JACOB'S PILLOW-PILLAR STONE
When the Abrahamic covenant promises were given to Jacob, he was making a journey from Beersheba to Padan-aram. He had but recently received from his father Isaac the "Blessing," which carried with it those much desired covenants and the special blessings and promises which pertained to them. When Isaac gave this blessing to Jacob, he told him not to take a wife of the daughters of Canaan, the land in which they were then living, but to go to Laban, his mother's brother, and to take a wife from among his daughters.
It is hardly to be supposed that Jacob was traveling entirely alone, for that was not the Oriental custom. We learn, from incidental remarks that are dropped elsewhere in reference to this journey, that he had with him a tent which was pitched at night, and that the journey was made on foot, for he walked with a staff. The sacred record deals chiefly with that which took place between Jacob and the Lord, with but the slightest incidental mention of details, as concerning a certain sundown, and stones for pillows. The first mention of stones for pillows, with reference to this occasion, is plural; but suddenly one of those pillow stones is brought into great distinction.
The facts which brought that special stone into such prominence may be quickly read, for the Bible account of them is very short; but we doubt whether many who have read the record of those facts realize their true symbolic import. We doubt also whether we shall be able to explain, even approximately, not only the great distinction which has been bestowed upon that stone as a symbol, but also the exalted place it has occupied ever since it came into historic notice, or the supreme greatness of that position to which prophecy declares it shall yet be raised. If we read the prophets aright, no such glorious prominence, highly-honored use, or divinely-declared purpose, has ever been given to any other inanimate thing on the earth, as that which is yet in reserve for that special pillow stone upon which Jacob rested his head on that certain night, when he camped before Luz, while on his way to Padan-aram.
It seems to have been the custom among Oriental travelers, when they pitched their tents for the night, to take stones for head pieces, or bolsters, in order to raise that part of their bedding on which their heads rested to a comfortable position for rest and sleep. At least, this is what Jacob did, and as he slept, he dreamed. In his dream he saw what is called a ladder, but which may be called a staircase, or an open way that reached from earth to heaven, for "the top of it reached to heaven." The angels of God were ascending and descending by this existing way, which for the time was made visible to the inheritor of the covenant promises; and, at the top, above all that throng of radiant comers and goers, the Lord stood, and gave Jacob the full text of the covenants, as formerly given to Abraham and Isaac.
Upon hearing and receiving these promises from the Lord, Jacob awoke, startled, convicted and afraid; startled because, as he thought, he had accidentally got into God's house, and stumbled through the gate which led away from this world to that pure one of which he had just caught a glimpse; afraid, just as any man would be who had defrauded his brother, and taken advantage of the love and confidence of a blind and aged father; convicted! It could not have been otherwise, for he had caught a glimpse of the holiness of God and the purity of a sinless world. Hence, in the agony of that psychical fear, which must ever be experienced by the wicked when brought in contact with absolute holiness, he cried out, "How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
That which would have been a great joy to a holy man was only a means of torture to this sinful one, who was fleeing from the anger of an outraged brother. But he soon began to yield himself to God, and as he yielded there came to him that ever accompanying desire, i.e., the desire to worship. With these things there came also spiritual intuitions of coming events, and of their importance to him in his relations to the divine covenants. Then Jacob, awed by the sublime majesty of the Holy One, deeply impressed by the greatness of the promises made to him, stirred in the depths of his inner nature by the heavenly vision, pressed by the weight of responsibility, yet encouraged by the dawning gladness in his heart, and moved by the spirit of prophecy, took the stone upon which his head had rested, and set it up for a pillar of witness. At the same time he anointed it with oil, called it Bethel, used it for an altar at which to worship, and upon which to make a vow unto the Lord God of his fathers, saying: "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto thee."
It is a most significant fact that the name Bethel, or God's house, should have been given to this stone by the one who was the father of the twelve patriarchs, who were the progenitors of that great multitude which is also called "The House of God," "The Host of God" and "The Families of God." Also in the eighty-third psalm, The House of Israel, the Hidden Ones, which, while hidden, are to develop into many nations, are called "The Houses of God."
We must bear in mind the fact that Jacob gave the name of Bethel not only to the place, or locality, where the stone was set up, but also to the stone pillar for he emphatically declared: "This stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house." We understand, however, that God inspired both the choice of this stone and its name, for when he next spoke to Jacob he said: "I am the God of Bethel." That means, I am the God of God's house; or, in other words, the God of the Bethel stone which is in the place called Bethel. Thus the Lord associates himself not only with the place where he appeared to Jacob, but also with the Bethel rock.
