“Unit 7: Day 3, Genesis 33–37,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 7: Day 3,” Old Testament Study Guide
After being apart for 20 years, Jacob and Esau met and were reconciled. Jacob settled in the land of Canaan, where he and his family experienced great blessings and various trials. Jacob’s sons conspired against their younger brother Joseph and sold him to Ishmaelite and Midianite merchants traveling to Egypt, where he was then sold into slavery to Potiphar.
Read the following statement by President Thomas S. Monson. Consider how the brothers he spoke of harmed themselves and their relationship through the choices they made.
“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!
“May we make a conscious decision, each time such a decision must be made, to refrain from anger and to leave unsaid the harsh and hurtful things we may be tempted to say” (“School Thy Feelings, O My Brother,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 68–69).
Think about any troubled relationships you may know about or be experiencing. As you study about Jacob and Esau’s relationship in Genesis 33, look for principles that can help restore peace to these relationships.
Recall that while traveling back to the land of Canaan after working for Laban for 20 years, Jacob was “greatly afraid and distressed” when he learned that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men (see Genesis 32:6–7). Jacob had left the land of Canaan 20 years before to escape the wrath of his brother Esau—who wanted to kill him—and to find a wife among his mother’s kindred (see Genesis 27:41–28:2).
Read Genesis 33:1–11, and imagine experiencing the events recorded in these verses from the perspectives of both Esau and Jacob. (It may be helpful to know that the phrase “he passed over before them” in verse 3 means that Jacob walked ahead of his family, and the word drove in verse 8 refers to a group of animals.)
Based on how you imagined this reunion, ponder your responses to the following questions:
What do you think each brother thought and felt as they approached each other?
What did each brother do to restore peace to this relationship?
According to these verses, what did Esau do to show that he had overcome his hatred and forgiven Jacob?
One principle we can learn from Esau’s example is that if we overcome hatred and forgive others, then we can help restore peace to troubled relationships.
- Think about what Jacob did to help restore peace to his relationship with Esau. Then answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What principle can we learn from Jacob’s example about what we can do to restore peace in troubled relationships?
When have you seen peace restored to a relationship because you or someone else made sincere efforts to settle a conflict? (Remember that sometimes we may not see immediate results from our efforts to settle conflicts. Like Esau and Jacob, in some cases we may need time apart, combined with sincere prayer for God’s help, to resolve conflicts.)
What helped you or the other person involved in settling the conflict overcome hatred and forgive others?
Reflect on the troubled relationships you thought of at the beginning of the lesson. On a separate piece of paper or in your personal journal, write a goal of what you can do to overcome or help someone else overcome hatred or resentment, forgive another person, or seek to restore peace to the relationship.
In Genesis 33:12–20 we learn that Jacob traveled to Shalem in the land of Canaan and built an altar there.
Genesis 34 contains an account of an incident that involved Jacob’s household, a man named Shechem, and the people of Shechem’s city. Shechem violated Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, and then wanted to marry her, which greatly troubled some of Jacob’s sons. These sons deceitfully suggested that they would agree to the proposed arrangement only if all of the men in Shechem’s city agreed to be circumcised, which was the sign of entering into the Abrahamic covenant. The men agreed to this proposal, and all of them were circumcised. While the men of the city were recovering from being circumcised, Simeon and Levi entered the city and killed all of the males and rescued their sister, Dinah, from Shechem’s house.
Although the outrage of Simeon and Levi may have been justified, deceiving and slaughtering the men of the city were unrighteous actions.
What would you do to prepare to participate in a soccer game? What clothing would you wear? How would your preparation and clothing be different from your preparation and clothing for attending your Sunday Church meetings? Why?
Read Genesis 35:1, looking for where God commanded Jacob to travel in order to worship Him.
The meaning of the Hebrew name Bethel is “house of God.” President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency taught, “Temples are to us all what Bethel was to Jacob” (“Temples—the Gates to Heaven,” Ensign, Mar. 1971, 16). You may want to write this in your scriptures next to verse 1.
Read Genesis 35:2, and consider marking what Jacob asked his people to do to prepare to worship the Lord in Bethel.
