According to Genesis chapters 27 and 28, after the younger twin, Jacob, had purloined, with monumental chicanery, both the birthright and special blessing intended for his slightly older brother, Esau — and after growing up as the child specially favored by his mother Rebecca — Jacob had to flee the faith community headed by his aging father Isaac.
Moreover, intuiting a sense of Esau’s rage and threats, in a tribe known for mortal conflict and other manifestations of rivalry among siblings, Jacob in his flight was no doubt deeply troubled, even terrified — haunted by the prospect of being pursued and slain by the victimized Esau. No doubt, it was with an uncomfortable, “deeply-troubled spirit” that Jacob slept, with a stone as his pillow, in the deep dark of an ancient night in the wilderness, and had a poignant and rich vision that we sing about to this day. I speak of his vision of a ladder (or broad staircase, as many scholars concede). Here are some thoughts about “Jacob’s Ladder”: