02 Forgiveness and Reconciliation – Esau and Jacob

UNIT #: 
Lesson Theme: 
As God forgives us, we should forgive others.

To understand the power of forgiveness and reconciliation which brings people together 

Bible Passage: 

Genesis 33:1-17

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jacob and Esau Meet

33 Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.

But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor with my lord.” But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10 Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God—since you have received me with such favor. 11 Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.” So he urged him, and he took it.

12 Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go alongside you.” 13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me; and if they are overdriven for one day, all the flocks will die. 14 Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

15 So Esau said, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “Why should my lord be so kind to me?” 16 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17 But Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built himself a house, and made booths for his cattle; therefore the place is called Succoth.

Teacher’s Preparation: 

Forgiveness is a vital concept in the Christian faith but is easy to be overlooked at times.  So one of the best ways to teach this lesson is to help one’s students understand how they are relating to people in tough situations. Read Genesis 33 for more detail as to how Jacob and Esau treated each other in their childhood and compare that to modern day life situations. Have students also share instances where they had to forgive or seek forgiveness and have them share the results of that. Teachers should also consider sharing some of their own experiences with respect to forgiveness.

Add Linda's comment on having student act out portions of the story.

Ask Anissa for suggestions. 

Main Ideas: 

Student Introduction to the lesson

When was the last time someone wronged you? How did you feel? What if they came and said they were sorry to you later? Would you accept them? On the other hand, what if you hurt somebody, would you have the courage to apologize to them? Either way, it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.

Here’s one story of a man who had to apologize not for his mistakes but those of his father. Sebastian Marroquin was the son of a Colombian drug lord, Pablo Escobar, who, at the height of his career controlled 80% of the global cocaine market.  His father Pablo was eventually killed in a gun fight with police. But Sebastian had to deal with the consequences…

My father was like any other father – the only thing he didn’t do was get up early for work. When you’re very young you don’t know exactly what it is your father does for a living but as I got older I started noticing that he was in the news a lot, that my freedom was restricted and that I couldn’t lead a normal life. All this made me curious.I always received a lot of love from my father and a good education too. He was a man who instilled in me decent values even though outside the house he didn’t honour them – but he never expected me to follow in his footsteps.

He was a man who found many excuses for using violence, whereas I have never believed in violence as a way of solving conflicts. The only thing that violence does is aggravate the problem. I have always felt that the solution should be through reconciliation, apology and frank discussion. There is a need to invest in the culture of ‘forgiveness’ and I have a lot of faith that the Colombian people are open to reconciliation.

Many people who once considered me a threat, realise now that in the twenty years since my father’s death, I never wanted to take over his drug business, nor to seek revenge, even though at the time of his death I did initially react violently. I quickly realised, however, that this was crazy because to take revenge would not make me feel better or bring my father back. I would have continued along that destructive path and ended up with absolutely nothing.

Bible Exploration

Jacob and Esau were the sons given to Issac and Rebekah, and thus were grandchildren to the great patriarch Abraham. From the very beginning, they were at odds with each other even from Rebekah’s womb. They struggled so much that she had to inquire of God what was happening. The LORD replied, 

““Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples born of you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
    the elder shall serve the younger.”   (Genesis 25:23)

So even from birth, Esau and Jacob were struggling with each other trying to win something over the other.  As time went on, we can read about how they had two very distinct personalities. Esau was the rugged, rough and tough guy who would go hunting regularly, while Jacob was more of the mild-mannered stay at home type. Jacob however, was very crafty and was able to trick Esau into exchanging his birthright for a bowl of soup one day when Esau came back famished from hunting (Genesis 25:27-34).  However, things unfortunately went terribly out of control when Jacob deceived Esau yet again and stole their father’s blessing from him. Esau did not let this go lightly and vowed to seek revenge on Jacob.  As important as the birthright was, this blessing which was passed down from generation to generation was priceless. Imagine having a will written out to you where you will be inheriting absolutely everything owned by your ancestors. Then all of a sudden something happens and everything that was supposed to be given you is given to somebody else leaving with you out even a penny to spend. That was exactly how Esau felt. He felt cheated out of everything, with all of it going to his conniving brother. This made him so mad that he wanted to kill Jacob after Issac’s death.  Rebekah, knowing this. instructed Jacob to flee to her brother Laban for safety till everything passed.

You might be thinking that Jacob had it made after all this. He got both his brother’s birthright and his blessing. But that wasn’t case at all. Soon after Jacob met Laban, he started working for Laban in hopes of marrying Laban’s daughter Rachel whom Jacob deeply loved. However, Laban first gave his older daughter Leah to Jacob first and then made Jacob work another seven years for Rachel. Laban changed Jacob’s wages and gave him the weaker sheep from his flock. Many years later, Jacob’s own children lied to him about his son Joseph’s whereabouts causing Jacob much pain and sorrow. His life was by no means easy. To add to all this, as soon as Jacob departed from Laban to find a place for his family to live, he received news that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men.  Imagine the fear Jacob must have felt at that point. What would happen to his family? What would happen to him? Was Esau still angry about what happened before? How would you feel if you were Jacob?

When Esau and Jacob finally did meet, what happened was completely unexpected. Esau ran to Jacob and embraced him and kissed him! They exchanged warm words with each other and praised God for the numerous blessings God had given them. Jacob was caught off guard for certain. We can never be sure as to what happened in Esau’s life from the moment Jacob betrayed him to this point in time. However, what we do see is that God can work in people’s life to change them for the better which is what happened here. By forgiving Jacob, Esau’s character was shaped for the better, and in a sense, regained the blessing that he once lost through Jacob’s deceit.  


This week visit the website www.theforgivenessproject.com; google keyword “The Forgivness Project.” Click on the stories tab and read the stories of people who had to forgive others or seek forgiveness from other people. Pick any one person and present it to the class next week. Explain why you chose that person and what you liked most from their story.

Lesson Review: 

Fill in the blanks.

  1. God said to ______________, “Two __________ are in your _______,     and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other,    the __________ shall serve the________.” 
  2.  Jacob saw _________ coming with _______ men to meet him.
  3. Jacob told his brother that seeing his brother’s face was like seeing the face of a(n) _____________.

Short Answer

  1. Using the story of Esau and Jacob, explain the importance of forgiveness and how God can change people’s lives over time.
  2. In the story of Esau and Jacob, we learn that deceit and trickery may work in the short run but can cause problems later. Give examples of this in the story of the two brothers. What does this teach us in our lives? 
Values for Life: 

Forgiveness is something our world needs today. Our society is full of people who have been hurt and wronged in many different ways and there is no quick and easy fix to many of these problems. In these cases, we can choose to react in two ways. We can hold on to our anger and have grudges towards those people, or we can choose to forgive like Esau did eventually.

Life Response/My Decision: 

When we forgive others, we show the world how we have changed and how we have risen over our weaknesses. Forgiveness drives away fear and worry and helps us grow. Is there someone in your life that has hurt you? Take some time to talk to someone about it and make a decision to forgive that person. If you choose to forgive then you will be taking a huge weight off your heart and who knows what good will happen then?

(Add two way concept for forgiveness)

Memory Verse: 

Mark 11:25

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

Closing Prayer: 

Conclude the class with a prayer

first version


Make edits to include Jacob and Esau regarding forgiveness.