Twenty years later Jacob returned to the land of Canaan with great riches, and with the knowledge that his prosperity was the result of divine favor and intervention; for the Lord had shown him how one who is called "The Angel of God" was given power to control the breeding of the cattle. Thus Jacob was made to know that God had accepted and met all the conditions which he had made to him by vow on the Bethel pillow-pillar stone.
Before Jacob reached Canaan he had confessed his wrongdoings, and made peace with his brother; and God had taken away from him not only the name of supplanter, but also the inborn supplanter nature, and given him the victorious name of Israel.
It is a well-known fact that the place called Bethel and the city of Luz were so near each other that the two names are used interchangeably in the Scriptures, or rather that the name Bethel often included the little city, which was previously called Luz. But before we can understand the true relation of both Bethel and the Bethel rock to our general subject, we must know to whom, or to which one of the tribes, Bethel was given as a possession.
The sacred historian, when describing the boundaries of the "lot" in Canaan which fell to Joseph, describes one of those border lines as follows: "And [it] goeth out from Bethel to Luz, and passeth along unto the borders of Archi to Astaroth," (Josh. 16:2). Also, in the description of that portion which fell to the children of Benjamin -- their portion lay between Judah and Joseph, Judah being to the south, and Joseph to the north of Benjamin -- we have the following: "And the border went over from thence (Beth-aven) toward Luz, to the side of Luz, which is Bethel, southward," (Josh. 18:13). From this we perceive, not only that Benjamin's border was south of Bethel, but also that Bethel, the place where Jacob set up the Bethel pillar-stone, was on the south side of the city proper.
Further, it is recorded that the children of Dan could not conquer the Amorites, but that the Amorites drove them into the mountains, and occupied those portions of Dan's inheritance which best suited them. But it is also recorded that the house of Joseph did conquer those Amorites, that they compelled them to become their dependents, and that they fixed their boundary lines. In the description of these boundaries we have the following: "And the coast of the Amorites was from the going up to Akrabbim, from the rock, and upward," (Judges 1:36). Some may think that this reference to the rock refers to the rock Etam, or Etam-rock. This is not possible, because both Etam, the city, and the rock Etam are southwest of Jerusalem in the hill country of Judea, and had nothing whatever to do with the borders of Joseph, Dan or the Amorites. Hence the phrases, "from the rock and upward," can mean only Bethel, the place of the rock, or, from the BETHEL ROCK, and up into the mountains of Ephraim-Samaria-Israel.
Again, concerning the house of Joseph, Bethel and Luz, we have the following: And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel and the Lord was with them. And the house of Joseph sent to descry Bethel. (Now the name of the city was Luz.) And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said unto him: Shew us, we pray thee, the entrance into the city, and we will shew thee mercy. And when he shewed them the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all his family. And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called the name thereof of Luz," (Judges 1:22-26). Thus, with the building of that other Luz, the name of Luz not only departed forever from Bethel, but it is never again mentioned in sacred history.
Finally, when Jeroboam, of the house of Joseph, was made king of the ten tribes, and became fearful that the people would, if allowed to go up to Jerusalem to worship, kill him, and go again to Rehoboam, king of Judah, he, to prevent this, made two golden calves, of which it is said: "He set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan." His right to place one in Bethel was undisputed, because it was not only "the king's sanctuary," but it was also in his own tribal territory. He had a sovereign's right to place one in Dan, for all who went there to worship were confederate with him. The Dan referred to was the city of Dan, which was situated in the northern part of his realm.
Now, one point is settled beyond the possibility of doubt, and that is, that Bethel was a part of the inheritance which fell to the house of Joseph when the land of Canaan was divided among the children of Jacob. This brings us to a vital point concerning the subject in hand, namely:
That not only Bethel, the city, or place, but also that Bethel the pillar-rock was given to the birthright family; and that Israel carried that rock with them into Egypt and in their subsequent journeyings in the wilderness.
Proof: Jacob died in Egypt, and his posterity were in Egypt at the time. When dying, "Jacob called unto him his sons and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days." When his sons, in response to this call, came together, he gave a prophecy concerning that which the posterity of each of them would be in the last days. But while he was making the prophecy concerning Joseph and his house, to whom he had just given the birthright, he stopped in the midst of his prophetic utterances, and used the following parenthetical expression: "(from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel)."
"Thence," as herein used, is an adverb used as a noun, and is equivalent in value to that place, or the place to which it refers. The phrase, from thence, means "out of there, out from thither, (or) out of that place.” Since the place from whence (whence, present form of the old word thence) the stone came was the inheritance of Joseph, and since Bethel, the place of the stone, was the inheritance of Joseph, we must know that it came from thence, i.e., Bethel. Thus, the very fact that Jacob, when dying in Egypt, made use of those words in reference to that Bethel stone, carries proof on its very face that the stone was not, at that time, in the place where it had formerly been, but that it was with them there in Egypt, and had previously been committed to the care of the house of Joseph.
