Bible Study

George Wauchope, Tutor in World Mission Education at SOCMS, opened the 2008 Conference with a Bible Study based on Genesis chapters 27- 33.

Before reconstruction can begin, forgiveness and reconciliation must take place.

Read and reflect on the following passages:

Genesis 27: 1 – 41

What cultural and social factors contributed to the conflict between Esau and Jacob?

What systematic inequalities might be involved?

How did relationships affect the conflict?

Is it possible to bring about reconciliation when one party is as angry as Esau is?

Genesis 27: 42 – 45; 28: 10 – 15

With Rebekah’s urging, Jacob runs away to stay with Laban, his mother’s brother. On the way, he dreams that God will guard him, bless him, and bring him home again.

Genesis 29: 1 – 28

Jacob falls in love with Laban’s daughter, Rachel, and works for Laban for seven years to marry her. Laban tricks Jacob on his wedding night and substitutes Rachel’s older sister, Leah. Jacob works another seven years to marry Rachel.

Genesis 30: 25 – 26. 31: 17 – 18

During the next six years, Jacob works for his own flocks of sheep, goats and other animals. Although Jacob feels that Laban has taken advantage of him, he has become wealthy and has many children. He decides to return home – and face Esau.

Jacob fled his homeland in fear of his brother, who would kill him.

Why does he want to return home?

What enables people to turn and face an enemy?

On the way Jacob is assured of God’s presence. Similarly when Moses returned to Egypt (Exodus 4) he returned, not on his own but accompanied by God.

Genesis 32: 22 -29

The night before Jacob is to meet his brother, he sends his wives, children, and possessions to the other side of a river. Alone he wrestles all night with ‘a man’. Jacob will not let the man go until he blesses him. The ‘man’ changes Jacob’s name to ‘Israel’ (meaning ‘struggles with God’).

Who is Jacob wrestling with?

What do you think this encounter has to do with Jacob’s returning to face Esau?

Why does ‘the man’ wound Jacob?

Why is it sometimes necessary to be wounded in order to be healed?

Can you think of a dark encounter that you could rename an encounter with God?

Genesis 33: 1 – 4

The next morning, Jacob sees Esau approaching him with 400 men. Rather than sending his family ahead, as he had done with his messengers and servants, Jacob goes to the front. As he walks towards Esau, Jacob bows to the ground seven times. Esau runs to meet his brother, embraces him and kisses him. They both weep.

Remembering the great injustice done to him, what do you think enabled Esau to change or ‘turn’?

What did Esau need?

What did Jacob need to do?

Think about wrestling with one’s conscience, encountering God, the role of confession, the need to build trust, and the importance of recognition.

Genesis 33: 5 – 17

Esau initially refuses Jacob’s gifts but accepts them with Jacob’s urging.

What questions does Jacob’s journey raise for you about the process of reconciliation?

To what extent is the journey towards forgiveness dependent on the other person or persons?

How does the healing process begin so that one can let go of anger and hatred?

Who initiates reconciliation?

How important is the struggle with God?

As agents of reconciliation, how do we recognise the sacred moments when change in ourselves and in others may be possible?

We can recognise some of the factors that can bring about reconciliation.

Distance: Jacob ran away to put a distance between himself and Esau. Otherwise Esau would have killed him. A cooling period is needed.

Time is a healer. It is 14 years before Jacob returns. He has been through a process of spiritual encounter. We do not know what happened to Esau during this time but he is now prepared to forgive and be reconciled.

Realising that mistakes have been made and being prepared to make amends brings encounter with God who brings about transformation. God helps us to be prepared to consider forgiving those who have hurt us.

Repentance and compensation. There is need to compensate for evil done. When Jacob sees Esau prepared to embrace him, he says, ‘I see the face of God in you. You have accepted me in good favour.’

There are sacred moments in our lives when we come face to face with God and when change in ourselves and in others is made possible by that encounter. These may help bring about reconciliation. But there is no one way. We have to work at it to bring about that forgiveness in our lives. But it is only when reconciliation has taken place that reconstruction can begin.

Adapted from Peace Skills – Leaders Guide; Alice Frazer Evans and Robert A. Evans with Ronald S. Kraybill, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001

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