Jacob’s Vision of the Mystical Ladder
While on his way, Jacob stopped in a field to pass the night. He placed a stone under his head and went to sleep. He beheld in his sleep a ladder standing on the earth, with its top touching the heavens. The angels of God were ascending and descending on it, and at the top of the ladder stood the Lord Himself.
The Lord said to Jacob, "I am the Lord God of Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give the land whereon thou liest to thee, and to thy seed. Thy seed shall be as numerous as the dust of the earth, and in thy seed shall all the peoples of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and bring thee again into this land."
Here, by the term "seed" or "offspring," through which all peoples shall be blessed and granted happiness, is meant the Saviour. The ladder, then, which joins Heaven and earth, prefigured the Mother of God, through Whom the Son of God, being born of Her, came to earth for the salvation of man. The Mother of God, like that ladder, joined Heaven to earth.
On awakening Jacob said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven." The stone on which he had slept, he set up as a monument and poured oil upon it as a sacrifice to God. He called this place, Bethel, which means "house of God." After this, with hope in God’s help, he calmly continued his journey into Mesopotamia.
Jacob came into Haran to Laban, his uncle. Jacob told Laban about everything and remained to live and work for Laban. Laban asked Jacob what pay he wanted for his work. Jacob agreed to work for Laban seven years for his daughter, Rachel, in order to marry her, as he had fallen in love with her. But Laban cunningly gave Jacob not Rachel for a wife but his elder daughter, Leah, justifying himself by the local tradition that the younger daughter could not be married before the elder.
Then the deceived Jacob agreed to work another seven years for Rachel. After twenty years Jacob safely returned to his father in the land of Canaan with a large family and many possessions. Esau, who had not seen his brother for a long time, joyfully met Jacob on the way. The Lord, in special, mystical circumstances, tested the strength of Jacob and gave him a new name, Israel, which means "contender with God." Thus, Jacob became the founder of the people of Israel, that is, the Hebrews.
Note: See Genesis, chap. 28:10-22; chaps. 29-35.
(from: The Law of God by Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy)