Bereishit/Genesis JPS 28:17 And he was frightened, and he said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." Bereishit/Genesis 28:17 יזוַיִּירָא֙ וַיֹּאמַ֔ר מַה־נּוֹרָ֖א הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה אֵ֣ין זֶ֗ה כִּ֚י אִם־בֵּ֣ית אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְזֶ֖ה שַׁ֥עַר הַשָּׁמָֽיִם:

Personally, I find Rashi's explanation defies my threshold of credulity:

than the house of God: Said Rabbi Eleazar in the name of Rabbi Jose ben Zimra: This ladder stood in Beer-sheba and the middle of its incline reached opposite the Temple, for Beer-sheba is situated in the south of Judah, and Jerusalem [is situated] in its north, on the boundary between Judah and Benjamin, and Beth-el was in the north of the territory of Benjamin, on the boundary between Benjamin and the sons of Joseph. Consequently, a ladder whose foot is in Beer-sheba and whose top is in Beth-el-the middle of its slant is opposite Jerusalem. This accords with what our Sages said, that the Holy One, blessed be He, said, “This righteous man has come to My lodging place [i.e., the Temple Mount]. Shall he leave without lodging?” And furthermore, they said: Jacob called Jerusalem Beth-el. But this place [which he called Beth-el] was Luz, and not Jerusalem. So, from where did they learn to say this? [i.e., that Luz was Jerusalem.] I believe that Mount Moriah was uprooted from its place, and it came here, [to Luz, i.e., at that time, Luz, Jerusalem and Beth-el were all in the same place], and this is the “springing of the earth” mentioned in Tractate Chullin, i.e., that the [site of the] Temple came towards him until Beth-el. This is the meaning of ויפגע במקום “And he met the place.” Now if you ask, “When Jacob passed by the Temple, why did He not detain him there?” [The answer is:] If he did not put his mind to pray in the place where his forefathers had prayed, should they detain him from heaven? He went as far as Haran, as it is stated in the chapter entitled, “Gid HaNasheh” (Hullin 91b), and the text, “and he went to Haran” (verse 10) supports this. When he arrived in Haran, he said, “Is it possible that I have passed the place where my forefathers prayed, and I did not pray there?” He decided to return, and he went back as far as Beth-El, and the earth “sprang toward him.” [This Beth-El is not the one near Ai, but the one near Jerusalem, and because it was the city of God, he called it Beth-El, the house of God, and that is Mount Moriah where Abraham prayed, and that is the field where Isaac prayed, and so did they say in Sotah (sic.) (Pes.88a) [concerning the verse] (Micah 4:2):“Come, let us go up to the Mount of the Lord, to the House of God of Jacob.” [It is] not [called] as did Abraham, who called it a mountain, and not as did Isaac, who called it a field, but as did Jacob, who called it the House of God. An exact edition of Rashi...

  • Update, to address concerns raised in the comments:
  • Is it evident that Gen. 28:17 is referring to Bethel?

My presumption that the place where Jacob had his dream vision, erected his pillar of stone, anointed it and made his vow came to be known from that time forward as Beth-El is in the same passage:

Benesis/Bereishit 28:19 And he named the place Beth El, but Luz was originally the name of the city.

  • Is it evident that Bethel and Jerusalem are not the same?

It seems evident from the history making account of Jeroboam's sin in erecting a unsanctioned temples in Dan and Bethel that Bethel was not Jerusalem.

  • What suggests that the temples should have been built in the place to which Jacob, in Genesis 28:17, referred?

I infer this from Jacob's declaration upon awakening from his dream vision:

JPS Genesis 28: 16And Jacob awakened from his sleep, and he said, "Indeed, the Lord is in this place, and I did not know [it]." 17And he was frightened, and he said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." 18And Jacob arose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had placed at his head, and he set it up as a monument, and he poured oil on top of it. 19And he named the place Beth El, but Luz was orignally the name of the city. 20And Jacob uttered a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and He will guard me on this way, upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear; 21And if I return in peace to my father's house, and the Lord will be my God; 22Then this stone, which I have placed as a monument, shall be a house of God, and everything that You give me, I will surely tithe to You.

