Jacob & Esau: Two Roads | Genesis 35-36


God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” (Genesis 35:1)

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 35:9-12)


Our present study began with Isaac learning that his wife, Rebekah, became pregnant with twins after being barren. When the two boys began to battle in the womb, Isaac inquired of God, who declared that the younger child would usurp the older. Esau was born first, then Jacob. The two were destined for conflict. Over the span of two events, Jacob deceived his older brother out of the blessing and birthright of the firstborn. Esau was furious, so he plotted Jacob’s murder, which was sufficient reason for Jacob to flee to his mother’s homeland to look for a wife. In the land of Haran, Jacob found his wife, but he was tricked by his father-in-law, Laban, into also marrying her older sister, leading to intense family drama.

After living with Laban for 20 years who repeatedly tried to cheat Jacob out of his work, Jacob fled back to the land of his father. Once there, Jacob was forced to confront Esau, who was coming to meet him with 400 men. In fear, Jacob sent large gifts to his brother, hoping to appease him. But a personal wrestling match with God finally gave Jacob the courage to meet Esau face to face. Shockingly, his brother met him with love and open arms. God softened Esau’s heart and finally gave Jacob the peace of reconciliation.

We now conclude this third section of Genesis with God appearing to Jacob once again, the deaths of Rachel and Isaac, and the prosperity of Esau. Though Jacob will continue to appear in Genesis, chapter 37 will begin to focus on the narratives of his children, particularly Joseph. As the narrative reflects upon the lives of Jacob and Esau, we find that they both lived prosperous lives; however, Jacob’s life was also molded by God’s grace and faithfulness.

Read chapter 35 and discuss the following.

  1. After God appeared to Jacob again, Jacob responded by ensuring that his household and servants put away their foreign gods in order to purify themselves before the LORD. What are some false gods that are common today?
  2. When Jacob arrives at Bethel, God once again declares that Jacob’s new name is Israel and pronounces the blessings of Abraham upon him. How, in particular, does God’s promise of nations and kings coming from Jacob apply to us today?

Read chapter 36 and discuss the following. 

  1. Though genealogies tend to be quite boring, all of Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for us. In general, what can we learn from the Bible’s genealogies?
  2. Verses 6-8 reinforce what we suspected in chapter 33, that Esau was in fact quite wealthy. How can wealth, prosperity, and ease of life actually become a curse for us?


  • Obey. Just as Jacob called for his household to forsake their idols before he built an altar to God in Bethel, take time to consider any false gods in your heart and how you can forsake them to follow God fully.
  • Pray. Consider the struggle-filled life of Jacob and the Esau’s life of prosperity. Give thanks to God for His grace of stripping us of our lesser gods, so that we might know Him as our eternal treasure.

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