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The Apocryphal Old Testament Collection of the most important non-canonical Old Testament books designed for general use.

Jacob's Vision of a Ladder

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Text Commentary

I.

1Now Jacob was going to Laban his uncle; and he found a place and fell asleep there, having laid his head on a stone. Now the sun had gone down, and he saw there a dream; and behold, a ladder was fixed on the earth, and it reached to the heavens. And at its top there was a form, like a man, hewn out of fire. 2Now it had twelve steps; and on every step there were two human forms, one on the right and one on the left: there were twenty-four 1 So K: S ‘two and four’. forms on the ladder. 3And the central form, which I saw, was of fire as far as the shoulders and the arms, and much taller than all the others: he was very terrifying, much more terrifying than the other twenty-four forms. 4–7And while I was looking, behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it; and the Lord had taken his stand upon it. 2 Here follows an interpretative gloss similar to that in R: see above (p. 456). God stood, as it were, above the highest form. 8,9And from there he called to me, saying, Jacob, Jacob, And I said, Here am I. 10,11And he said to me, The land on which you are sleeping, to you will I give it, that it may be filled with your descendants. 12My blessing, with which I have blessed you, shall go from you to the last generation. 13And the East and the West shall all be filled with your race.

II.

1And as I heard his voice from the height, trembling and terror fell on me. 2 1 There is obviously some confusion here about whether the narrative should be in the first person or the third, and presumably also some dittography or dislocation of the text. After getting up, I, Jacob, from my sleep, I said (the 3voice was still in my ears) – after getting up, I said, to my feet, I prayed to God 1 There is obviously some confusion here about whether the narrative should be in the first person or the third, and presumably also some dittography or dislocation of the text. and spoke thus, Lord, the Creator, Lord of all Creation. 4And again I said, God of Abraham and of Isaac my father, and God of all who have walked before thee in righteousness: behold, I saw a terrifying vision, and trembling fell on me. 5But remember, O Lord, Abraham my forefather, how he walked before thee in innocence and was perfect in all the ways of thy commandments. 6So also my father, thy servant Isaac, did not disobey thy commandments. 7Therefore, O Lord, look mercifully upon me also, on thy servant, and tell me what is the interpretation of this terrifying vision I have seen.

III.

1And while the voice and prayer were still on Jacob's lips, behold, an angel of God stood before him, saying, Jacob, I am sent by the Creator of all to you to explain your dream to you. 2So pay attention to the explanation of your dream.

IV.

1The ladder which you have seen, having twelve steps, and 2each step having two human forms on it, changing their shape – the ladder is this age, and the twelve steps are the times of this age, and the twenty-four 1 So K: S ‘two and four’. forms are the rulers of the tribes of the heathen age. 3,4By those tribes will your children's children 2 K adds ‘and the family of your sons’. be tried. And they will rise against the heathenness of your children's children, and they will make this place desolate for four generations 3 Lit. ‘ends’, ‘descents’. of your children's children. 5And in the name of their forefathers a temple will be built in your name and that of your fathers. 6And the provocation of your children will cause it to lie waste for four generations 4 Lit. ‘ends’, ‘descents’. Bonwetsch translates the whole phrase ‘at the fourth end of this age’. of this age, for you have seen four forms. 7The first, 8who stumbled on the step – that is, there will be a ruler from your 9kin, and he will do evil to your descendants; and he will be suffered unwillingly by them. 10And he will hold them by force to rule them; and they will not be able to resist 5 So K: S is corrupt. him; and he will decide 6 Lit. ‘and his intention will go out upon them’. that they should serve idols and sacrifice to dead things. 11And he will command that all the people in his kingdom be forced to do this. 12 And of those who will be guilty of such an offence, some will serve the greatest of your race, and some Falkonagargail. 7 K ‘Kalkonagargail’. See note 9 to chap. iv on p. 459 (above).

V.

1Know, Jacob, that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land; and they will be ill-treated, and made slaves of, and flogged daily. 2But that people, whose slaves they are, the Lord will judge; for the Mighty One will feel compassion for their suffering. 3For the angels and archangels pour out their prayers before him for the deliverance of your race, and that the Most High should have mercy. 4Then will their women be fruitful; and after that the Lord will defend your race with terrifying and mighty signs against those who enslaved them. 5Their storehouses, which were full, will be found empty of wine and of every kind of corn: their land will seethe with reptiles and all kinds of deadly things; and there will be many earthquakes and catastrophes.

VI.

