From Genesis 28. The 'ladder' is a stairway like those of Old Testament ziggurat towers. Jesus used a similar word picture when talking to a new disciple(Nathaniel)in John 1:51,"Truly truly you shall see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man". Tonight however, Jacob is in a desolate spot at a moment of unutterable loneliness as he puts distance between himself and his older brother Esau because he just swindled him out of a first born's birthright. Jacob will continue journeying eastward and meet a better swindler than himself while falling in love with the man's daughter(Rachel). His "wrestling match" with the angel is on his return trip 20 years after tonight.