Sabbath School Lesson for May 21-27, 2022

Overview of Lesson 9

We look at the early life of Jacob and see it, with all its imperfections…

  • his relationship with his brother Esau (Sunday)
  • the vision of a ladder, leading to heaven (Monday)
  • Jacob, the deceiver, was deceived (Tuesday)
  • God still blessed Jacob’s growing family, despite its dysfunctional nature (Wednesday)
  • Jacob was told by God to leave his land of exile and return to Canaan (Thursday)

Jacob’s life showed his character flaws and ethical struggles, despite the fact that God had chosen him to be the family’s spiritual  leader. God had plans to mold Jacob and make him a suitable father and provider for his sizeable family.

Jacob drifted from God’s plan at various times, but God always maintained control of the situation and found ways to work around Jacob’s obvious blunders.

Memory Text: “And Esau said ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he had taken away my blessing!’ And he said, ‘Have you not reserved a blessing for me?’ “ Genesis 27:36 NKJV

Jacob’s name means literally “holder of the heel”, due to when he grabbed the heel of his firstborn, twin brother during their birth. This was seen as aggressive behavior that caused Jacob to be known as the supplanter, or substitute by force.

It was through cunning deception that Jacob obtained the spiritual blessing from his father Isaac. Esau was understandably upset upon learning that Jacob not only had found a way to be the spiritual priest of the family (which Esau held no interest in becoming), but he also had been given the physical, tangible blessings of inheritance (which Esau had desired and looked forward to having).

Sunday: Jacob and Esau

Brotherly conflicts seem to be prevalent in the biblical record. Cain and Abel had distinct, contrasting personalities, resulting in the first murder. And, of course, we can’t forget the trials Joseph endured when his brothers sold him into slavery. Even Jesus “came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11 NKJV).

Jacob and Esau illustrated this theme as well. Esau was a rough-and-tumble hunter, who became the favorite of Isaac; and Jacob, a mild-mannered individual, who preferred to stay home, was favored by his mother Rebekah.

Esau, upon returning from a hunting trip one day, was persuaded by Jacob to sell his birthright to him for the price of a bowl of lentils. This transaction was followed by a plot, suggested by Rebekah, that would deceive his elderly father into giving Jacob the birthright, and all the blessings that came with it.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 25:21-28

  • How had Isaac been taught to deal with differences between brothers? How were he and his brother Ishmael treated?
  • How might the preferential treatment Rebekah received when she was chosen to be Isaac’s wife have affected her tendency to favor one son above the other?
  • Why is it important to love each child for who they are, and not show our preferences in imbalanced, unloving ways?

Genesis 25:29-34

  • We can see that Esau was wrong in selling his birthright, but what was wrong with Jacob’s attempt to sell the birthright for a pot of lentils?

Genesis 27:18-24

  • How many times did Jacob lie to his father in carrying out this deception?
  • Why is it said that it’s hard to tell just one lie? Why do others follow?

Monday: Jacob’s Ladder

Esau consoled himself with the idea that after his father’s death, he would kill his brother Jacob to receive the inheritance that was taken from him through decepgtion. When Rebekah heard of his plan for revenge, she urged Jacob to flee to her homeland. Perhaps there, he would also find a suitable wife.

With a troubled heart, Jacob left his parents, not knowing if he would ever see them again. During his flight, he had a dream as he lay sleeping on the ground, with a stone for a pillow. His dream consisted of a ladder reaching up to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it. The Lord stood at the top of the ladder and repeated the promise of the covenant, assuring Jacob that his descendants would be blessed.

The next morning, Jacob named the place Bethel, which meant “the house of God”. With renewed faith and courage, he made his stone pillow a holy pillar, poured oil over it, and vowed to return a tenth of his increase to God (Genesis 28:22).

The ladder in the dream at Bethel shows the true way we get close to God. He comes down to us. The ladder symbolically shows us that Jesus is the link to our salvation. He was the ladder. We get to heaven through Him.

The tower of Babel, by contrast, might be seen as the opposite of the ladder seen in Jacob’s dream. Babel, built entirely by man, was designed to reach all the way to heaven. It represented man’s efforts to earn salvation.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 28:10-14 and Genesis 13:14-16

  • Why did God repeat Abraham’s covenant promises to Jacob at this time?

