Genesis Study #14

Bible Class – Study #14 (Gen 34-36) – Notes and Discussion questions

Genesis Study #14: The repatriation of Jacob / The generations of Esau

Main passage of study: Gen 34:1 – 36:43

Related passages: Pt

A: Dt 7:3; 22:21; Jos 7:15; Jud 14:1-2; 20:10; 2Sa 13:12

B: Ge 49:5-7; Dt 32:35; Jos 7:25; Job 13:7; Ro 12:9

C: Ge 17:1; 17:22; 24:59; 28:13, 18-19; 31:19, 32; 32:28; 48:3;
Ex 23:27; Dt 6:14; 2Chr 17:10; Ps 107:6; Jas 4:8

D: Ge 25:9; 30:1, 24; 31:32; 49:4; Le 18:8; 1Sa 10:2; Mic 5:2

E: Ge 14:6; 25:12; 26:34; 28:9; Nu 20:21; Dt 17:14; 23:7; Jos
24:4; 1Sa 14:47; 2Chr 25:20; Je 49:17-18; Eze 25:12-14

Outline & Notes

  1. Forced relations– Gen 34:1-12
    1. A dangerous attraction – Gen 34:1
    2. A defiling act – Gen 34:2
    3. A desired alliance – Gen 34:3-12
  2. Fraternal retaliation – Gen 34:13-31
    1. A deceitful answer – Gen 34:13-17
    2. A demand accepted – Gen 34:18-24
    3. A dishonouring attack – Gen 34:25-31
  1. Developments in Jacob’s faith– Gen 35:1-15
    1. A move for God: renewed purpose – Gen 35:1-8
    2. A meeting with God: restated promises – Gen 35:9-13
    3. A memorial to God: a restored pillar – Gen 35:14-15
  2. Developments in Jacob’s family – Gen 35:16-29
    1. Rachel’s departure – Gen 35:16-20
    2. Reuben’s disgrace – Gen 35:21-22a
    3. Jacob’s dozen – Gen 35:22b-26
    4. Isaac’s death – Gen 35:27-29
  3. Diversion in Jacob’s fraternity – Gen 36:1-43
    1. Edom’s next of kin: the wives & children – Gen 36:1-8
    2. Edom’s next generation: the grandchildren – Gen 36:9-14
    3. Edom’s notables: the chiefs – Gen 36:15-19
    4. Edom’s neighbours: the Horites – Gen 36:20-30
    5. Edom’s noblemen: the kings – Gen 36:31-39
    6. Edom’s named centres – Gen 36:40-43

Jacob is back in the land of Canaan but his obedience is only partial and
this leads to an episode that may represent the darkest hour for his
family. It’s a sad recounting of just how devastating and far-reaching the
effects of one sin can be. Dishonour is brought upon Dinah, upon Jacob and
his sons but most importantly, (as Jacob neglected to mention) upon God.
How invaluable to the Christian is a right estimation of sin, the flesh and
the world! In a chapter in which God is not mentioned, there are a
multitude of poor decisions and reactions that leave Jacob and his family
shamed and fearful of potential retribution. But in chapter 35, God
graciously answers Jacob “in the day of his distress” and commands him to
go to Bethel and dwell there. After a long-overdue purging and burial of
household gods, the Lord keeps any vindictive nations around at bay and
Jacob and his family come to Bethel. An altar erected, the Lord blesses
Jacob, reiterates to him His promises, and reminds him that his name is now
Israel. Sadly, once again, there is lack of complete obedience as Jacob
moves on from Bethel and must then simultaneously deal with the joy of a
twelfth son, Benjamin, and the mourning of the loss of his beloved Rachel.
To add to Jacob’s heartache we have Reuben’s foolish act of sin for which
he would later lose blessing (see Gen 49:4). Jacob slips from the
forefront of the narrative as the rival twins unite to bury their father,
Isaac, after his 180 years. Before turning the spotlight on Joseph, the
Spirit of God closes the chapter on “Esau, who is Edom” highlighting the
worldly possessions and position of him and his descendants. There is
little, however, to commend Esau’s spiritual endeavours and ambitions. How
vital it is for us to make wise decisions in favour of seeking heaven’s
reward and recognition over this world’s fleeting fame and fortune.

