Lesson 33: Genesis 33–34

“Lesson 33: Genesis 33–34,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)

“Lesson 33,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 33

Genesis 33–34


After being separated for 20 years, Jacob and Esau met and were reconciled. After their meeting, Jacob continued traveling to the land of Canaan and pitched his tent near the city Shalem. Shechem, who lived nearby, violated Jacob’s daughter Dinah by forcing her to have sexual relations with him. Infuriated by Shechem’s actions, two of Dinah’s brothers killed the males in Shechem’s city.

Suggestions for Teaching

Genesis 33:1–11

Jacob and Esau meet and are reconciled

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Thomas S. Monson. Ask the class to consider how the brothers he spoke of harmed themselves and their relationship through the choices they made.

Monson, Thomas S.

“Many years ago I read the following Associated Press dispatch which appeared in the newspaper: An elderly man disclosed at the funeral of his brother, with whom he had shared, from early manhood, a small, one-room cabin near Canisteo, New York, that following a quarrel, they had divided the room in half with a chalk line, and neither had crossed the line or spoken a word to the other since that day—62 years before. Just think of the consequence of that anger. What a tragedy!” (“School Thy Feelings, O My Brother,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 68–69).

  • What experiences or blessings might individuals miss out on when they maintain grudges?

Ask students to think about any troubled relationships they may be experiencing or that they know about. Encourage them to look for principles that can help restore peace to these relationships as they study about Jacob and Esau’s relationship in Genesis 33.

Remind students that as Jacob traveled back to the land of Canaan after working for Laban for 20 years, Jacob was afraid of what Esau might do to him and his family when he returned.

  • Why was Jacob afraid of what Esau might do to him and his family? (When they parted ways 20 years earlier, Esau hated Jacob and had threatened to kill him [see Genesis 27:41–43].)

Divide the class into pairs. Assign each pair to read Genesis 33:1–11 aloud together, looking for what happened when Jacob and Esau met. Instruct one student in each pair to imagine experiencing the events recorded in these verses as though he or she were Esau and the other student to imagine them as though he or she were Jacob.

After sufficient time ask students to discuss the following questions with their partners, using what they learned from imagining the reunion of Esau and Jacob. (Write these questions on the board or provide a copy for each pair of students.)

What did you think and feel as you approached your brother?

What did you do to restore peace to your relationship with your brother?

Once students have completed this activity, ask the class the following questions:

  • What did Jacob do to restore peace to his relationship with Esau? (Answers might include the following: Jacob addressed Esau using respectful terms [see Genesis 32:4–5; 33:5, 8]; he showed courtesy, humility, and reverence by bowing before Esau [see Genesis 33:3]; and he offered a generous gift to Esau [see Genesis 32:13–19; 33:8–11].)

  • If you were Esau, how might you feel about Jacob’s efforts to establish a peaceful relationship with you?

  • What principle can we learn from Jacob’s example about what we can do to restore peace in troubled relationships? (As students respond, emphasize the following principle: If we make the effort to settle conflicts in the Lord’s way, then we can help restore peace to troubled relationships.)

Help students understand and feel the truth and importance of this principle by asking the following questions:

  • Why can it sometimes be hard to attempt to settle conflicts in troubled relationships?

  • When have you seen peace restored to a relationship because someone made an effort to settle a conflict? What thoughts or feelings did you have as you saw this happen?

To help students identify another principle in Genesis 33:1–11, ask the following questions:

  • What did Esau do to show that he had overcome his hatred and forgiven Jacob? (He ran to meet Jacob, embraced him, and wept with him [see verse 4]. He also accepted Jacob’s gift [see verse 11].)

  • What principle can we learn from Esau’s example about restoring peace in troubled relationships? (Students may suggest a variety of principles, but make sure they understand that if we overcome hatred and forgive others, then we can help restore peace to troubled relationships.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Seventy. Ask students to listen for reasons why we need to overcome hatred or resentment when we feel others have wronged us.

Hanks, Marion D.

“What is our response when we are offended, misunderstood, unfairly or unkindly treated, or sinned against, made an offender for a word, falsely accused, passed over, hurt by those we love, our offerings rejected? Do we resent, become bitter, hold a grudge? Or do we resolve the problem if we can, forgive, and rid ourselves of the burden?

“The nature of our response to such situations may well determine the nature and quality of our lives, here and eternally. …

“… Even if it appears that another may be deserving of our resentment or hatred, none of us can afford to pay the price of resenting or hating, because of what it does to us” (“Forgiveness: The Ultimate Form of Love,” Ensign, Jan. 1974, 20, 21).

  • What is the value of forgiving others, even if it seems they are in the wrong? (To help students answer this question, you may want to suggest they read Doctrine and Covenants 64:9–11.)

  • What can we do to overcome hatred and forgive others?

Invite students to think of a time when they experienced or witnessed the return of peace to a relationship because someone was willing to overcome hatred and forgive others.

  • What helped you or the person you thought of to overcome hatred and forgive others?