Genesis 28:22

  • What is the reason we still return tithe, and why is it important?

Tuesday: The Deceiver Deceived

The first object Jacob noticed when he reached the land of his mother’s relatives was a stone, the one that covered the well where he met Rachel. The stone represented God’s presence, and it seems likely that he felt the presence of God again like at Bethel. Upon learning that Rachel was his uncle’s daughter, Jacob must have sensed that this was not a happenstance encounter, not just a coincidental meeting that day.

After working seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage, the deceiver found himself the recipient of a deception that must have brought back haunting memories for him. God allowed Jacob to be the victim this time to better understand the severity of his offense against his brother.

It was important for Jacob to trust God, even when he was unjustly treated and had to suffer innocently at the hands of his uncle. God mysteriously works through our mistakes to impress us with the idea that we experience consequences when we drift from doing His will.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 28:18, 29:1-3, 10

  • What made Jacob feel the presence of God when he met Rachel?
  • How might the stone have reminded him of God’s presence?

Genesis 29:25

  • What similarities do you see in Jacob’s deception, compared to Laban’s?
  • Why did God allow this unfortunate outcome for Jacob?

Wednesday: The Blessing of the Family

God saw Leah’s heartache, being the unwanted, unloved wife of Joseph, and helped her compensate by allowing her to bear the first four sons in the family–Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah (Genesis 29:31-35).

The jealousies and hatred between the two sisters increased to the point of them giving their handmaidens to Joseph for childbearing, a common practice for that time and culture, but one which was obviously not in line with God’s will.

Those last seven years of Jacob’s exile were not easy, but in spite of their dysfunctional behaviors, God allowed the family to grow. Eleven of his twelve sons would be born during that time, and they would become the ancestors of God’s chosen people.

It’s comforting to know that despite our errors and faults, God can still bring about outcomes that are better than we could ever work out for ourselves. Jacob had much to learn, but God was with him through it all.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 29:31-30:2

  • How and why was everyone in the family affected by the angry feelings of the two sisters?
  • Why were names so important to one’s identity back then?

Thursday: Jacob Leaves

Jacob’s faith in God had grown over the years spent in service to his uncle Laban. After fourteen years of unjust servitude for both his wives, God spoke and told Jacob to return to his family in Canaan (Genesis 31:13). This time, he listened and obeyed, like Abraham so many years before, when he was told to LEAVE his family (Genesis 12:1).

Just like Abraham, Jacob was unsure where such a move would bring him. He still had reason to fear Esau. What would be his brother’s reaction when they met after all those years? Would this decision to return be putting his whole family in danger?  There was the additional concern that the sons of Laban might resort to violence to prevent him from taking away so much of the family wealth (Genesis 31:1, 2).

It was a bold and terrifying action to take; but God had spoken and Jacob knew he must follow such a distinct command. Rachel had recently given birth to their first son, Joseph. This longed-for event, another sign of God’s merciful love, may have influenced Jacob to obey God. But, it would be putting a treasured son in danger with the rest of the family, making it a difficult choice to make.

Discussion Questions:

Genesis 31:1-3 and 28:15, 16

  • What promise surely helped Jacob go where God sent him?

Deuteronomy 31:8 and Matthew 28:20

  • How does that same promise help us do hard things for the Lord?

Friday: Final Thoughts

The story of Jacob, like so many other biblical narratives, is another way for God to illustrate the struggle between good and evil that exists in the world. Being deceived, leaving one’s homeland, experiencing the threat of violence from family members are recurring themes of many characters and events in the Bible. They mirror the events that lead to our salvation: Satan’s deception, Jesus leaving heaven to be born on earth, and the threat of His crucifixion by those He came to save.

The dream Jacob had at Bethel stayed with him, and has resonated with many others who are oppressed and feel lost in this world of sin. The image of angels from heaven connecting with us in our darkest hour was the basis for a gospel song sung by 19th-century slaves. They drew solace from the dream, just like Jacob.

The song’s comforting message of God’s presence should be on our lips as we enter the final days of earth’s history. Soon, we will join the angels on that ladder and fly with Jesus to our heavenly home.

Next Week: Jacob-Israel

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