It has been estimated that the number of the Israelites which came out of Egypt in the exodus were two millions and a half. All who will take time to think will soon comprehend how impossible it would be, even for a fertile country, much less a desert, to supply such a multitude, as well as their cattle, of which not a hoof was left behind, with food and water unless special arrangements were made for an extra supply. But in this case, as a matter of course, that was not done; hence it became necessary for God to furnish the supply of food and water for that vast concourse of people, and also for their herds and flocks.
It is a well-known fact that the Lord continually provided food for Israel during these forty years of wanderings in the desert-wilderness. But, because there are only two instances recorded in which the Lord supernaturally provided them with water, most people think these were the only instances in which water was thus provided. Yet, all who will give the subject just a little investigation will soon know that such is not the case.
The first mention of no water for the people to drink was while the Israelites were encamped at Rephidim. Without previously selecting one special rock, the Lord said unto Moses: "I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb, and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it." The phrase, "There in Horeb," points out the place where the rock was at the time, and if the Lord, when he spoke of the rock, had used the demonstrative form, and said "That rock," then we should know that he was designating which one, or a certain one not yet selected, but the fact that he said "The rock" is proof to us that he was speaking of a rock with which they were already familiar. May it not have been the Bethel pillar rock, "the shepherd, the stone of Israel," which had been committed to the keeping of the house of Joseph?
This possibility is more clearly manifest in the account of the other circumstances when there was no water, which occurred at Kadish, a city in the border of Edom, the country which belonged to the descendants of Esau. At this place the people of Israel were very bitter against Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, "Why have ye brought up the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us into this evil place? It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranites; neither is there any water to drink. And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces, and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying: Take the rod, and gather the assembly together, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock; so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them: Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch water out of this rock. And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also," (Num. 20:5-11).
We have quoted this account in full, from the beginning of the complaint by the people until the water was given, that our readers may see that, although the phrase "the rock" is used four times, there is not the slightest indication that there was any selection, or indication of preference for any certain rock in the vicinity of Kadish, or that one was not already chosen, and in their midst. It was to show also that at the very first mention of water for the people from "this rock,"' all that was necessary, as a preparatory measure, was for the Lord to say to Moses, "Speak to the rock"; and also that when the people were commanded to "gather before "the rock," they understood so well which rock it was that, in all that vast company of two and a half millions, no explanations were necessary. Hence, it must have been among them before this, and well known. Let us also bear in mind that this name, "The Rock," was used in the same relation at Rephidim, and yet the children of Israel had removed, journeyed and pitched their tents twenty-one (See Numbers, 33d chapter) times after leaving Rephidim, and here at Kadish there is with them that which is still familiarly known as "THE ROCK."
We all know that stones are rocks, and that rocks are stones, so that a rock or stone is only one rock or stone, and the appellation "The Rock," and "The Stone," must refer to some special or particular stone or rock. As we have seen, Israel must have been in possession of just such a special rock, i. e., the Bethel stone, and that Jacob set it up and called it a "Pillar." Later, in the days of Athaliah, after she tried to destroy all the males of "the seed royal," but did not succeed, for the reason that an infant son of Ahaziah, whom Athaliah succeeded to the throne, was stolen from those whom she had ordered slain and hidden. The stealing and hiding of this infant was so cleverly done that it was not missed by the court slayer. This infant, whose name was Joash was kept hidden from the wicked queen for six years. During this time she reigned, not knowing that there was a male heir to the throne who could dethrone her. But in the seventh year the secret was revealed to the "rulers over hundreds," and to "the captains of the guards," and quiet arrangements made to proclaim the seven-year-old prince as their king. The plans were successful, and Athaliah knew nothing of it until she heard the people in the temple shouting "God save the king!"
Thus it is recorded: "And when Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she came to the people into the temple of the Lord. And when she looked, behold! the king stood by a pillar, as the manner was," (2 Kings 11:13-14). Concerning this pillar, Dr. Adam Clark's translation reads, "Stood on a pillar," which he explains is "The place or throne on which they were accustomed to put their kings when they proclaimed them." But in the revised version it is rendered, "Standing by the pillar, as was their custom," the article denoting that particular pillar by, or upon, which it was the custom of Israel to crown their kings.
Again, when the good king Josiah made a covenant before the Lord, in the presence of all the people, that he would destroy idolatry out of the land, it is written, "And the king stood by a [or the] pillar and made a covenant before the Lord." (2 Kings 23:3.) There is, in the Second Chronicles, a recapitulation of this circumstance concerning Josiah, which gives the following, "And the king stood in his place." His place, we are told, was by the pillar, which might properly be translated pillar-stone, upon which all the kings of Israel were crowned, made covenants, took oaths, or made vows, as did Jacob when he first set it up for a pillar and made it God's house.