Consider sharing a personal experience or testimony that relates to one or more of the principles students identified. To help students apply the principles they have learned, give them time to respond to one of the following questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:

  • What will you do to overcome hatred or resentment you might feel toward someone and to forgive this person?

  • What efforts will you make to settle conflicts in a troubled relationship?

Encourage students to apply what they wrote.

Genesis 33:12–20

Esau returns to Seir, and Jacob travels to the land of Canaan

Summarize Genesis 33:12–17 by explaining that after Jacob and Esau’s reunion, Esau offered to travel with Jacob and his family as they continued their journey to the land of Canaan. Jacob said his caravan would need to travel at a slow pace because of the animals and children and suggested that Esau proceed without them. Esau then returned to the land of Seir.

Invite a student to read Genesis 33:18–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Jacob built. Point out that the name of the altar Jacob built in Shalem means “El (God) is the God of Israel” (see verse 20, footnote a). By dedicating this altar, Jacob confirmed his promise that if God would help him return home in peace, then the Lord would be his God (see Genesis 28:20–21).

Genesis 34

Shechem violates Dinah, and Simeon and Levi take revenge on Shechem and his city

Write the following words on the board: Love and Lust. Then ask the following questions:

  • What are some differences between love and lust?

  • Why is it important to know the difference between love and lust?

Invite a student to read Genesis 34:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to determine whether they see evidence of love or lust.

  • Even though Shechem claimed that he loved Dinah, what did he do that showed that he lusted after her rather than truly loved her? (“He took her, and lay with her, and defiled her” [verse 2], which means that Shechem violated and dishonored Dinah by forcing her to engage in sexual relations with him.)

You may want to write the following principle on the board: Lusting after others shows a lack of love and respect for them.

  • How does this principle differ from what society frequently tells us about love?

Read the following statements aloud. Ask students to listen for differences between love and lust:

“Never do anything that could lead to sexual transgression. Treat others with respect, not as objects used to satisfy lustful and selfish desires. … Do not participate in discussions or any media that arouse sexual feelings. Do not participate in any type of pornography” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 36).

“Love makes us instinctively reach out to God and other people. Lust, on the other hand, is anything but godly and celebrates self-indulgence. Love comes with open hands and open heart; lust comes with only an open appetite” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 45).

Explain that acting in lust stems from having unclean and undisciplined thoughts and desires.

  • How can we prevent lust from developing in our minds and hearts?

Ask students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals how they think Genesis 34:2 might have been written if Shechem had truly loved and respected Dinah. After sufficient time, invite a few students to share what they wrote.

Ask students to look for the chain of events that resulted from Shechem’s lustful actions. Summarize Genesis 34:4–31 by explaining that after Shechem took Dinah and defiled her, Shechem desired to marry her. Shechem’s father approached Jacob and proposed that Dinah be allowed to marry Shechem. He also suggested that their people engage in trade relations with each other and further intermarry. The sons of Jacob were angry about what Shechem had done and deceitfully suggested that they should agree to the proposed arrangement only if all of the men in Shechem’s city agreed to be circumcised, which was symbolic of entering into the Abrahamic covenant. The men agreed to this proposal, and all were circumcised. While the men of the city were recovering from being circumcised, Simeon and Levi entered the city, killed all of the males, and rescued their sister Dinah from Shechem’s house. Jacob was greatly distressed by what Simeon and Levi had done and worried that surrounding tribes would gather together to destroy his household.

Explain that although the outrage of Simeon and Levi may to some seem justified, deceiving and slaughtering the men of the city was not justified. Invite students to ponder how lust, anger, and revenge can lead to immoral choices that result in regret and misery.

Conclude by sharing your testimony of the principles students identified in today’s lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Genesis 33. Forgiving

President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about the value of forgiveness when he shared the modern-day account of a young mother who died from an infection that came from the doctor who had been treating her. The grieving husband was given inspired counsel to forgive. (See “Balm of Gilead,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 16–18).

Genesis 34:1–3. Victims of sexual abuse

“Victims of sexual abuse are not guilty of sin and do not need to repent. If you have been a victim of abuse, know that you are innocent and that God loves you. Talk to your parents or another trusted adult, and seek your bishop’s counsel immediately. They can support you spiritually and assist you in getting the protection and help you need. The process of healing may take time. Trust in the Savior. He will heal you and give you peace” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 36–37).

Genesis 34:1–3. Acting in lust

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why lust is a sin:

“Why is lust such a deadly sin? Well, in addition to the completely Spirit-destroying impact it has upon our souls, I think it is a sin because it defiles the highest and holiest relationship God gives us in mortality—the love that a man and a woman have for each other and the desire that couple has to bring children into a family intended to be forever. Someone said once that true love must include the idea of permanence. True love endures. But lust changes as quickly as it can turn a pornographic page or glance at yet another potential object for gratification walking by, male or female. True love we are absolutely giddy about—as I am about Sister Holland; we shout it from the housetops. But lust is characterized by shame and stealth and is almost pathologically clandestine—the later and darker the hour the better, with a double-bolted door just in case” (“Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2010, 44–45).