[b-hebrew] Where Was Jacob's Ladder?

Gary Hedrick garyh at cjfm.org
Wed Nov 7 11:32:07 EST 2007

	This topic should be taken to a biblical geography list. The connection with biblical Hebrew is tenuous at best.

Gary Hedrick
San Antonio, Texas

-----Original Message-----
From: b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-hebrew-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of JimStinehart at aol.com
Sent: Wednesday, November 07, 2007 9:29 AM
To: b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [b-hebrew] Where Was Jacob's Ladder?

Where Was Jacob's  Ladder? 
The geographical locale of Jacob's Ladder is  a surprisingly important key to 
understanding the Patriarchal  narratives. 
In this post, we will see that the  traditional view of the geographical 
locale of Jacob's Ladder cannot be  right.  In a later post we can  figure out 
where Jacob's Ladder was actually  located. 
I.  First Visit to Bethel/Luz 
The Jacob's Ladder experience takes place at  Bethel/Luz.  Here are the key  
initial lines of text: 
"And Jacob went out from  Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.  And he lighted 
upon the place, and  tarried there all night, because the sun was set….  And 
he  called the name of that place Beth-el, but the name of the city was Luz at 
the  first.”  Genesis 28: 10-11,  19 
As I read Genesis 28: 10-11, Jacob got to  Bethel/Luz one day after leaving 
Beersheba.  Thus Bethel/Luz must be one day's travel  time from Beersheba, no 
more, no less. 
Moreover, it does not appear that Jacob left  early in the morning.  At 
Genesis  28: 1-5, Isaac gives his son Jacob a long blessing, and then it appears 
that  Jacob packs a few modest belongings, and then departs from Beersheba.  It 
seems likely that Jacob left  Beersheba mid-morning, not earlier. 
Finally, there is no reason for Jacob to be  traveling at an abnormally high 
rate of speed.  Although there may be some threat that  his older twin brother 
Esau might kill Jacob when their father dies, Isaac is in  good health now, 
so Jacob is not desperately fleeing his brother at top  speed.  On the 
contrary, everything  suggests that Jacob got a fairly late start on his trip, and 
then proceeded at a  normal pace.  True, Jacob is not  encumbered with anything, 
so Jacob can move fairly quickly.  But we should assume normal travel times  
In the ancient world, we might expect Jacob  to travel about 25 miles on the 
first day of his trip, under the foregoing  circumstances, or perhaps a 
slightly less  distance. 
If the Beersheba from which Jacob leaves is  in the northern Negev Desert, 
and if the Bethel/Luz to which Jacob goes is  Bethel/Ai north of Jerusalem, then 
the distance from that Beersheba to that  Bethel is 58 miles.  That is over  
twice as far as Jacob could be expected to travel in one  day. 
Moreover, the first half of the journey  would be through the Negev Desert.  
Hebron is 28 miles north of Beersheba.  A traveler would have to get up at 
dawn  and travel north through the Negev Desert before the heat of the mid-day 
sun  became too oppressive. 
There is simply no way that Jacob could  travel from Beersheba in the 
northern Negev Desert to Bethel/Ai north of  Jerusalem, a distance of 58 miles, in 
one day, under the normal circumstances  that apply here.  That is completely  
And why wouldn't there be some mention of  Hebron?  Jacob's famous 
grandfather  Abraham had lived at Hebron for many years.  One would expect some passing 
mention,  at least, of Hebron if Jacob was proceeding from Beersheba in the 
northern Negev  Desert to Hebron, and then on to Bethel/Ai north of  Jerusalem. 
II.  Second Visit to Bethel/Luz 
Note also the description of Bethel/Luz the  second time Jacob visits that 
locale, after the bloody incident in  Shechem: 
“So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land  of Canaan--the same is 
Beth-el--he and all the people that were with him.”  Genesis 35:  6 
If Bethel/Luz were Bethel/Ai, just north of  Jerusalem, it would make no 
sense for the narrator to say:  "Luz, which is in the land of  Canaan".  Shechem 
itself is in  Canaan.  Bethel/Ai is further  southwest into Canaan, in the very 
heart of Canaan, not close at all to any  border of Canaan.  Saying that a  
place "is in the land of Canaan" only makes sense for a border city, which is  
just inside the border of Canaan.  That simply does not fit Bethel/Ai north of 
Jerusalem in the very center  of Canaan. 
III.  Conclusion 
The conclusion must be that the geographical  locale of Jacob's Ladder could 
not have been at Bethel/Ai, north of  Jerusalem.  Jacob could not possibly  
get that far in one day, a distance of 58 long miles, if Jacob left from  
Beersheba in the northern Negev Desert.  And with Bethel/Ai being located in the 
very heart of central Canaan,  nowhere near any border of Canaan, it would not 
make sense for the narrator to  tell us that Bethel/Ai "is in the land of  
The traditional geographical interpretation  of the locale of Bethel/Luz is 
clearly erroneous.  We cannot understand the Patriarchal  narratives unless we 
understand that both the "Beersheba" from which Jacob left,  and the 
Bethel/Luz where Jacob had the Jacob's Ladder experience, are located in  northernmost 
Canaan, namely in southern Lebanon.  The Beersheba from which Jacob leaves in  
chapter 28 of Genesis is not located in the northern Negev Desert.  And the 
Bethel/Luz to which Jacob  travels in a single day from Beersheba is not 
Bethel/Ai north of Jerusalem.  Rather, the author of the Patriarchal  narratives is 
portraying all these movements of Jacob as taking place in  southern Lebanon. 
The received text is perfect, as is.  The problem is the longstanding  
misinterpretation of this text.  The  text is telling us a very credible story here, 
if only we can understand the  actual geographical locales involved. 
Jim  Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois

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