Jacob’s Temple Journey to Haran and BackJeffrey M. Bradshaw and Matthew L. Bowen
The 2022 Temple on Mount Zion Conference
Saturday, November 5, 2022
Sponsored by The Interpreter Foundation, BYU College of Humanities, and BYU Religious Education
In this presentation, we argue that the general trajectory of departure and return along the covenant pathway is mirrored both spiritually and geographically in the story of Jacob. Taking leave of his family in Beersheba (Hebrew “well of the oath”—figuratively, the source of the covenant), Jacob travels north and east by way of Beth-el (Hebrew “House of God”—a place of instruction about the covenant) to Haran (Akkadian ḫarranu[m] = “road,” “way,”). The journey to and from Haran is a “road,” “way,” or “path” of testing for Jacob (see Genesis 28:10, 20; 29:4). Leaving Haran, Jacob at last returns to Beth-el, where God’s previous promises are made sure. Each major step of the way along Jacob’s personal covenant path (his vision of the “ladder” at his first visit to Beth-el, his testing in Haran, his wrestle/embrace of the angel, his new name, and God’s confirming promises on his final stop at Beth-el), his experiences are remarkably infused with temple themes. While we will focus on selected stops along Jacob’s itinerary as the foreground of the sacred scenes we witness in scripture, we must keep in mind that the constant backdrop that illuminates the entire sequence is the repeated quest in Israel’s history to transform every corner of the promised land into a holy place, the home of a Zion people through which Canaan will eventually be filled with God’s presence.
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