Summary: Jacob was a man on the run, after leaving his home and family. He stopped for the night to sleep, and during that night, he received the strangest dream of his life. His journey was not over, in any way, shape, or form!
Introduction: there was trouble in the camp. Jacob had tricked his father, Isaac, into receiving the paternal blessing Isaac wanted to give Esau, Jacob’s twin (and older) brother (Genesis 27). Even worse, their mother, Rebekah, had helped Jacob in this deception! Even before this, some years previous, Jacob made a hard bargain with his twin brother, Esau, for Esau’s birthright (Gen. 25:29-34); oddly enough, nobody else seemed to notice or even make mention of it at the time.
But now, Esau was furious and breathed aloud his plans to kill Jacob. Rebekah found out about and, again, stepped in to protect Jacob. Rebekah found a way to get Jacob away from the situation, and that involved a variation on the “let’s find him a wife” theme. Except for the time Isaac and the family spent in the land of the Philistines (Gerar, Genesis 26), Jacob might never have gone on any other journeys at all!
1 Why Jacob left home
Text: Genesis 28:1-5, KJV: 1 And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. 2 Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother. 3 And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; 4 And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham. 5 And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padanaram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother.
Genesis 27 records a very sordid story, in that Rebekah, mother of Esau and Jacob, conspired for Jacob, the younger son, to basically steal the paternal blessing Isaac, the father, planned to give Esau, the older son. Things seemed to work out the way Rebekah planned: Jacob got the blessing, Esau got another but lesser blessing, and Esau was so furious at what Jacob had done that he planned to kill him!
Rebekah found out about Esau’s plan and decided to get Jacob out of harm’s way. She came up with the plan (ruse?) for Jacob to find a wife. Esau had already married two foreign (pagan?) women, Hittites, and Rebekah was not happy about it. This sets the stage for Jacob’s departure from home.
Verse 1 tells us that Isaac “called Jacob, and blessed him (in addition to the blessing he had stolen from Esau), and charged him (gave him some serious instructions)” to not marry one of the local (pagan?) girls but rather go back to Rebekah’s country and family, then find a wife from there. The differences between a wife-search for Isaac and the one for Jacob could be summarized as follows (see Genesis 24): Isaac was about 40 when Abraham decided to find a wife for Isaac; Jacob was maybe 77 by some calculations; Sarah had died three years before this bur Rebekah was still living; Abraham sent a servant and 10 camels loaded with gifts to impress the chosen damsel; Isaac sent Jacob away with nothing but the clothes on his back and his staff.
Thus, having little but what he could carry, Jacob set out for Paddan-Aram, the land of his uncle Laban (his mother’s brother). Jacob himself later said, in so many words, he left home with only his staff but he was coming back with a lot more (Genesis 32:10, paraphrased).
But before he arrived at Laban’s territory, Jacob was going to experience something very special.
2 What Jacob experienced that first night
A: A night under the stars
Text, Genesis 28:10-11, KJV: 10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. 11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
Beersheba was about the southern limit of Isaac’s land. In later days, there was a phrase, “from Dan to Beersheba”, to describe the northern edge to the southern edge of Israel’s territory. A similar usage, currently, might be “from Maine to California” or “from coast to coast” to give two examples.
Jacob had left Beersheba, along with just about everything and everyone he knew, and was heading towards Haran. This was where his uncle Laban still lived and this was his mother’s home territory. Isaac had told Jacob to find a wife from his relatives in Haran but what Jacob knew of his relatives there is debatable at best. There is no record of any communication between Rebekah and any of her relatives as recorded in the Bible.