January 10, 2021 – Genesis 31 – 33

Lesson Date: January 10, 2021

Focal Scripture Passage: Genesis 31:3, 17-20, 38-42; 32:1-12, 24-32; 33:1-5, 20

AIM: To lead students to discover Jacob’s answers to five very important questions, and to encourage them to honestly answer those same questions for themselves.


Before class: Read the notes on Genesis 31 – 33 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Write the following five questions on the marker board or chalkboard.

  • When God tells you to do something, do you obey in spite of any consequences your obedience might bring?
  • Do you give credit to God for your successes?
  • Do you pray to God when you are afraid?
  • Have you ever “wrestled” with God over some decision?
  • Can people tell by your behavior that you have been with God?


INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Direct the class’ attention to the questions written on the board. Read each question and ask the students to silently consider their personal answer.

After reading all of the questions, tell the class in today’s lesson we will discover Jacob’s answers to those questions.



  1. Review.
    • Remind the students that we are studying the Old Testament book of Genesis.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (in spite of man’s sinfulness God still kept His promise to bless Jacob).
    • Remind the class that Jacob was in Haran (locate Haran on the Map of the Ancient World) working for his uncle, Laban. Even though Laban tricked and deceived Jacob, God blessed him with wealth and a large family.
  2. God Told Jacob to Return to Canaan.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 31:3.
    • Ask: “What did God tell Jacob to do?” (go back to his native land of Canaan; locate Canaan on the Map of the Ancient World).
    • Ask: “What did God promise Jacob?” (that He would be with Jacob – see also Gen. 28:15).
    • Jacob told his wives about God’s call to return to Canaan (verses 4-16).
    • Read Genesis 31:17-20.
    • Explain the following:
      • Jacob took his wives, children, and livestock, and left Padan-aram (the plain in which Haran was located – locate Padan-aram on the Map of the Ancient World).
      • They began the long journey to Canaan (425-450 miles).
      • Rachel stole her father’s household idols.
    • Ask: “Why do you think Jacob left secretly, without telling Laban?” (he knew Laban could not be trusted, he might have been afraid Laban would delay him or prevent him from obeying God).
    • Summarize: God told Jacob to take his family and return to Canaan. Jacob obeyed.
  3. Laban Pursued Jacob.
    • Tell the students the following:
      • Laban realized that Jacob had left, taking all his family and livestock with him.
      • Laban gathered a force and went after them (verses 21-25).
      • Laban caught up with Jacob in the mountains of Gilead (east of the Jordan River – locate Gilead on the Map of Canaan).
      • After an ugly confrontation (verses 25-29) and an unsuccessful search for the stolen gods (verses 30-37), Jacob rebuked Laban.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 31:38-42.
    • Ask: “How long had Jacob worked for Laban?” (twenty years).
    • Ask: “How would you describe Jacob’s work ethic?” (very good).
    • Ask: “To whom did Jacob give credit for his wealth?” (God).
    • Jacob and Laban made a covenant, erected a stone pillar as a monument to their covenant, and then parted company.
    • Summarize: Laban pursued and caught up with Jacob and his family. After an ugly confrontation the two men parted in peace.
  4. Jacob Was Afraid of Esau.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 32:1-2.
    • Ask: “Who did Jacob meet?” (the angels of God).
    • Remind the class that crooked uncle Laban was behind Jacob, and ahead was murderous brother Esau.
    • Ask: “How do you think encountering these angels of God made Jacob feel?” (that God truly was with him).
    • Read Genesis 32:3-5.
    • Tell the class the following:
      • Jacob sent messengers ahead to Esau.
      • Notice in verse 4 that Jacob referred to Esau as “my lord” and referred to himself as “thy servant.”
      • Jacob was no longer the selfish deceiver; God had changed him into a humble brother.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 32:6.
    • Ask: “What do you think Jacob thought when he heard this news?” (that Esau was bringing an army to kill him and his family).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 32:7.
    • Tell the students that Jacob was afraid. His fear drove him to prayer.
    • Read Genesis 32:9-12.
    • Explain that Jacob reminded God of His promise of protection and begged God to protect him and his family.
    • Summarize: Jacob was fearful at the thought of meeting his brother Esau. Angels of God met Jacob on his journey and Jacob told all his fears to God.
  5. Jacob Wrestled With God.
    • Tell the class that Jacob sent several flocks of animals ahead as gifts, hoping to appease his brother’s anger. He was left alone that night.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 32:24.
    • Explain that this “man” was a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ (see verse 30). The two wrestled all night.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 32:25-32.
    • The Lord touched Jacob in a certain place and put his thigh out of joint.
    • Tell the students that just as He had done with Jacob’s grandfather Abraham, God changed Jacob’s name.
      • Jacob means “heel holder” or “supplanter” (one who takes by trickery).
      • Israel means “God prevails.”
      • God said Jacob had power with God and with men and had prevailed.
    • Ask: “What visible mark did Jacob have that forever reminded him of his personal encounter with God?” (he limped because his thigh was out of joint).
    • Stress the fact that Jacob walked differently after being with God, just as we should!
    • Summarize: Jacob had a personal encounter with the Lord, which forever changed his name and his walk.
  6. Jacob Humbled Himself Before Esau.
    • Read Genesis 33:1-3.
    • Ask: “According to verse 1, what did Jacob see?” (Esau coming with his 400 men).
    • Ask: “Why do you think Jacob divided his family into four groups?” (in hopes that some of them might escape if Esau attacked).
    • Ask everyone to look back at verse 3.
    • Ask: “How did Jacob approach Esau?” (he bowed himself to the ground – prostrating himself – seven times as he approached Esau).
    • Explain that Jacob bowed himself to the ground, got up, walked a few steps, and then bowed himself again. This is the way one might approach a king or other highly respected person.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 33:4-5.
    • Tell the class the following:
      • Esau ran and greeted his brother.
      • The two embraced and kissed.
      • Jacob introduced his large family to his brother.
      • The remainder of the chapter tells that Jacob and Esau were very kind and generous toward each other.
      • Jacob bought some land and settled near Shechem (locate Shechem on the Map of Canaan).
    • Read Genesis 33:20.
    • Jacob built an altar and named it “God, the God of Israel.”
    • Summarize: Jacob humbled himself before his brother Esau. The two brothers met in peace and then returned to their homes.


