Genesis Study #13

Bible Class – Study #13 (Gen 31-33) – Notes and Discussion questions

Genesis Study #13: The liberation of Jacob

Main passage of study: Gen 31:1 – 33:20

Related passages: For Pt
A: Ge 28:15, 22; 30:32 Ex 3:9; 1Sa 18:9; Job 1:10; Col 3:22
B: Ge 20:3; 24:50; 27:43; 35:2; Jn 19:10
C : Ex 22:13; 1Sa 12:3; Ps 124:2; Ho 12:12
D: Ge 26:28; Dt 6:13; 1Sa 7:5

E: Ge 28:13-15; 31:3; Ps 34:7; 91:11; He 1:14
F: Ge 35:10; Judg 13:17-18; Ho 12:4
G: Ps 127:3

H: Jos 24:1; Judg 8:8; Jn 4:5

Outline & Notes

  1. Jacob’s decision– Gen 31:1-16
    1. Important developments – Gen 31:1-3
    2. Internal discussion – Gen 31:4-16
      1. Of Laban’s disposition and deceit – Gen 31:4-9
      2. Of Jacob’s dream – Gen 31:10-13
      3. Of Rachel & Leah’s disowning – Gen 31:14-16
  2. Jacob’s departure – Gen 31:17-35
    1. An unannounced choice – Gen 31:17-21
    2. An unimpeded chase – Gen 31:22-23
    3. An unexpected change – Gen 31:24
    4. Unfair charges – Gen 31:25-30
    5. Unsuccessful checks – Gen 31:31-35
  3. Jacob’s defence– Gen 31:36-42
    1. Demanding evidence – Gen 31:36-37
    2. Declaring innocence – Gen 31:38-39
    3. Divine intervention – Gen 31:40-42
  4. Jacob’s deposition – Gen 31:43-55
    1. Laban’s proposal – Gen 31:43-44
    2. Jacob’s pillar – Gen 31:45-52
    3. Permanent parting – Gen 31:53-55
  1. Jacob’s trepidation – Gen 32:1-21
    1. Jacob’s protection – Gen 32:1-2
    2. Jacob’s precaution – Gen 32:3-5
    3. Jacob’s panic – Gen 32:6-8
    4. Jacob’s prayer – Gen 32:9-12
    5. Jacob’s preparations – Gen 32:3-21
  2. Jacob’s transformation – Gen 32:22-32
    1. Jacob’s privacy – Gen 32:22-24
    2. Jacob’s persistence – Gen 32:25-26
    3. Jacob’s prevailing – Gen 32:27-29
    4. Jacob’s preservation – Gen 32:30-32
  3. Reunion & reconciliation – Gen 33:1-11
    1. A careful approach – Gen 33:1-3
    2. A courteous acquaintance – Gen 33:4-7
    3. A cultural acceptance – Gen 33:8-11
  4. Cover & compromise – Gen 33:12-20
    1. An offer extended – Gen 33:12
    2. Offence evaded – Gen 33:13-16
    3. Settling in Succoth – Gen 33:17
    4. Spending in Shechem – Gen 33:18-20

It has now become patently obvious to Jacob that his time in Padan-Aram must come to an end. Having reached the pivotal decision with his family, Jacob quickly packs up all that he has obtained while in Laban’s hire and sets off surreptitiously in obedience to God. Laban, however, wastes no time in pursuing the fugitives once he discovers not only that Jacob is gone but that his teraphim are missing as well. Laban overcomes the encumbered Jacob and there is an intense exchange before Laban proposes a covenant between them before they separate for good. Jacob has one crisis behind him only to face another one looming on the horizon with Esau. Even though he had received assurance of the Lord’s presence, Jacob was very much preoccupied with meeting his twin brother after having wronged him 20 years before. Jacob little realized, however, that the significance of his encounter with Esau would be far outweighed by the significance of another encounter with God. God’s moulding of Jacob’s character continues as Jacob wrestles through the night. Jacob is broken and permanently scarred, yet, he emerges a victor – acknowledging his weakness and clinging to his God and His promises. Jacob has trouble walking in the good of these promises, though, as he still takes a carefully planned approach with Esau only to discover that God had already been dealing with Esau who shows no ill will or resentment. In spite of Esau’s offer to travel together, the two separate once again as Jacob continues into the land. But then he takes an ill-fated detour into Shechem, where disastrous circumstances will unfold.

Textual notes

● The river that Jacob crossed in Gen 31:21 was undoubtedly the Euphrates.

● The seven day pursuit from Padan-Aram to the mountains of Gilead where Laban overtook Jacob probably covered around 300 miles.

● When we read in Gen 31:20 and Gen 31:26 that Jacob stole away unknown , the word translated ‘unknown’ has the word ‘heart’ as its base meaning so it could be rendered that Jacob stole Laban’s heart – i.e. things / people precious to him.

● The Fear of Isaac in Gen 31:42 is in reference to the God whom Isaac worshipped with awe and godly reverence.

● Mizpah (Gen 31:49) means ‘watch’ or ‘watchtower’.

● Mahanaim (Gen 32:2) is the dual form of the Hebrew machaneh meaning ‘camp’ or ‘host’ so Mahanaim means ‘two camps’ or ‘two hosts’.

● Jabbok (Gen 32:22) means ‘emptying’ or even ‘he will empty’.

● Several meanings for Jacob’s new name ‘Israel’ have been proposed including ‘one who strives with God’, ‘a prince with God’, ‘God commands’ and ‘God rules’. The meaning that seems to fit best with the context of Gen 32:28 is ‘he strives/struggles with God’.

● Peniel (or Penuel) (Gen 32:30-31) means ‘the face of God’.

● El-Elohe-Israel (Gen 33:20) means “God, the God of Israel”.

Discussion questions

1. What principles for decision making can we take from the way in which Jacob decided to finally leave Laban’s house ?

2. We see two examples in chapter 31 of the Lord communicating through dreams. What significance can we observe in this and what significance should we place on dreams today?

3. Was there any justification in Laban’s actions following Jacob’s departure? Could we ascribe any blame to Jacob?

4. What are some possible reasons why Rachel stole her father’s gods? What lessons could we take from her actions?

5. Laban refers to the Lord as “the God of your father” in Gen 31:29 and Jacob refers to Him as “the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac” in Gen 31:42. Since Jacob vowed at Bethel that “the LORD shall be my God” (Gen 28:21), why do you think Jacob refrains here from confessing the Lord as his God?

6. Given that Genesis 31 is the last chapter in which we read of Laban, how might we summarize and take lessons from what we know of his life?

7. Messengers (the same Hebrew word) are sent within 2 verses of each other in Gen 32:1 (angels) by God and in Gen 32:3 by Jacob. How can we contrast these two dispatches?

8. Jacob is struck by great fear in Gen 32:7. Fear in the Bible is often contrasted with faith. Taking lessons from Jacob’s experience, what are some reasons for our fears and what are some practical remedies for them?

9. Note that the wrestling match at the end of chapter 28 was not initiated by Jacob, though once engaged, he was certainly not going to back down. What was God looking to do with Jacob in this one on one interaction? How could we apply lessons to ourselves?

10. What is the significance of the turning point of Jacob’s wrestling with God when his hip is put out of joint?

11. In spite of his transformational encounter with God, Jacob is still not wholly trusting in the promises of God in chapter 33. In what ways is Jacob’s testimony affected as a result?

12. After being so deliberate and insightful about his decision to leave Laban, Jacob makes a series of poor decisions at the end of chapter 33 that will set up tragic circumstances in the next chapter. What were the flaws in these decisions and what can we learn from them?