Unit 7: Day 2, Genesis 31–32

    “Unit 7: Day 2, Genesis 31–32,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)

    “Unit 7: Day 2,” Old Testament Study Guide

    Unit 7: Day 2

    Genesis 31–32


    After working for Laban for 20 years, Jacob was commanded by the Lord to “return unto the land of thy fathers,” or Canaan (Genesis 31:3). Jacob and his family departed in secret because they were afraid of what Laban would do to them. When Laban discovered their departure, he pursued them, but after they resolved their differences and made a covenant with each other, they left in peace. As they continued their journey, Jacob worried that his twin brother, Esau, would seek revenge on him. Jacob prepared gifts for his brother, prayed that the Lord would protect his family, and received divine assurance that he and his family would be preserved. The Lord changed his name to Israel.

    Genesis 31

    The Lord commands Jacob to return to Canaan

    How does the Lord help us when He asks us to do difficult things? Put a check mark next to the phrase that you feel best completes the following statement:

    When you strive to obey a command from the Lord, He will:

    • Change the command so it will be simple and easy for you to accomplish.

    • Bless your efforts by providing a way for you to fulfill the command, even though it may still be difficult.

    • Intervene and do all the work for you.

    • Require you to do it entirely on your own without any help.

    1. journal icon
      In your scripture study journal, write out the statement and the phrase you chose to complete it. Then explain why you chose that phrase.

    There are many ways the Lord can bless us as we strive to obey His commandments. As you study Genesis 31–32, look for doctrines and principles that teach how the Lord can help you when He asks you to do difficult things.

    Read Genesis 31:1–3, looking for what the Lord commanded Jacob to do.

    This commandment might have been difficult for Jacob to follow. Remember that Esau lived in the land of Jacob’s fathers, and the last time they were together, Esau wanted to kill Jacob.

    From what the Lord promised Jacob in Genesis 31:3, complete the following principle: The Lord will be with us when we .

    Consider how believing this principle can help us do what the Lord asks, even when it is difficult.

    In Genesis 31:4–23 we learn that Jacob and his family obeyed the Lord’s command. They began their journey to the land of Canaan while Laban was away shearing his sheep. As they left, Rachel took some of Laban’s “images” (verse 19). (These images—most likely small idols or statues of false gods—might indicate that Laban was involved in idolatry. We do not know why Rachel took the images.) When Laban returned home, he learned of Jacob’s departure and discovered that his images were missing. He chased after Jacob and his family and, after seven days, caught up to them.

    Why do you think Jacob and his family decided to leave without telling Laban?

    Read Genesis 31:24–29, looking for how the Lord fulfilled his promise to be with Jacob.

    1. journal icon
      Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

      1. According to verse 27, what did Laban claim he would have done if Jacob had not left in secret?

      2. What do you think Laban might have been planning to do to Jacob before the Lord spoke to Laban in the dream?

      3. From what you learn in verses 24 and 29, how did the Lord fulfill His promise to Jacob?

    Laban searching

    Laban searched Jacob’s camp for his stolen images.

    In Genesis 31:30–40 we learn that Laban searched Jacob’s camp for his images but did not find them because Rachel hid them under her saddle. After Laban finished searching for the images, Jacob explained how Laban had mistreated him numerous times during the past 20 years.

    Read Genesis 31:41–42, looking for what Jacob told Laban. Consider how Jacob’s testimony relates to the principle you identified in Genesis 31:3.

    In Genesis 31:43–55 we learn that Jacob and Laban made a covenant that they would not harm each other. Laban then returned to his own land.

    Genesis 32:1–21

    Jacob worries that Esau will seek revenge against him and his family

    Imagine that you have a serious problem, and you ask one of your trusted friends for advice. Imagine that your friend listens carefully to the problem and then says, “Pray about it.”

    young man praying

    What would you think if you were given that advice?

    It is always very important to pray first about our situations. We can learn an important lesson from what Jacob did after praying as he faced the possibility of Esau seeking revenge against him.

    Read Genesis 32:1–5, looking for what Jacob did on his journey back to his homeland.

    Why do you think Jacob sent messengers to Esau?

    Read Genesis 32:6–8, looking for what Jacob learned from the messengers and how he responded to the news.

    “Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed” (Genesis 32:7) when he heard Esau was coming with 400 men. He likely believed that the 400 men coming with Esau were an army intent on destroying Jacob and his family.

    Read Genesis 32:9–12, looking for what Jacob did after he received the report about Esau.

    1. journal icon
      Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

      1. What stands out to you about Jacob’s prayer?

      2. How does Jacob’s prayer illustrate his faith in the principle you identified in Genesis 31:3?

    Read Genesis 32:13–18, looking for what Jacob did after praying for God’s help.

    Jacob instructed his servants to divide nearly 600 of his animals into many groups and deliver them, one group at a time, to Esau as gifts.

    From what you have learned from Jacob’s example, complete the following principle: When we face difficulties, we should earnestly pray for help and then . You may want to write this principle in your scriptures.

    Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said that he often heard President Gordon B. Hinckley say, “I don’t know how to get anything done except getting on my knees and pleading for help and then getting on my feet and going to work” (in “Spiritual Capacity,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 16).

    1. journal icon
      Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Why is it important that, in addition to praying, we also do what we can to overcome our challenges?

    Think about a challenge you are currently facing. Remember to pray for help and do what you can to overcome the difficulty. You may want to take time to write in your personal journal a few things you can do to overcome your challenge in addition to praying for help.

    Genesis 32:22–32

    Jacob seeks a blessing from the Lord, and the Lord changes Jacob’s name to Israel

    How would you explain what it means to wrestle? Remember that the word wrestle has multiple meanings. Look for important principles as you study Jacob’s experience recorded in Genesis 32:22–32.

    In Genesis 32:22–23 we learn that the night before Jacob was to meet Esau, he sent his family ahead across the river Jabbok. Jacob knew that he had to face his brother the following day, and he was likely feeling worried about the outcome and may have wanted to be alone.

    Read Genesis 32:24–26, looking for what happened to Jacob the night before he was to meet Esau.

    The man in these verses was likely a messenger from God. You may want to mark the phrase “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” in verse 26. The blessing Jacob sought may have been an assurance from the Lord that Jacob and his family would be safe from Esau. While we do not know exactly what happened, we do know that Jacob put forth great effort and wrestled all night for a blessing, which he eventually received.

    1. journal icon
      Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

      1. Why might wrestling be a good way to describe what we must do as we seek blessings from the Lord?

      2. What can we learn from Jacob’s example about obtaining blessings from the Lord?

      3. Why do you think the Lord requires us to put forth great effort before we receive some blessings?

    Read Genesis 32:27–30, looking for the blessings Jacob received after he put forth great effort to seek the Lord’s help.

    The phrase “my life is preserved” in verse 30 indicates Jacob received an assurance that the Lord would protect him and his family from Esau. Notice also that the Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel. The name Israel means “One who prevails with God” (Bible Dictionary, “Israel”).

    Jacob’s descendants are known as the house of Israel. We are numbered among the house of Israel as we follow Jacob’s example by making and keeping sacred covenants with the Lord. You may want to write the following principle in your scriptures: We will prevail with God as we make and keep sacred covenants.

    Prevailing with God can mean that with God’s help you can overcome the challenges you face.

    Review the principles you have learned as you studied this lesson. Ponder how you can act on the truths you have learned, and make a commitment to do so.

    1. journal icon
      Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

      I have studied Genesis 31–32 and completed this lesson on (date).

      Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: