GENESIS 32 – 33
Bible Study Notes Rev. Betsy Perkins
Jacob’s Journey Home
Despite the family problems that Jacob faced when living in Laban’s household and despite his strong desire to return home, Jacob makes the journey with a growing sense of dread. How does he deal with these fears and how does God help him?
o Are there things coming up that are causing you a growing sense of dread? Or can you recall a time in the past when you had that experience?
Jacob Prepares to Meet Esau (31:55-32:21)
o Who meets Jacob as he reenters the land of Canaan?
o Why does he name the place Mahanaim = Two Camps?
o How does Jacob refer to Esau and to himself in the message he sends ahead (vs.3-5)?
o How does Esau’s response only increase Jacob’s fear? What is his first response? How is it typical of Jacob’s whole story?
o 32:9-12 is Jacob’s first recorded prayer since the one he prayed at Bethel when fleeing from Esau (28:20-22). How is this prayer different? How has his faith grown (or not)?
o What is Jacob’s next strategy to address his fear of Esau?
o In Hebrew, verse 20 contains the word “face” 4 times! What is Jacob about to face?
o In what ways has fear been debilitating for you? In what ways has fear kept you out of trouble?
o In 31:42 and 31:53, Jacob refers to the “Fear of Isaac.” Who is that?
The Hebrew word of reverence is the same as the word for fear. There is a positive fear that expresses itself in reverence, awe, commitment, and obedience, and a negative hear that means being scared. Jacob doesn’t mean Isaac is scared or frightened of God. Indeed, paradoxically, knowing a reverence and awe toward God means you increase in confidence that can characterize your life in general. In Jacob’s case, however, it does not… John Goldingay
Jacob Meets God Face-to-Face (32:22-32)
o In the dark of night, Jacob even sends his wife, children, and personal belongings ahead of him, remaining behind nearly paralyzed with fear. Who meets him in the dread-filled night?
o Who is wrestling with whom in the night? Why would God wrestle with Jacob?
So why is God wrestling with Jacob? God has been doing that all Jacob’s life, trying to turn Jacob into the man God wants him to be but failing. Here is God trying again but succeeding only by cheating, which means the victory is hollow. Perhaps one reason God appears as just a man is that this makes it a fair fight. If God overwhelms us simply through having superior fire power, it’s not much use as a victory. God has to “win us,” as we say. We have to want to yield to God’s purpose and God’s vision for us if the change in us is to be authentic. But Jacob does not want to yield, and never does. John Goldingay
o Jacob = one who grasps; Israel = God struggles or one who struggles with God. Israel becomes the name for the nation of God’s people. How does this name describe us as God’s people?
o Peniel = face of God. Jacob emerges from his dark night of struggle having “won”. What did “winning” look like?
Jacob Meets Esau Face-to-Face (33:1-20)
o How does Jacob’s arrangement of his family in the final approach to Esau reflect what he is thinking and feeling?
o What has happened in Esau’s heart in the 20 years the twin brothers have been apart? How has Jacob misjudged his brother?
“Jacob is all prostration, and Esau just wants a hug. They both weep, but the tears mean something different for Jacob from what they mean for Esau.” John Goldingay
o Why is it so important to Jacob that Esau accept his gift? What does it symbolize for him?
o Have you had the experience of seeing God’s face in the face of a brother or sister?
o Esau returns to Seir; Jacob proceeds to Succoth and Shechem. These are in opposite directions. What is Jacob doing? Why?
In light of this passage and our discussion, what one truth about God and about yourself stand out as something to “take to heart” this week?
Are there steps you will take, by God’s grace, to more fully apply it to your life?
Resources: Robert Alter, Genesis, 1996
John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, 2010
Max Lucado, Life Lessons with Max Lucado: Book of Genesis, 1997