Jacob had just deceived his father, in order to obtain the blessing
in the place of his older brother Esau, and was fleeing from Esau's
fierce wrath, when he dreamed of the ladder reaching to heaven, and God
promised to give him the land. Clearly his being blessed was not
because of his own merits; he was a fugative. It was 20 years
later, after he had become a victim of fraud himself, that he
was given the name "Israel."
For Jesus, the chief virtue of being an Israelite was to be "without guile."
45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
For Paul, being a Jew meant one who served God from the heart.
But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Peter said Jesus was a person who had no guile in his mouth.
1 Peter 2:22
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
John said, the 144,000 virgins on Mount Zion are without guile.
And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
When Jesus met Nathanael, he made a promise to him:
48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
Jesus alludes to the story of the dream of Jacob, in Genesis 28.
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.
12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. 16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
The promise to Jacob was that the land would be given to him, and not only that, but the land of promise would be the site of a "ladder to heaven," for angels to ascend and descend. This reveals the true significance of the promised land. It had to do with the revelations of God to man. Jesus said to Nathanael that he would see the angels ascending and descending on himself, perhaps implying that He replaces the land, or at least, fulfils the land promise.
W.D. Davies (1911-2001) wrote:
The point of John 1:51, in part at least, is that it is no longer the place, Bethel, that is important, but the Person of the Son of Man. It is in his Person that "the house of God and the gate of heaven" are now found. Where the Son of Man is the "heaven will be opened" and the angels will ascend and descend to connect that heaven with earth, that is, in 1:51 Jesus is not to be set over against Jacob or the ladder of his dream, but over against the sanctuary at Bethel itself, which had been a link between heaven and earth and the place of God's habitation on earth. This interpretation has the advantage over many others proposed of relying simply on the Biblical text at Gen. 28. Furthermore, it comports well with the idea of the humanity of Christ as the dwelling place of God with men and as the new temple with which we have already dealt, and especially with the concept of the Logos becoming flesh in 1:14.
The Gospel and the Land: Early Christianity and Jewish Territorial Doctrine, by W. D. Davies. [U. of California Press 1974] p. 298.
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