The term “Jacob’s Ladder” has become a common phrase—it has been used as a movie title, a book title, a name of a flower, and even as a name of an electrical device. But from where did this phrase originate?
Genesis 28:10-12 first mentions “Jacob’s Ladder” when it says, “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/ladder resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”
It is in this passage that God reveals Himself to Jacob and reaffirms the covenant He made with Abraham, promising Jacob (who will later be named Israel) that his offspring will be many and that the Promised Land will one day belong to his descendants. In this vision Jacob sees something similar to a ladder or a stairway (Hebrew word: sullam) which signifies a connection between God and man. In this instance, it was God who provided the means necessary to link Himself to man as opposed to the men of Babel in Genesis 11 who tried to reach heaven by their own actions, aside from the help of God.
These two passages of Scripture reflect differing schools of thought over the issue of salvation: One group tries to reach heaven based on their own actions aside from God’s help, but the other group has access to heaven based on the provisions of God and only the provisions of God.
As Christians we see this dream of Jacob’s as highly symbolic, representing the Mediator, Jesus Christ, who came to earth and became that ladder or stairway for us to reconnect the relationship with God that was severed because of sin. Romans 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
According to the Bible, Jesus was our ideal “Jacob’s Ladder” who came to earth, from the line of Jacob, through the provisions of God, and redeemed us so that we may live in heaven for eternity.