Journey Through The Scriptures

The Life of Jacob

Lesson 4: Jacob Starts for Home and Wrestles with God

(Scripture to Read: Genesis 31:1–21 and Genesis 32:1–32)

The drama of Jacob’s life took a sharp turn upward as God prepared him to go back to Canaan, reconcile with his brother Esau, and establish his family in the land of promise. Laban and Jacob had been working and living together for about twenty years. God’s unmistakable blessing on Jacob, despite Laban’s repeated scheming and dishonesty (Genesis 31:7), had begun to bring tension in their relationship. It was time for Jacob and his large family to head back to Canaan—so he set out for home under God’s direction. (For further study, read Genesis 31:22-55 which describes the details of Jacob’s confrontation with Laban).

Jacob knew that a confrontation with Esau awaited him. But first, there was Someone far more important than Esau who wanted to contend with Jacob. His divine "wrestling match" changed not only Jacob’s physical status, but his name. He would now be known as Israel, which means "God fights," or "He fights with God." Jacob had fought with God all his life as he tried to do things his own way. But from now on, God would fight for Israel.

Study Questions

  1. How do we know that Jacob and his family still had some lessons to learn about not doing things their own way (see Genesis 31:19-21)?
  2. Angels met Jacob on his way out of Canaan, and again on his way back. What was God telling Jacob about His guidance in Jacob’s life?
  3. Jacob sent elaborate gifts ahead to try and appease Esau. Why were these gifts not really necessary to ensure the safety of Jacob and his family? (Hint: see Genesis 32:11-12.)
  4. In Genesis 32:27, the "wrestler" asked Jacob his name. The act of saying, "Jacob," forced him to admit his nature. What does "Jacob" mean, according to Genesis 27:36?
  5. After his wrestling match, Jacob (Israel) was now crippled and too weak to fight Esau even if he tried. What further lesson was God teaching Israel about his true source of strength?

Something to Think About

In Genesis 32:9-12, Jacob reminded God of His promises to protect and bless him, and he called on the Lord to honor them. Praying God’s Word back to Him is a great way to build your faith.

Jacob’s limp was a reminder of his life-changing encounter with God. When we truly meet God, we are never the same.