  • 2
    -1. This question is based on four things that it doesn't show any support for whatsoever. (1) The temples were built in Jerusalem. (2) Gen. 28:17 is referring to Bethel. (3) Bethel and Jerusalem are not the same. (4) The temples should have been built in the place that Gen. 28:17 referred to. (Arguably, #1 is common knowledge so support for it can be omitted.)
    – msh210
    Dec 27, 2020 at 15:45
  • See Rashi there
    – AKA
    Dec 27, 2020 at 18:46
  • @AKA I looked at Rashi before posting my question. I don't find his explanations in this situation to be anything that Ocam's Razor would leave standing! That's why I reached out.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 27, 2020 at 18:56
  • @Ruminator It's a good question which deserves an answer, but I would very much suggest tidying it up and clarifying your assumptions (points 2-4 in msh210's comment) and quoting the bit of Rashi you think is answering your question and removing the rest of it.
    – AKA
    Dec 27, 2020 at 20:54
  • @AKA I've added clarification of my "assumptions" to my question.
    – Ruminator
    Dec 27, 2020 at 21:10

2 Answers 2

  1. This was not the intended site of the Temple

It is certainly not explicit in the Torah that Ya'akov was indicating the site of the future Temple. He promised that there would be a house of G-d there, but this did not have to be the Temple. Indeed, when Ya'akov returned from Charan he set up an altar there in Bethel (35:1), so the prmise was already fulfilled.

  1. Bethel is Jerusalem

Rashi (Chullin 91a) writes [referring to the implication of the Talmud that Ya'akov went to "the place my fathers prayed at" i.e. Mount Moriah] that the Bethel referred to here is not the Bethel referred to elsewhere, but is actually Jerusalem.

  1. Ya'akov was not in Bethel

The Ramban understands the opinion of R' Yehuda ben R' Simon in Beraishis Rabba (69:7) to be that Ya'akov was on the Temple Mount at the foot of the ladder,but the ladder 's head was over Bethel. (He therefore noted some significance to Bethel, and named it, as stated in the verses). However the statements about it being a House of G-d refer to Jerusalem where he had slept.

  1. Ya'akov was in Bethel, but was referring to Jerusalem

Though Rashi's intent is not entirely clear, he seems to be saying [at the start of his comment - it is unclear how it fits with the second part about Mount Moriah moving to Luz/Bethel] that whilst Ya'akov was in Bethel, the slope of the ladder was over Jerusalem. It seems that according to Rashi is to this that Ya'akov was referring to as the House of G-d (see Gur Aryeh who understands Rashi to be making this point. It is unclear how he would deal with verse 22 which appears to be referring to the stone itself, which is certainly in Bethel).

  • If the promise was already fulfilled, why did he make a promise about something future (after his safe return)? And Rashi's "Rashionale" for believing Beth El referred to Jerusalem because of the angle of a ladder removes Occam's beard. I do see the appeal, though
    – Ruminator
    Nov 21, 2023 at 16:13
  • I meant the promise was fulfilled then when he returned, and did not need to wait for the Temple hundreds of years later
    – AKA
    Nov 21, 2023 at 18:41

Bethel was specifically Jacob's place of worship. But Bethel is not the nation's place of worship.

Jacob names the location "Bethel" three times: Genesis 28:19, Genesis 35:7, Genesis 35:15. This might imply that Jacob does not have complete control as to where "God's House" shall be. Since the Luz name is lingering and Jacob can't completely change it over to Bethel.

Bethel's other name is "Luz" and Jacob uses the name Luz when he's talking to Joseph in Genesis 48:3. Perhaps Jacob uses this name to indicate to Joseph and Judah that they will need to establish their own places of worship.

Joseph's burial and inheritance is in Shechem (property bought by Jacob). Mount Gerizim is also in Shechem and this the place of worship for the Israelite Samaritans.

I think the Jewish place of worship originally would've been Hebron (property bought by Abraham), but then King David changed it from Hebron to Jerusalem.

Jacob had two sons who would become two different nations and they both couldn't have Bethel as their place of worship. This is my guess.

  • Didn't Jake vow to build a temple there, and fail to do so?
    – Ruminator
    Nov 21, 2023 at 11:57
  • @Ruminator Jacob built an altar and established a pillar in Bethel according to Genesis 35:1-15. Maybe this was enough for a "house" of God. Jacob didn't say he would build the temple there, only that it would be "the house of God".
    – Taylor
    Nov 21, 2023 at 15:16
  • Where are the stairs for the messengers to ascend and descend? [Gen 28:20-22 NASB95] [20] Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, [21] and I return to my father's house in safety, then the LORD will be my God. [22] "This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."
    – Ruminator
    Nov 21, 2023 at 15:22
  • @Ruminator Genesis 28:10-22 says nothing of a Temple. Genesis 35:11 says in the most raw Hebrew that two nations are coming from Jacob. It's possible that Jacob didn't want to give Bethel to either nation (Judah or Joseph). I'll say this: maybe the Third Temple will be built in Bethel and not in Jerusalem.
    – Taylor
    Nov 21, 2023 at 15:24
  • Your comments have inspired another question...
    – Ruminator
    Nov 21, 2023 at 15:41

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