called to the Baitylia, or stones "possessed of a soul," which the Ph?nicians are said by Eusebius (Praep. Evang. i. 10) to have worshipped; and it has been thought, with some probability, that the word is a corrupt form of the Hebrew Beth-Elohim. These Baitylia. however, were meteoric stones, and their sanctity arose from their having fallen from heaven. Stones, moreover, set up at first simply as memorials may in time have been worshipped, and hence the prohibition in Leviticus 26:1, Deuteronomy 16:22; but there is no trace of any such idolatrous tendency here. Jacob apparently meant by a Beth-Elohim a place where prayer and offerings would be acceptable, because God ad manifested Himself there; and His vow signified that if, preserved by Jehovah's care, he was permitted to visit the place again, he would consecrate it to Jehovah's service, and spend there in sacrifice, or in some other way to His honour, the tithe of whatever property he might have acquired.

Verses 20, 21. - And Jacob vowed a vow, - not in any mercenary or doubtful spirit, but as an expression of gratitude for the Divine mercy (Calvin), as the soul's full and free acceptance of the Lord to be its own God (Murphy), as the instinctive impulse of the new creature (Candlish) - saying, If (not the language of uncertainty, but equivalent to "since, ' or "forasmuch as;" Jacob by faith both appropriating and anticipating the fulfillment of the preceding promise) God (Elohim; for the reason of which vide infra) will be with me, - as he has promised (ver. 15), and as I believe he will - and will keep me in this way that I go, - a particular appropriation of the general promise (ver. 15) - and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on (i.e. all the necessaries of life, included, though not specially mentioned, in the preceding promise), so that I come again to my father's house - also guaranteed by God (ver. 15), and here accepted by the patriarch - in peace (i.e. especially free from Esau's avenging threats); then shall the Lord be my God - literally, and Jehovah will be to me for Elohim (Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, Keil, Kalisch, 'Speaker's Commentary'), though the received translation is not without support (LXX., Vulgate, Syriac, Calvin, Michaelis, Lange, Murphy, Wordsworth); but to have bargained and bartered with God in the way which this suggests before assenting to accept him as an object of trust and worship would have been little less than criminal. Accordingly, the clause is best placed in the protasis of the sentence, which then practically reads, "if Elohim will be Jehovah to me, and if Jehovah will be to me Elohim" (vide Hengstenberg, 'Introduction,' vol. 1. p. 358).

28:20-22 Jacob made a solemn vow on this occasion. In this observe, 1. Jacob's faith. He trusts that God will be with him, and will keep him; he depends upon it. 2. Jacob's moderation in his desires. He asks not for soft clothing and dainty meat. If God give us much, we are bound to be thankful, and to use it for him; if he gives us but little, we are bound to be content, and cheerfully to enjoy him in it. 3. Jacob's piety, and his regard to God, appear in what he desired, that God would be with him, and keep him. We need desire no more to make us easy and happy. Also his resolution is, to cleave to the Lord, as his God in covenant. When we receive more than common mercy from God, we should abound in gratitude to him. The tenth is a fit proportion to be devoted to God, and employed for him; though it may be more or less, as God prospers us, 1Co 16:2. Let us then remember our Bethels, how we stand engaged by solemn vows to yield ourselves to the Lord, to take him for our God, and to devote all we have and are to his glory!And Jacob vowed a vow,.... Which is the first vow we read of in Scripture:

saying, if God will be with me; the word if is not a sign of doubting, but is either an adverb of time, and may be rendered, "when God shall be with me" (t); or as a supposition, expressive of an inference or conclusion drawn, "seeing God will be with me" (u); which he had the utmost reason to believe he would, since he had not only promised it, but had so lately granted him his presence in a very singular and remarkable manner, referring to the promise of God, Genesis 28:15,

and will keep me in this way that I go; as he had said he would, and as hitherto he had, and for the future he had reason to believe he still would:

and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on; which is included in that clause, "I will not leave thee", &c. Genesis 28:15, even not without food and raiment; which is all men can desire or use, and therefore with them should be content.

(t) "quum", Junius & Tremellius; so Ainsworth. (u) Quandoquidem, Tigurine version.

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