1Then will the Most High execute judgement on that place and deliver your descendants from their servitude to those peoples who rule over them by force; and they will be saved from the reproach of their enemies. 2For the king will be the source of vengeance, and will rise up in bitterness against them. 3And they will cry out, and the Lord will hear them; and he will pour out his anger on Leviathan the sea-monster and kill the heathen Falkon 1 Or ‘idol’. See iv. 12 and the note in the ‘short recension’ (p. 459 above). with the sword, for against the God of gods he will exalt his pride. 4Then, Jacob, will come your vindication, 2 Lit. ‘Then, Jacob, will your righteousness appear’. and that of your forefathers; and others, too, will come after you and share also in your prosperity. 3 Lit. ‘and after you there will be those who will go out in your righteousness’. 5And then will your descendants blow the trumpet, and the whole kingdom of Edom will perish together with all the rulers and the tribes of the Moabites.

VII.

1And as you saw angels 1 K adds ‘descending and’. ascending on the ladder–that is in the last years there shall be a man from the Most High, and he will join the higher things with the lower. 2Of him before 2 So K: S om. his coming shall your sons and daughters prophesy and 3 K adds ‘your young men’. see visions about him. 3And there shall be these signs at the time of his coming – a tree felled with the axe will drip blood: three-month old babies 4 So S: K ‘a three-month old baby’. will speak rationally: a child in his mother's womb will proclaim his way; and a young man will be like an old man. 4And then will come the Awaited One, whose path will be found by none. 5 So S: K ‘whose precursor you are’. 5Then will the earth rejoice, having received the glory of heaven; and what was above will be below also. 6And from your descendants will sprout a kingly shoot; 6 Lit. ‘root’. and he will rise up and overthrow the power of evil. 7He will be the saviour of all lands, peace to those who labour, and a cloud protecting the whole world from the heat. 8Otherwise what was in disorder could not be put into order, 7 So S: K ‘Otherwise the ordered will not be put in order’. Cp. the Palaea interpretation in R (‘otherwise what was spoken would not be fulfilled’). if he did not come: otherwise the lower things could not be joined to the higher. 9When he comes the bulls of brass and stone and all the carved images will give tongue for three days and they will tell the news to certain wise men, that they may know what is to be on earth, and they will find their way to him by a star. On earth will they see him whom the angels do not see. 10Then will the Almighty be found with a body on earth, and be embraced by mortal arms; and he will renew humankind and give life to Adam and Eve – dead through the fruit of the tree. 11Then will the deceit of the impious be uncovered, and all idols will fall down and be put to shame before his face, clothed, as he will be, in splendour; for they thought only how they might deceive, 8 Lit. S ‘for they imagined in deceit’: K ‘for they are lying of imaginations’. but they will be able to rule no longer, nor will they be able to give prophecies. 12 Their splendour will be taken from them, and they will be left without their glory; for he who is to come will take their power and their might from them, and he will give the truth to Abraham, which he promised to him before. 13Then will he make all sharp things blunt and the rough smooth, and he will cast all unrighteousness into the depths of the sea and perform miracles in heaven and on earth. 14And he will be wounded inside the house of the Beloved; 9 Cp. Zech. xiii. 6 . and when he is wounded, then comes salvation and the end of all corruption. 15And those who have wounded him will receive a wound themselves, from which they will never be healed. 16And all creation will bow down to the Wounded One, and many will put their trust in him; and everywhere, and in all lands, he will be known. 17Those who have known his name will not be ashamed; and his power and years will never fail.

Notes:

1 So K: S ‘two and four’.

2 Here follows an interpretative gloss similar to that in R: see above (p. 456).

1–1 There is obviously some confusion here about whether the narrative should be in the first person or the third, and presumably also some dittography or dislocation of the text.

1 So K: S ‘two and four’.

2 K adds ‘and the family of your sons’.

3 Lit. ‘ends’, ‘descents’.

4 Lit. ‘ends’, ‘descents’. Bonwetsch translates the whole phrase ‘at the fourth end of this age’.

5 So K: S is corrupt.

6 Lit. ‘and his intention will go out upon them’.

7 K ‘Kalkonagargail’. See note 9 to chap. iv on p. 459 (above).

1 Or ‘idol’. See iv. 12 and the note in the ‘short recension’ (p. 459 above).

2 Lit. ‘Then, Jacob, will your righteousness appear’.

3 Lit. ‘and after you there will be those who will go out in your righteousness’.

1 K adds ‘descending and’.

2 So K: S om.

3 K adds ‘your young men’.

4 So S: K ‘a three-month old baby’.

5 So S: K ‘whose precursor you are’.

6 Lit. ‘root’.

7 So S: K ‘Otherwise the ordered will not be put in order’. Cp. the Palaea interpretation in R (‘otherwise what was spoken would not be fulfilled’).

8 Lit. S ‘for they imagined in deceit’: K ‘for they are lying of imaginations’.

9 Cp. Zech. xiii. 6 .

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