Photo by Allan Finkelman/©George Segal/VAGA, NY, NY

With only a stone for his pillow, Jacob rests on the road to Haran, where he will seek a wife. While sleeping, Jacob “had a dream,” the Book of Genesis recounts: As angels of God climbed up and down a stairway that stretched from the ground to the sky, God himself stood beside Jacob and said, “I am the Lord the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac: the ground on which you are lying I will assign to you and your offspring. Your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth…Remember, I am with you: I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land” (Genesis 28:13–15). In Jacob and the Angels (1984–85), a single blue female and a starry sky represent the dream and its promise.

Jacob’s awakening from the dream is a spiritual awakening: “Surely the Lord is present in this place,” he admits as he rises, “and I did not know it.” Only now does he perceive the “awesome” nature of this place: “This is none other than the abode of God!” Jacob cries out (Genesis 28:16–17).

Author Jack Miles compares George Segal’s sculptures with the vision of Jacob’s dream: Both permit us to see the biblical world anew.