Sabbath School Lesson for May 28-June 3, 2022

Overview of Lesson 10

After seeing how and why Jacob had to leave his family, we now see how life changed for him when he returned–leading to his name change of Israel. We study these episodes of his life:

  • wrestling with God all night–referred to as the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Sunday)
  • meeting with Esau after so many years apart–how Jacob made amends to his brother (Monday)
  • dysfunctional retaliation by Jacob’s sons on account of their sister Dinah’s marriage proposal (Tuesday)
  • rooting out idolatry by taking the family back to Bethel, and renewing their vows to God (Wednesday)
  • Benjamin’s birth and Rachel’s death, followed by Reuben’s illicit affair with Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines (Thursday)

Just as the dream of a ladder at Bethel emboldened Jacob with a feeling of forgiveness, he was once again made strong by a night of wrestling with the Lord at a place he called Peniel. God knew when Jacob’s fears were greatest, and how to help him overcome their power over him.

Memory Text: “And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’ ”  Genesis 32:28 NKJV

Jacob had defects of character that led him away from God. But somehow God was able to sidestep his unwise actions and make God’s overall plan of salvation work out in the end. When Jacob showed signs of remorse, he was always lifted to a higher spiritual position.

Unfortunately, his sons and other family members didn’t always join in these periods of repentance, and there were many dysfunctional behaviors that made their progress more difficult than it should have been.

Jacob’s new name of Israel, however, meant a promise that a nation would someday be named after the man who literally fought an Angel for that blessing.

Sunday: Wrestling With God

The threat was real. Jacob received word that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men (Genesis 32:6). How defenseless Jacob must have felt with all his flocks to protect, let alone his wives and children to worry about.

As they camped for the night, Jacob’s mind was reeling with fear and doubt about the future of his family. His entire inheritance from God was in jeopardy. He prayed fervently for God’s intervention and wisdom to know what to do.

A Man appeared in the camp, and Jacob wrestled with him desperately all through the night (Genesis 32:24). At some point, perhaps when He put his hip joint out of socket with a mere touch (Genesis 32:25), Jacob realized he was wrestling with a superhuman stranger, the Lord himself.

Pleading with Him not to release him until he was blessed, the Lord finally did bless Jacob and gave him the new name of Israel, meaning “Prince of God” (Genesis 32:26-28).

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 32:24-28

  • When did Jacob likely know he was wrestling with the Lord?

Ephesians 6:12

  • What other kind of forces “wrestle” with us?

Genesis 35:10-12

  • What kind of blessings came with the name Israel?

Monday: The Brothers Meet

Both brothers, Jacob and Esau, must have felt blind to what sentiments might be in the heart of the other. Jacob knew Esau had ample reason to harbor ill feelings for the deceptive way he stole the family blessing. But Esau, too, didn’t know if Jacob might be returning to add Esau’s wealth to his own.

Therefore, they both took steps to prevent the circumstances from getting out of hand. Esau’s approach with four hundred men showed his uncertainty of Jacob’s intentions. Jacob’s response of sending ahead gifts and messages of goodwill was his way of dealing with the situation.

Esau had further proof of his brother’s friendly return when Jacob approached him, bowing seven times and calling him “servant”  and “lord”. Those seven bows were meaningful, as they represented the seven-fold blessing Jacob had received from their father years before (Genesis 27:27-29).

The scene was emotional when the brothers finally met. We are told that Esau ran to meet and hug him. The long-separated twin brothers kissed and wept (Genesis 33:4), after years of a difficult separation.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 33:1, 2

  • How did Jacob’s precaution of dividing his family indicate the level of anxiety he had about his brother’s approach?
  • Why was it important to divide them the way he did? Why were Rachel and Joseph in the last group?

Genesis 32:30 and 33:10

  • Why did Jacob think Esau had the face of God? In what way were they seen as the same?
  • How can we allow people to see Jesus’ face in ours?

Tuesday: The Violation of Dinah

After Jacob and Esau’s reconciliation, one would hope for a time of peaceful existence for the families involved. But the story in Genesis 34 interrupts that tranquility with the totally erratic behavior of a couple of Jacob’s sons.

Dinah is the only daughter of Jacob whose name is mentioned in the biblical record (Genesis 37:35 and 46:15). The story of Dinah’s marriage proposal from a prominent son of a tribal leader led to an unfortunate outcome. Jacob’s brothers knew that Dinah’s virginity had been violated by her suitor, a young man named Shechem, who was apparently very much in love with Dinah (Genesis 34:2, 3).

