LESSON 23 – Jacob Flees From Laban and Wrestles With God – Genesis 31-36

  1. Discussion – NOTE:  Obviously, we will not be going over every verse of every chapter in this section. Instead will do an overview. This will be how the rest of the year will be; rather than a verse by verse study, we will be summarizing the main points and looking at key stories.  Remember, though, that older students should be required each week to read all the chapters for each week.For this week the reading will be Genesis 31-39.
    • Gen. 32:1-21–In chapter 31 the Lord told Jacob it was time for him to go home and in chapter 32 Jacob has finally left Laban and is on his way back home with his two wives and 11 sons (Benjamin has not been born yet).  What does Jacob see in verse 1 that indicates he is doing what God wants?  (angels of God) Jacob sends a message forward to his brother, Esau, to let him know that he is coming. Why might Jacob feel nervous about meeting Esau again? (possible answers: the last time he saw him was the day he tricked his father into giving him the blessing of the son of promise; he might think that Esau would want revenge or still be angry with him)  What is the response to Jacob’s message to Esau? (vs 6 – That Esau was on his way with 400 men!) How does Jacob respond to this alarming information? (vs 7 &8 – He divides his group into two parts so if one is destroyed by Esau, the other will survive. He also prays to the Lord) The prayer of Jacob to the Lord is interesting. He reminds the Lord that it was His idea to come home and that God had promised to prosper him.  In fact in the prayer, he reminds the Lord of this twice!  What strategy does Jacob adopt on the day he is to meet Esau? (vs 9-12 – He sends a series of gifts ahead to pacify Esau and hopefully keep him from wanting to slaughter Jacob and his family.)
    • Gen. 32:22-31 – After Jacob sends everyone else on ahead what happens to him? (vs. 24 – A man wrestles with him until daybreak) This is a very strange and mysterious confrontation.  Who is Jacob wrestling with according to verse 30? (The Lord God – a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ) Several important things happen as a result of this encounter with God. What happens to Jacob physically that stops the wrestling? (The Lord touches Jacob’s hip and he becomes lame – vs. 25, 31) God also changes Jacob’s name. What does God say is Jacob’s new name? (vs. 28 – Israel) “Jacob” means heel-catcher which harks back to his day of conniving and trickery. His new name, “Israel”, means “he struggles with God”. Why does God name him this according to vs. 28? (He had struggled with God and overcame)  Jacob realizes that he has had a face to face confrontation with God so he names the place, “Face of God”.
    • Gen. 33. How does the meeting with Esau go? (vs. 1-4. They reconcile and Esau and Jacob embrace and weep)  Esau has also prospered during the separation and does not want to take all of the gifts, but Jacob insists. Jacob and Esau part and Jacob settles down in Shechem (find it on a map) after buying some land.
    • Gen. 35.  Where does God tell Jacob to go in verse 1? (Bethel – the place where Jacob had first encountered the Lord.) What important thing does Jacob tell his entourage to do before they go? (vs. 2 – That they must get rid of all idols and purify themselves to get ready to worship God. They do so.) Read verses 9-14.  What does God tell Jacob and why do these promises sound familiar? (These are the promises of the covenant that God made with Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.  Jacob, now Israel, is the son of the promise. Through Jacob’s family will come the Messiah – Jesus.) What happens to Rachel in verses 16-20? (She gives birth to the last son of Jacob, Benjamin, and then dies. She is buried in Bethlehem. Benjamin means, “son of my right hand”. It is interesting to note that in the future another son will be born there in Bethlehem whom to God is the Son of My Right Hand.) What happens in verses 27-29? (Jacob is reunited with his father, Isaac. Isaac dies at the age of 180 and Esau and Jacob bury him.)
  2. Application – The events of these chapters shows how Jacob has changed. Go back and read Gen. 28:18-22.  How has God answered Jacob’s prayers and what things has Jacob learned since this encounter? (Possible answers:  God has preserved Jacob’s life and prospered him. He has 12 sons and great wealth. He was reconciled with both his brother and his father.  He has realized that he doesn’t need to use trickery to get what he wants. He has also learned what it is like to be the receiver of such tricks from his relationship with Laban. He has learned to trust in God.) In what ways have you and/or your children been like Jacob, trying to get what you wanted by manipulation? In what ways have you failed to trust in God and his promises? In Jacob’s prayer before his meeting with Esau, Jacob mentions twice the promises of God to him.  This was not because he thought God needed to be reminded, but because he finally realized that God would do what He promised. Rehearsing the promises of God when we are in trouble is a great strategy when afraid or in trouble.  Together list promises that you can remember from God’s Word for you personally. After you do this pick one promise that you want your family to remember especially that will help with what is going on right now in your home.  Encourage your family to meditate on this promise. Here are some great verses to help you get started: (this list is from http://www.sundayschoolresources.com/bibledrills2.htm :

Promises To Remember When We Are Afraid:

Genesis 28:15 – “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 – “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Psalm 50:15 – “and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”
Luke 21:17-18 – “All men will hate you because of me.  But not a hair of your head will perish.”
James 4:8 – “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

Promises To Remember When We Make Decisions:

Psalm 32:8 – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”
John 8:12 – “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 14:26 – “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Promises To Remember When We Have Done Something Wrong:

Matthew 6:14-15 – “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
1 John 1:9 - ”If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Promises To Remember When We Are Having A Bad Day:

Jeremiah 29:11 – “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Luke 6:35 – “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 10:28 – “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”
John 14:3 – “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
John 20:29 – “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
Romans 10:9 – “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
James 4:10 - ”Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Promises To Remember When We Need Something:

Luke 12:31 – “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
John 14:14 – “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
1 John 5:14-15 - ”This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us– whatever we ask– we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Promises To Remember When We Are Being Tempted To Do Wrong:

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
2 Thessalonians 3:3 – “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”


  1. Digging Deeper
    1. List the ways that you see God working in the life of Jacob during his time with Laban (chapters 29-31). What things has he had to learn that he hadn’t when he was at home? Be specific and list examples (look carefully at what Jacob’s assessment of his life with Laban had been like in 30:38-42). What things is God using in your life to mature you? Is your maturing process a result of trouble and conflict, like in Jacob’s life? What do you think God is trying to tell you?
    2. Many of us have times when we “wrestle” with life and God. Unlike Jacob it is not a physical struggle, but nevertheless we can learn just as much from them as Jacob did in chapter 32. Make a chart like the one below and fill it out to help you sort out your struggles with God.


The Issue God’s Will My Will Who Won What I learned
Round One
Round Two
Round Three