This stone is not only called "The Pillar," "The Rock," "Bethel," and "The Stone of Israel," but, wonderful to tell, it is also called "The Shepherd." And since it is really the stone of Israel we should expect it to be with them to whom it belonged, but since it is also the Shepherd of Israel, its very name and character -- for with God names are always characteristic -- demand that it should be with Israel in all their wanderings. Hence, this SHEPHERD -- though it is only a stone -- as any other shepherd would do, must go with His flock.
We have said that this stone of Israel, was a type, or symbol. For proof, let us go back to the place called Bethel. There we shall find that Jacob, after setting up "The Rock" for a pillar, also anointed it with oil, which in sacred symbols is typical of the Holy Ghost. And, according to sacred history, this Bethel stone is the only single, individual stone that has ever been anointed; hence, among stones it is pre-eminently the Anointed One." When Christ, the great prototype, came, and was anointed with the Holy Ghost, he was pre-eminently, among men, "the Anointed One."
Also, concerning "The rock" which accompanied Israel, the Lord could say to Israel's leader, "Speak to THE ROCK." But, on the other hand, Israel also could say, concerning that divine presence which went with them, "Let us sing unto THE ROCK of our salvation."
Again, this stone is called "The Shepherd of Israel." But there is also a divine one unto whom Israel prayed, saying, "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel" Later, when this same Shepherd was manifest in the flesh, he said, "I am the Good Shepherd," and his apostles spoke of him as "The Great Shepherd" and "The Chief Shepherd." Hence, the oft-repeated metaphor of "sheep" and "flock," in both the Old and the New Testaments.
Further, Israel had a pillar-rock, which went with them as their shepherd in all their journeyings in the wilderness; but it is also written that "The Lord went before them by day in A PILLAR of a cloud, to lead them in the way; and by night in A PILLAR of fire, to give them light!"
Still further, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, Israel's divine Shepherd-rock was smitten, for it is written, "Smite the Shepherd." So, too, Israel's literal Shepherd-rock was smitten. The Lord knew that he must be smitten for the sins of the people, and, that the type and prototype might agree, he gave command, "Smite the rock." Oh, the pain of it and -- especially to him; but he shall yet see the desire of his heart, i.e., his emotional nature, his soul, and be satisfied.
It is also said of Israel that they "Did all drink the same spiritual drink, for they drank of that Spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." It is also true that they did all drink from the same refreshing stream which flowed from that literal ROCK which also went with them, for it was their Shepherd-rock. No doubt Israel was supplied with water from this rock in the wilderness, as well as at Rephidim and Kadish, for the country between these two places is much more desert than these cities. At Kadish Moses sent messengers to the king of Edom, asking permission for the Lord's host to pass through his country, and told them to say, "Thus saith thy brother Israel, Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells; we will go by the king's highway; we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. . . . If I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it I will only, without doing anything else, go through on my feet."
Just imagine a company of two and one-half million traveling on foot through a country which is several hundred miles in length, giving assurance to its ruler that they would keep to the highway, and not turn to the right and left, for any reason, nor drink water out of the wells (i.e., pits, fountains, springs, or wells; literally their water supply) of that country. Israel could afford to make this proposition, for both their Shepherd-rocks were with them, i.e., the literal and the spiritual rock, and they knew that he, who had hitherto furnished them with food and water, would still continue to supply them until the end of the journey. Otherwise Moses would never have made such a promise.
True, there was a conditional promise made, in which there is a promise to pay for any of the water of Edom which might be used. But this, as you see, was made chiefly, if not altogether, on account of the cattle, which they might not be able to control and keep to the dusty highways, while passing by the cool and tempting pools and springs of water. This might prove to be a difficult task for the drovers, especially in the heat of the day; hence this proviso. They were not supposed to get water from the rock until they had completed their day's journey and pitched their tents.
Thus we have seen that among the Israelites there were two rocks, two houses, two kingdoms, two nations, or a Sceptre and a Birthright company. Of these two great divisions, Judah and Joseph are the representatives. By divine appointment one of these rocks was given to the Birthright family, and the other to the Sceptre family. The Bethel-Pillar-Shepherd-Stone of Israel was given to Joseph, but to Judah was given the Spiritual Rock, for it is written that "Our LORD sprang out of Judah." BOTH OF THESE ROCKS, each in a different way, HAVE BEEN REJECTED, but EACH OF THEM SHALL YET BECOME THE HEAD OF THE CORNER.