It may help to know that “strange gods” refers to idols or other objects associated with false gods of other nations. These could be compared to worldly objects or interests in our day that distract people from correctly worshipping God. How do you think putting away such strange gods, being clean, and changing their garments would help Jacob and his people prepare to worship the Lord in Bethel?
From Genesis 35:5–8 we learn that Jacob and his household traveled to Bethel, and Jacob built an altar there.
Read Genesis 35:9, looking for what happened in Bethel.
From Jacob’s experience we learn that as we prepare ourselves to worship the Lord, we invite His revelation.
We can receive the Lord’s revelation in many ways. He can reveal His will personally, through a physical appearance as He did with Jacob, but most often it is through impressions and feelings from the Holy Ghost.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
The members of Jacob’s household were commanded to put away strange gods, cleanse themselves, and change their garments as they prepared to worship the Lord. What would be similar ways we can prepare to worship the Lord in our day?
Why do you think we should make special preparations to worship the Lord?
What have you experienced when you have made a special effort to prepare yourself to worship the Lord?
Ponder what you can do to prepare and be worthy to worship the Lord and receive His revelation.
In Genesis 35:10–15 we learn that God reconfirmed with Jacob the covenant name of Israel as well as the promises of the Abrahamic covenant. Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had talked with God to memorialize the event.
Genesis 35:16–29 details various trials Jacob experienced, including the death of his wife Rachel after giving birth to their son Benjamin, the violation of the law of chastity by his son Reuben, and the death of his father, Isaac.
In Genesis 36 the descendants of Esau are listed.
Think of the various ways a person might feel if a sibling or close friend received an important award, was selected for an athletic team or music ensemble, or performed the best in his or her class on an exam. Why do you think someone might respond with hatred or envy?
Read Genesis 37:1–4, looking for how Jacob treated his son Joseph and how Joseph’s brothers reacted.
Read Genesis 37:5–11, and on the blank line beneath each of the two illustrations, write the verse numbers that correspond to that dream of Joseph.
It may help you to understand the following: Sheaves (see Genesis 37:7) are bundles of wheat. To make obeisance (see Genesis 37:7) means to bow down before a superior to show deep respect. To rebuke (see Genesis 37:10) is to reprimand or correct. To observe (see Genesis 37:11), in this context, means to consider and reflect.
What does it mean to envy someone?
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught the following about envy:
“Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.
“Furthermore, envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment! … Coveting, pouting, or tearing others down does not elevate your standing nor does demeaning someone else improve your self-image. So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live” (“The Laborers in the Vineyard,” Ensign, May 2012, 31–32).
In Genesis 37:12–17 we learn that Jacob sent Joseph from Hebron to check on his brothers who were more than 50 miles (more than 80 kilometers) away, tending their father’s flocks in Shechem.
Read Genesis 37:18–22, looking for what Joseph’s brothers considered doing with him because of their hatred and envy and what prevented them from doing it.
Read Genesis 37:23–28, looking for what Joseph’s brothers did with him.
This account illustrates that choosing to hate or envy others can lead us to commit additional sins.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
What have you seen hatred and envy lead people to do in our day?
When others have possessions, talents, or attention that we would like to have, how can we avoid feelings of hatred and envy toward them?
In Genesis 37:29–36 we read that Reuben, who apparently had left and was not involved in Joseph being sold into slavery, returned to the pit and found that Joseph was gone. He rent, or tore, his clothes, showing his intense grief or distress. Hatred and envy led Joseph’s brothers to commit other sins after they sold him into slavery. They dipped his coat in animal blood and gave it to their father, knowing that Jacob would assume Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. Jacob mourned deeply for many days, putting on sackcloth, which was clothing worn during times of sorrow. Once in Egypt, Joseph was sold to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officers.
Think about what you will do to avoid feeling envy or hatred toward another person if the temptation arises. If you are tempted by feelings of hatred or envy, seek the Lord’s help. Pray for help in replacing those feelings with understanding and charity. If you are still troubled, talk to a parent or trusted leader who can help you overcome those feelings.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Genesis 33–37 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: