07 Jacob Wrestles With God - Humanity, One in Unity

UNIT #: 

Understanding how God strengthens us through challenges. Realizing how God "wrestles" with us during these times to help us grow and understand our faith.

Bible Passage: 

Genesis 32:1-32

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

32 Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him; and when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called that place Mahanaim.

Jacob Sends Presents to Appease Esau

Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have lived with Laban as an alien, and stayed until now; and I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male and female slaves; and I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’”

The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed; and he divided the people that were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two companies, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one company and destroys it, then the company that is left will escape.”

And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, and I will do you good,’ 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. 11 Deliver me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him; he may come and kill us all, the mothers with the children. 12 Yet you have said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted because of their number.’”

13 So he spent that night there, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milch camels and their colts, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 These he delivered into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me, and put a space between drove and drove.” 17 He instructed the foremost, “When Esau my brother meets you, and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob; they are a present sent to my lord Esau; and moreover he is behind us.’” 19 He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you meet him, 20 and you shall say, ‘Moreover your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me.” 21 So the present passed on ahead of him; and he himself spent that night in the camp.

Jacob Wrestles at Peniel

22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.

Teacher’s Preparation: 

Jacob was the younger twin of Esau and the son of Isaac and Rebecca. But when tradition called for the oldest in the family to have their father’s blessing, Jacob stole that right.

Esau was furious and swore to kill his brother at the time,  but Jacob fled and prospered in another land. However,  as time passed Jacob thought he could continue doing things on his own, but it was God’s blessings that helped him prosper throughout his life.

As Jacob began to realize God has the upper hand in every situation, we see a man who was deceiver become a new man as he made the vow to remain a true servant of the Lord. 

Main Ideas: 

You may remember the story of Jacob as the brother who tricked Esau into selling his birthright. Who could forget Jacob banding his arms in animal hair and dressing as Esau to seal the deal and get his father’s blessing? And with the help of his mother nonetheless? Well, now Jacob’s past comes back to haunt him, as he’s all grown up and forced to return to his home land. There are a lot of decisions in life that come back to haunt us, especially if we did something wrong. Sometimes we question whether we made the right choices. But you’ll find out that all things happen because God has a plan and just like Jacob we have to have faith in God and trust in how He works. 


God had made a promise to Jacob that he would have descendants like the dust of the earth and spread out to the west and the east. But Jacob did certain things that did not please God. Although Jacob prospered with a family, time had come when he had to pass a test in the form of a wrestle. In life, many problems are like a wrestle: you need to have control over what’s causing the trouble. When Jacob overcame this problem, God transformed him into a new person, into someone even better than before and renamed him Israel, the name of a great nation which still exists to this day.


Fun Fact:

During Jacob’s time, the wealth of a person was measured through the amount of camels and livestock they owned. Having 30 camels or more qualified you as a rich person. So imagine how wealthy Jacob was to have given Esau not only 30 camels, but donkeys, goats, rams, bulls and other livestock that totaled to more than 500? Even today, there are pastoral tribes in parts of Africa that still use camel and livestock as a form of income.  


About Forgiveness

Jacob’s way of finding favor was to send gifts and presents to his brother Esau, whom he hasn’t seen in years. And the last time he saw Esau, he was in danger of being killed. Do you think it’s easy to forgive someone for something as big as a birthright?

Well, upon finding out Esau and his 400 men were on the way to meet him, Jacob feared for his life thinking Esau would want revenge. Do you often find yourself drawing fast conclusions?  There’s nothing wrong with trying to come up with a get-away plan like, but Jacob tried to do things on his own. When he realized this may or may not work, he began praying and asking God for help.

Not many people can say they’ve physically wrestled with God like Jacob, but we do have our fair share of problems that can be equally stressful. When Jacob was caught in this wrestle it was an opportunity for him to prove his trust in God and repent from his mistakes. Although it cost him a hip dislocation, he finally put his faith in God and was forever transformed.

Today, asking for forgiveness doesn’t entail buying gifts like Jacob or paying your way through to be forgiven. Jesus paid the ultimate price on the cross to die for our sins, so God only asks us to repent from our wrongs and have a forgiving heart in order to be forgiven by Him.


Repenting from our mistakes is hard, especially if we wronged someone a long time ago. But don’t think that God won’t forgive you.

Take this time to pray for this person you’ve wronged. Ask God to help you through this difficult time and rebuild the relationship you have with that person. 

Lesson Review: 
  1. Jacob had taken his wives and children and crossed ­­­­­_______________, then wrestled with a man in _____________ until _____________.  
  2. Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of __________.
  3. When the messengers told Jacob there were ______men with Esau, he was greatly _________ and __________ because his brother would hurt him, so he _________ his people so that if one was ___________  the other would _____________.
  4. Who wrestled with Jacob and how was he transformed? What is his new name and what does it mean?
  5. In what ways did Jacob try to gain Esau’s favor?
Memory Verse: 

Psalm 37:23-24

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

23 Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
    when he delights in our way;
24 though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
    for the Lord holds us by the hand.

Closing Prayer: 

Teacher: Conclude class with a prayer

scope and sequence