PERSONAL APPLICATION: Direct the class’ attention to the five questions written on the board. To lead the students to state Jacob’s answers to those questions and think about how they would answer the question, tell them the following:

  • Jacob knew it would be hard to leave Laban’s home in Padan-aram. It was the only home his wives or children had ever known. Laban wanted him to stay and care for his livestock. Laban was a deceitful man who was willing to hurt others – even his own family members – to benefit himself. Nevertheless, when God told Jacob to leave he obeyed. When God tells you to do something, do you obey in spite of the consequences of that obedience?
  • Jacob gave the credit for his success to God. He acknowledged God and praised Him for the blessings he had received. Do you give credit to God for your successes?
  • Jacob was afraid of his brother, Esau. The last time they had been together, Esau threatened to kill Jacob. Esau was approaching with 400 men. Jacob was afraid, so he prayed to God. Do you pray to God when you are afraid?
  • Jacob wrestled with God all night. The struggle was so real and the encounter was so close that Jacob said he had seen the face of God. We get to know God better in such close encounters when we struggle with decisions. Have you ever “wrestled” with God over some decision? If so, who won?
  • Jacob’s wrestling match left him with a permanent visible mark – he limped for the rest of his life. Every step reminded him of his life-changing encounter with the Lord. People could tell Jacob had been with the Lord by the change in the way he walked. Can people tell by your behavior that you have been with God? Has your walk been changed by the Lord’s touch?

Encourage the students to confess their shortcomings and to recommit themselves to obeying and following the Lord each day. Lead a closing prayer.


CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize Genesis 32:28. Encourage them to obey God’s voice this week.

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  1. Great outline . I used it along with our Sunday School Lesson to teach these 3 Chapters in Genesis

    • Thank you for taking time to comment, Tommy. I’m so glad the outline was helpful. God bless you as you teach His Word!

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