1. Growing up, were you more of a Mama’s boy—or Daddy’s son? What about your siblings? Who was the favorite?
Jacob and Esau are fraternal twins; they don’t look alike and have very different personalities. They grow up with mother (Rebekah) favoring Jacob and father (Isaac) favoring Esau, the hairy one and the hunter (like Dad). Esau (born first) trades his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. With the help of his mother, Jacob cheats Esau out of their father’s blessing. To escape Esau’s wrath and revenge, Jacob flees to his mother’s brother’s (Laban’s) home far away. Jacob marries Laban’s daughters (Leah and Rachel), has several children by them, grows rich, but later must flee Laban, as well. Genesis 33 picks up that story years later when a homesick, unreconciled Jacob returns to face Esau, whom he believes is still murderously angry with him. Miles before he encounters his brother, Jacob sends gifts of cattle and servants ahead of his main family and support staff to soften Esau’s presumed anger. What happens next is the subject of today’s study.
Read Genesis 33:1-20 with one person not only narrating but adding emotion to the words of Jacob and Esau, based on how you imagine this reunion—one that’s been a long time in the making.
Finding My Story in God’s Story
2. Where in this story do you find yourself?
- As Esau, being on the receiving end of all these gifts.
- As Jacob, reluctant to face his accuser and make amends
- As one of the children meeting my uncle for the first time.
- As an unrelated maidservant wondering what is going down.
- Other ____________.
3. What do you think Jacob’s main reaction was upon first seeing Esau from a distance?
- Yikes, he really does have four hundred men with him.
- Lord God, please stop him from harming me or my family.
- I hope my gifts soften his anger towards me.
- Wow, he’s running towards me, alone. Can this be a good thing?
- Other ____________.
4. What do you think Esau was thinking and feeling as he saw Jacob from a distance?
- At last, my brother has returned home.
- He looks humbled. I guess I didn’t need four hundred men with me.
- Finally, I will get my revenge. Keep smiling until I’ve got my hands on him.
- I hope we can be true brothers again.
- Other ____________.
5. At the time of this story, Jacob had two wives, two concubines, and eleven sons. He also had large herds of goats and other livestock with servants to help care for them. As the leader, what did he do to manage the uncertainties of this difficult meeting?
6. After their embrace and reconciliation, what did Esau do and what was Jacob’s response?
7. Why do you think Jacob went his own way and found his own place to settle, rather than going to live with Esau?
8. Imagine yourself approaching someone with whom you have argued, harmed, suffered hurt, or had a falling out. What “signs” or “lifelines” do you look for to interpret how your meeting will go?
9. By yourself, write down the names of relationships that have “issues” in need of repair. In general terms, without identifying names and places, describe for the group your insights into reasons for the ruptures.
- Ask the group to share ways that have been found for repairing ruptured relationships.
- Discuss the emotions that often arise when attempts to repair relationships are rejected.
- Pray about all these options and reactions before you meet again next time as a group.
For further reflection, homework, or next steps
10. Have you ever cheated someone, charged too much for your services, sold a questionable product, broken a contract or promise, did poor quality work, or not done a full day’s work for your pay?
If so, how would/did you make it up to your victim, even if it was years ago? (Perhaps someone in your group, on the receiving end of such wrongs-made-right, can offer some helpful guidance.)
11. Revisit those individuals named above and decide on one for whom you will ask God to extend a lifeline. Ask God to guide you in next steps to restore a loving relationship.
Note to leaders and group members: Use of personal Identifiable information should be avoided or at least limited by the trust and confidentiality level in the group. Of course, use names and get specific when you are alone, wrestling with God, much as Jacob did (see Genesis 32).