Textual notes

● God is not mentioned at all in chapter 34 but in chapter 35, we
find His name a total of 22 times (11 times explicitly and 11 times in the
name Beth-el and Isra-el)

● The word for violated (Gen 34:2) has a base meaning of ‘to
depress’ or ‘abase’ – (ESV – humiliated)

● The gate of the city (Gen 34:20, 24) would be the place where
official decisions were made.

● If the wrestling episode of ch. 28 is included, ch. 35 contains the
5th and 6th times that we read of God speaking to Jacob.

● It’s interesting that the name Luz (the former name) is used
alongside Bethel in Gen 35:6 even though Bethel is used alone in Gen 35:1.
The Hebrew noun means “almond tree” or a shrub bearing nuts but the related
verb can mean a number of things, including: to bend, incline, turn away,
depart, separate, prevert.

● In Gen 35:8, we read of Rebekah’s nurse, here named Deborah, for the
first time since Gen 24:59. If it is the same woman, she would have been
quite aged and possibly returned to Padan-Aram after Rebekah’s death or was
sent for by Jacob once back in the land.

● ‘Benoni’ means “son of my sorrow” whereas ‘Benjamin’ means ‘son of
my right hand’

● Comparing a few age milestones will show that Isaac’s death occurred
later in the overall narrative, probably somewhere around the time that
Joseph was promoted to governor of Egypt, next to Pharaoh. So his death is
given here in order to shift the focus away from Jacob.

● Seir was a mountainous region southeast of the Dead Sea.

● The names of Esau’s wives given in ch.36 are their original names,
likely changed to appease Isaac and Rebekah, already disappointed with his
choice of wives. Adah became Basemath (Gen 26:34) and Aholibamah became
Judith (Gen 26:34). Esau took Basemath to wife after the other two, and so
her name was changed to Mahalath (Gen 28:9).

● Some have supposed Jobab (Gen 36:33) to be Job but others give
numerous reasons against it.

Discussion questions

1. Jacob seems rather passive in his reactions to the tragic circumstances
surrounding Dinah, his only daughter (that we know of). Why do you think
he does not take more control of the situation? And what do we learn
about the importance of the headship and leadership of a father in the

2. What warnings and lessons can we take from this incident around
protecting our children from the world?

3. Jacob’s sons make a bad situation much worse by their deceitful response
and deadly retribution. In what ways are the brothers to be blamed for
their actions?

4. Hamor and Shechem seem very eager to make an alliance with Jacob’s
family. What could be the motivation for those in the world to be linked
to the people of God? And what dangers are there for us as believers in
such propositions?

5. How does Jacob’s reaction to the carnage inflicted by Simeon and Levi in
Gen 34:30 reveal his misplaced priorities and his being ‘out of touch’ with

6. Why does the Spirit of God see fit to include the sordid details of this
affair, especially considering that Moses, himself of the tribe of Levi,
was the earthly writer?

7. Commentators suggest that God is seeking to lift Jacob’s eyes higher by
cutting a number of his earthly ties in chapter 35. What lessons can we
draw from this for ourselves?

8. How might we apply Jacob’s exhortation to his family in Gen 35:2 to
ourselves in a NT context to “Put away the foreign gods that are
among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments”?

9. What differences can we identify between Jacob’s previous Bethel
experience (Ge 28) and the one in ch.35?

10. Why do you think God repeats Jacob’s name change to Israel at this

11. Jacob experiences trials and difficulties in both chapters 34 and 35
but it seems with very different purposes in view. How do you see these

12. Esau demonstrated through a number of decisions over the course of his
life that his priority was to satisfy his fleshly appetites. How can we
keep the flesh “in check” while living in a world designed to meet its