Jacob and Esau

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Opening prayer –

Begin by praying this prayer.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son. Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred that infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and, through our struggle and confusion, work to accomplish your purposes on earth; so that, in your good time, every people and nation may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Part 2: The Story – Jacob and Esau

Here are two quick summaries to help you know a little more about Jacob and Esau. Both come from EntertheBible.org. You can read the whole story of Jacob and Esau in the book of Genesis – chapters 25:19 to 37:1.


“The son of Isaac and Rebekah, renamed Israel, became the father of the twelve tribal families.

Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah, the brother of Esau, and the grandson of Abraham and Sarah. The stories about Jacob are in the book of Genesis and take place during the Ancestral Period. Jacob was known for trickery. He came out of the womb grasping his brother Esau’s heal. Later he persuaded Esau to sell him his birthright and tricked Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau. Fearing his brother’s anger he fled to live with his uncle Laban. On the way he had a dream in which he saw a ladder extending to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. Jacob married two sisters, Rachel and Leah, and also had two concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah. These four women bore him twelve sons. Jacob became wealthy while working for his uncle Laban. Eventually jealousy among Laban’s sons forced Jacob to flee back to Canaan in spite of his fear of Esau. On the way he wrestled an angel all night. In the morning the angel changed Jacob’s name to Israel and he became the father of the nation that bears his name. His sons gave their names to the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob eventually migrated to Egypt to be with his son Joseph, who had been sold there as a slave but later rose to prominence in Pharaoh’s court.”
AUTHOR: Robert Brusic, Seminary Pastor Emeritus


“Son of Isaac and Rebekah and the older twin brother of Jacob.

Esau was the eldest son of Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob’s older twin brother. As firstborn Esau had a birthright to a double share of inheritance, but he sold this birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. Esau was a skillful hunter and Isaac’s favorite son. When Isaac was near death he asked Esau to bring him a meal of wild game and then Isaac would bless him. While Esau hunted, Jacob disguised himself as Esau, brought food, and received a blessing. Esau was angry and Jacob departed to live with his uncle Laban. When Jacob returned, many years later, the two brothers were reconciled.”
AUTHOR: Robert Brusic, Seminary Pastor Emeritus

Part 3: A Complicated Family

Every family has its problems, but Jacob and Esau’s family story is almost too crazy for a movie. In their story we hear of sibling jealousy, scheming parents, a stolen birthright, threats of murder, interactions with God, romance, wedding surprises, multiple wives, tons of children and ultimately reconciliation between the estranged brothers. Take a look at this video to learn a little more about what happens when Jacob flees from Esau after stealing his birthright.

If you’d like to read a more complete summary of what happens to Jacob and Esau, you can find it on chabad.org. When you get to the bottom of each the page, click “next” in the lower right corner to continue reading the story.

Part 4: So What Does this Mean?

Are you surprised that the story of a key Biblical family is so complicated and full of conflict and deceit? Are you surprised that God doesn’t abandon Jacob and Esau and look for a family that has their act together? Are you surprised that Jacob and Esau make up at the end of story?

It would be nice if everyone got along perfectly all the time and if everyone always made excellent decisions, but sin is a part of the world. People make mistakes. Jealously and selfishness creep into our lives and into our decision making. The story of Jacob and Esau reminds us that despite our imperfections and sinfulness, God will be with us and God can work through us to accomplish God’s mission to love and bless the world.

Discussion Questions answer in comments below:

  • Based on the beginning of the story of Jacob and Esau, how did you think the story would end?
  • Think of the ways that God has blessed you. How might you use one of those blessings to serve God?
  • Esau is angry with Jacob for a long time. Can you think of a time when you forgave someone who caused you harm or when you were forgiven? What was the best thing about giving or receiving forgiveness?

Part 5: Conclusion & Closing Prayer

Closing Prayer – Pray the follow prayer at the close of the session.

Gracious and holy God, lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Opening and Closing Prayers adapted from Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2017 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #25165.