JACOB’S PILLOW-PILLAR STONE MARKS THE SITE AS ‘BETHEL’, THE HOUSE OF GOD
JACOB’S DREAM AT BETHEL
The story of Jacob is described in the Book of Genesis, the first Book of Old Testament. He was the son of Issac, the grandson of Abraham, and the twin brother of Esau.He was named Jacob as he came out with his hand grasping his older twin brother Esau’s heel(Genesis 25:26). Jacob was the father of the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob was given the name of Israel after he withstood a spiritual struggle at Jabbok(Genesis 32:22-30).Jacob had literally wrestled with God who came down in the form of a man. The name Israel is derived from the words ‘SARA’ meaning TO STRUGGLE, WRESTLE, and ‘EL’ meaning God. El is one short form of ‘ELOHIM’, the name used for God. Jacob received his older brother’s blessing from his father and then flees to Laban in Haran to escape from his brother’s anger. His dream at Bethel is narrated in Genesis, chapter 24, verses 10-17 :
Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and He said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Issac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying….” When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called the place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz. He had further taken a vow stating that the stone he had set up as a pillar would be God’s house.
THE HOUSE OF GOD AT MOUNT MORIAH
In Judaism, Mount Moriah is also known as the ‘TEMPLE MOUNT’, and is the most venerated as the holiest spot on Earth. After liberating Jews from a life of slavery in Egypt, at Mount Sinai, God enters into a ‘New Covenant’ and He had appeared in the form of fire before Moses and other elders. The Book of EXODUS, chapter 25, verses 8-9, God had asked the Jews: “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make the Tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you…” The Ark of the Covenant was where God manifested His presence on earth and the Ark went ahead of the Israelites wherever they traveled. The Ark was only housed in a tent for many long years and King David could only erect an altar for God(Book of 2 Samuel, chapter 24:25). The opportunity to build a House for God in His Name was given to Solomon, the son of King David. Book of 1 KINGS, chapter 8, verse 13, Solomon declares: “I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.” The site selected by God for the establishment of the Holy Temple in His Name also is considered to be the spot where creation of world began, and Adam the first man was created here. Abraham brought his son Issac for sacrifice at this place. The Jewish tradition known as ‘Midrash’ also claimed that Jacob had a dream and had erected a monument and declared it as the House of Holy One. God had pushed that rock with His right foot and the rock had become the ‘Foundation Stone’, the ‘Corner Stone’, and is also known as the ‘Key Stone’ of Solomon’s First Temple. The Temple of God stands over a stone identified by Jacob as the ‘gate of heaven’. When Solomon dedicated this Temple to God in 957 B.C., God had entered His House in the form of a cloud.
GOD OF ISRAEL’S DWELLING PLACE
Psalm 115, song 2 says :
Why do the nations say,
“Where is their God? “
Our God is in heaven;
He does whatever pleases Him.
The God of Israel had promised to dwell among the children of Israel, and today He has no house in His Name upon this earth. A synagogue is only a place to bring people together, it is an assembly of Jews for worship and religious studies and hence cannot be identified as a House of God. When no Masjid or Mosque had existed in Jerusalem, the Holy Book of Quran had identified Temple Mount in Jerusalem as the “the farthest Mosque” in Surah 17, al Isra , verse 1. Similarly, in verse 7, it described the House of God as a Masjid or a place of prostration in worship of God. Around the year 620 CE, the Islamic tradition of Isra and Miraj was established and the Temple Mount site became the site of Prophet Muhammad’s ascent to heaven. Jerusalem was conquered by the Arab Caliphate army in 637 CE. An Islamic Sanctuary known as Haram al-Sharif or Noble Sanctuary was built in 691 CE over the ruins of the Second Temple at the Temple Mount. The Jewish Temple was destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The place is very sacred to the Jews and they even avoided walking over the ruins as they were not aware of the exact location of the Holy of Holies in that destroyed monument. Jerusalem was captured by the State of Israel after defeating Jordan in the 1967 War. Temple Mount is a captured territory and the State of Israel has yet to legally occupy it. The Jews dream about building their Third Temple and would like to provide the God of Israel a House in His name. This dream would be realized if the status of Jerusalem is decided and when The Temple Mount is recognized as a Jewish Heritage Site.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, A.P., India.,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.