3. B. " 'That there was a ladder:' refers to the ramp to the altar.
C. "'. . . set up on the earth:' that is the altar, 'An altar of dirt you will make for me' (Ex. 20:24).
D. "'. . . and the top of it reached to heaven:' these are the offerings, for their fragrance goes up to heaven.
E. "'. . . and behold, the angels of God:' these are the high priests.
F. "'. . . were ascending and descending on it:' for they go up and go down on the ramp.
G. " 'And behold, the Lord stood above it:' 'I saw the Lord standing by the altar' (Amos 9:1)."
4. A. Rabbis interpreted the matter to prefigure Sinai: " 'And he dreamed:
B. "'. . . that there was a ladder:' this refers to Sinai.
C. "'. . . set up on the earth:' 'And they stood at the lower part of the mountain' (Ex. 19:17).
D. "'. . . and the top of it reached to heaven:' 'And the mountain burned with fire into the hearts of heaven' (Deut. 4:11).
E. "'. . . and behold, the angels of God:' these are Moses and Aaron.
F. "'. . . were ascending:' 'And Moses went up to God' (Ex. 19:3).
G. "'. . . and descending on it:' "And Moses went down from the mount' (Ex. 19:14).
F. "'. . . And behold, the Lord stood above it:' 'And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai' (Ex. 19:20)."
No. 3 reads the dream in terms of the Temple cult, No. 4 in terms of the revelation of the Torah at Sinai, and No. 5 has the dream refer to the patriarchs.
None of these modes of reading the book of Genesis presents surprises. Since both Jacob and Moses explicitly spoke of the sons of Jacob as paradigms of history, the sages understood the text precisely as the Torah itself told them to understand it. That is, the sages simply took seriously and at face value the facts in hand, as any scientist or philosopher finds facts and reflects upon their meaning and the implications and laws deriving from them. So the sages' mode of reading derived from an entirely inductive and scientific, philosophical mode of thought. The laws of history begin with the principle that the merit of the founders sustains the children to come. The model for the transaction in merit—which underlines and explains the theory of genealogy as the foundation of Israel's social entity—comes to expression in the life of Joseph.
The typology proves diverse, since Joseph, as much as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, provides a model for the future; reference to what Joseph did guides us to the later history of Israel. So the history of Israel here is compared to the life of Joseph:
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