Hamor, Shechem’s father, at the request of his son, came appropriately to Jacob’s camp to ask if a marriage for the couple could be arranged. He was willing to offer a generous dowry if they would allow the young couple to be wed. He extended the invitation to include the future intermarriage of daughters of their tribes, if that was their desire (Genesis 34:8-12).

Jacob’s sons would only agree to such an arrangement if all the men of Hamor’s city would be circumcised. This would show that they were one people and intermarriage could be allowed (Genesis 34:15, 16).

Surprisingly, Hamor’s people decided their men would go through with the rite of circumcision; but Simeon and Levi, two of Jacob’s sons, had other plans. When the men, who had undergone circumcision, were painfully weakened, the two brothers stole into their city and killed all the males. They also plundered their goods and captured all the women and children (Genesis 34:25-29).

Jacob was rightfully disturbed by their deceptive, violent actions which totally destroyed their reputation and would make their small family hated by others in the area. This episode was a repeated reminder that Jacob’s own background involving lies and deception was not going away. The consequences of Jacob’s deception would last his whole lifetime.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 34:30 and 27:43-45

  • What similarities do you see in the story about Dinah and why Jacob had to flee from Esau’s anger? How do you think Jacob must have felt both times?
  • How do these alternating stories of deceit and forgiveness reflect our world before the Lord comes? What hope is there that someday it will be over and true peace will be ours forever?

Wednesday: Prevailing Idolatry

After Jacob rebuked Simeon and Levi for their hideous crimes against the people of Shechem, the Lord told him to go with his family to Bethel. Jacob was aware that there were those in the family who still carried idols with them, and these were to be disposed of before they arrived. In order to enter God’s presence, they needed to purify and cleanse themselves (Genesis 35:1, 2).

God then prepared the way for them to travel safely to the sacred place to renew their vows to God. Jacob was reminded of his dream of a ladder going up to heaven. God revealed Himself once again there, announcing his new name of Israel, meaning “Prince of God” or “Fighter of God”, since he had wrestled with God all night before meeting Esau.

This story reminds us of our own tendency to worship things, and how those things can so easily separate us from God. Anything can become an idol when it prevents us from true worship and repentance. Like Jacob’s family, it may be as simple as taking off the jewelry on our hands and ears (Genesis 35:4). Anything that feeds our pride must be rejected.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 34:30 and 35:1-5

  • What made Jacob tell his family they were going to Bethel, when their travel might be so dangerous for them?
  • How and why were Jacob’s family protected on their journey to Bethel?

Thursday: The Death of Rachel

After their return from Bethel, Rachel gave birth to their second son, Benjamin. This would have been a more joyous occasion if it hadn’t resulted in Rachel’s death. On her deathbed she named the baby Ben-oni, meaning “son of my sorrow”. Jacob chose, however, to call him Benjamin, meaning “son of the right hand”.

After Rachel’s proper burial, the family moved on; but Jacob was soon to have another heartbreaking event.  Word reached him that his son Reuben had slept with Jacob’s concubine Bilhah, Rachel’s maidservant and mother of his two sons, Dan and Naphtali. We aren’t sure of Reuben’s motive, but it must have seemed a cruel and disrespectful act to his grieving father. Another example of how lying and deception can destroy relationships.

Finally reaching Mamre, the place where his father was camped, another death rocked the family. His father Isaac passed away at the age of 180, and was buried by the two brothers, Jacob and Esau.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 35:16-18, 22, 29

  • Why do you think Jacob had such heartbreaking trials, even after receiving God’s covenant promises at Bethel?

Friday: Final Thoughts

You may have wondered why Hebrews 11:21 mentions Jacob worshiping God at the end of his life, “leaning on the top of his staff”. It most likely verifies the injury he got from the Lord when they wrestled so fiercely that night at Peniel. It’s been suggested that the hip or thigh where the injury occurred, close to the loin area, might have been a reminder to Jacob of  God’s promise that he would have many descendants.

“The time of Jacob’s trouble”, in Jeremiah 30:7, refers to the trial God’s people will endure just before Christ’s Second Coming (See Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 195.) We also will have our faith tested and will plead for God’s mercy to deliver us from our fears and doubts during that frightful time.

We wrestle with God at certain times even now. But also with evil forces, as we’re told in Ephesians 6:12. Like Jacob, we must allow our faith to have the victory over all those things that bring us down and separate us from God.

Next Week: Joseph, Master of Dreams

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