FEEDING THE dead was an integral part of the world in which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived.
We’ve previously discussed Abraham’s distress at not having an heir to provide for him in the afterlife; this week, we explain why Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, was so upset about losing his teraphim, the small idols that represented dead ancestors who had to be summoned to a meal every month with a necromancy ritual called kispum.
PORTALS AND contact with the spirit realm are at the heart of this week’s Bible study.
First, we discuss Jacob’s dream during his journey from the Negev to Haran in northern Mesopotamia. We’ve heard the term “Jacob’s ladder,” but the underlying Hebrew word reveals that what he saw was more likely a ziggurat—the ancient Mesopotamian pyramid that represented a stairway to heaven.
HOW EASY it is to rationalize bad behavior by claiming it’s for a good cause! And how often have we seen sin in the Church covered up because it would supposedly hamper its ability to do good works in God’s name. This week, we see a classic example as Rebekah conspires with Jacob to deceive Isaac and confirm the blessing that God had promised to Jacob before his birth.
We also look at Esau, who only seemed to value his birthright when he realized it was attached to great wealth; Laban’s deception of the deceiver, Jacob; the pain and loneliness of Leah; and Jacob’s life-changing experience at Bethel.
“Jacob’s Ladder”, his dream of angels ascending and descending to and from heaven, has inspired many unbiblical pursuits. For example, many Dominionist teachers in the New Apostolic Reformation, a hypercharismatic form of Protestant Christianity, teach that we are to open portals through specific prayers and spiritual disciplines. While there may be specific portals to other dimensions, nowhere in scripture are we told that we should access or open them. In fact, God’s commands against consulting mediums or necromancers seem to be a pretty clear warning not to do so!
Let us be clear: Jesus made it clear that he is the only portal to heaven through which the faithful should pass, especially in John 1:51.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (ESV)
We also discuss the stone Jacob set up at Bethel, which is (allegedly) the Stone of Scone, or the Stone of Destiny, a granite block on which the kings and queens of Scotland and England have been crowned since the early 5th century.