Anointing from Heaven

The story of Jacob's mysterious dream about a ladder between heaven and earth and the story of Jacob anointing the pillar contain hints and clues about the Messiah.

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Vayetze

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Vayetze (ויצא | He went out)
  • Torah: Genesis 28:10-32:2
  • Haftarah: Hosea 12:12-14:10
  • Gospel: John 1:41-51

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Genesis 28:10 | Jacob's Dream at Bethel
    • Genesis 29:1 | Jacob Meets Rachel
    • Genesis 29:15 | Jacob Marries Laban's Daughters
    • Genesis 30:25 | Jacob Prospers at Laban's Expense
    • Genesis 31:1 | Jacob Flees with Family and Flocks
    • Genesis 31:22 | Laban Overtakes Jacob
    • Genesis 31:43 | Laban and Jacob Make a Covenant
  • Prophets
    • Hos 12:2 | The Long History of Rebellion
    • Hos 13:1 | Relentless Judgment on Israel
    • Hos 14:1 | A Plea for Repentance
    • Hos 14:4 | Assurance of Forgiveness

Portion Summary

The seventh reading from the book of Genesis is named Vayetze (ויצא), which means "and he went out." The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which says, "And Jacob went out from Beersheba" (Genesis 28:10 KJV). This portion tells the story of Jacob's flight from his brother Esau, his vision at Bethel, his employment with his uncle Laban and his marriage to the two sisters, Rachel and Leah. Jacob's double marriage results in a baby-bearing contest that gives him eleven sons. At the end of the portion, Jacob leaves Laban and returns to the land of Canaan, but not before Laban tries to stop him.


The LORD revealed the vision of the ladder to Jacob as he slept. In his sleep angels ascended and descended upon him. God confirmed the covenant with him while he slumbered with his head upon a stone. In the morning he erected the same stone as a monument and anointed it with oil.

Sleep represents death. Just as Jacob slept at Bethel, Messiah slept the sleep of death and rested upon the stone. Through the “slumber” of the Messiah, the LORD revealed the ladder to heaven, which is Messiah’s atoning suffering and death (the descent) and His triumphant resurrection (the ascent). Angels ascended and descended upon Him, and when He rose up, He moved the stone from before His tomb.

The stone on which Jacob’s dreaming head rested became the token of the promises bestowed in the dream. Jacob set up the stone to mark the spot where his encounter with God had occurred. To consecrate the stone as a sacred site, Jacob poured out a libation of oil over the top. He intended to return there and worship God in the future. Later in the Torah, Moses consecrated every implement and furnishing of the Tabernacle through anointing: “And you shall anoint it, to consecrate it” (Exodus 29:36).

This is the first anointing ceremony in the Torah, and it alludes to Messiah, the Anointed One. The Midrash says Jacob anointed the stone with oil to indicate that in the future his descendants would be anointed to priesthood and kingship.

Where did Jacob procure this anointing oil? According to his own testimony, when he left the land of Canaan he had nothing with him except the staff in his hand (Genesis 32:10). The Midrash Rabbah explains that he received the anointing oil directly from heaven:

The oil was supplied to him from heaven in abundance, as though from a cruse full to the very top. (Genesis Rabbah 69:8)
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