Small Group Study Guide, Week 4

Day 22
Day 23
Day 24
Day 25
Day 26
Day 27
Day 28


We’ve continued in Genesis this week. beginning with Jacob’s prospering in Laban’s household; Rachel and Leah’s dysfunctional Baby Mama competition, and Jacob’s return to the land of his fathers. (Day 22, Gen 30-31).

Jacob wrestles with God, gets renamed Israel, and reconciles (sort of) with Esau. His daughter Dinah gets raped by by a Canaanite named Shechem, and two of Jacob’s sons; Simeon and Levi take their revenge in a pretty shady way: they convince Shechem and his entire household that they will allow them to intermarry with their family if they get circumcised first. Then, while the Canaanites are still sore from the procedure, the two brothers killed every male in the city. So now we’ve seen four generations of deception and double dealing in Israel’s first family (Day 23, Gen 32-34).

Nevertheless, God renews his covenant with Jacob and tells him (again) that he is no longer named Jacob but Israel. The reminder seems to have been necessary, because even after God wrestled with him at Bethel, he was still called Jacob for the next two chapters.

Ok, let’s take a break. Enjoy this hilarious (and biblically accurate) telling of the entire story of Jacob up to this point, brought to you by the Christian parody band Apologetix and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

Ok. Break time’s over. Back to the summary.

On the rest of Day 24 (Gen 35-37), we read of the deaths of Rachel and Isaac; Jacob and Esau coming together one last time to bury him; a list of the descendants of Esau and the beginning of the story of Joseph, which might as well be titled; “Jerry Springer: The Next Generation. Joseph is Israel’s favorite and Joseph brags about it. His brothers throw him in a pit, sell him into slavery, and fake his death to his father.

If you ever need something to prove to yourself that your family isn’t all that crazy, spend some time with Jacob’s family.

On Day 25 (Gen 38-40), the family drama continues when Judah, the fourth son, sleeps with his daughter in law Tamar when she is disguised as a prostitute. When she becomes pregnant, Judah is ready to put her to death until she pulls out the ancient Israel version of a DNA test. Judah realizes that he has been caught in his own unrighteousness, and keeps her alive to give birth to his sons/grandsons. And with this detail, we see how this dumpster fire of a story actually points to Jesus. Tamar gives birth to twins, Perez and Zerah. Perez was the first recorded breach baby in history, and centuries later, he and his adulterous mother are named in the genealogy of Jesus (see Matthew 1:3). If you learn nothing else this week, remember that God redeems dumpster fires.

After this, the scene shifts to Egypt. Joseph, now a slave, rises to a position of prominence in his master Potiphar’s household. He catches the eye of Potiphar’s wife, who tries to get him to sleep with her. And for the first time in four generations, a member of Abraham’s family doesn’t accept the offer of free sex. Abraham didn’t say no when Sarai offered her servant Hagar (Genesis 16); Jacob didn’t say no to Rachel or Leah’s servants (Genesis 30-31); and Judah didn’t say no to Tamar (Genesis 38). But Joseph flees from temptation.

His integrity costs him, however, and he spends the next several years in prison, imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. But when he gives an accurate interpretation of the dreams of two of his fellow inmates, it sets the stage for the final act of Genesis.

On Day 26 (Gen 41-42) the King of Egypt has two dreams he can’t interpret. And “suddenly” (after two years!) the cupbearer remembers how Joseph interpreted his dream. Joseph is sent for, and not only does he correctly interpret the dreams, he displays such wisdom in planning for the coming famine that Pharaoh appoints Joseph as his “famine czar.” Through his administration, Egypt was able to survive the famine while other countries did not. In Canaan, Jacob and his sons were on the verge of starvation. So Jacob sends Joseph’s eleven older brothers to Egypt to buy food.

Day 27 (Genesis 43-45) continues the saga. Joseph’s brothers do not do not recognize him, although he recognizes them immediately. He forces them to leave behind Simeon and not to return to Egypt without Benjamin, so he would know that his brothers’ story was true. They return home and break the news to Jacob. They wait as long as they can, but finally convince Jacob to allow them to return with Benjamin. After Joseph plays a few more mind games on his brothers, he reveals his identity to them. After much hugging and tears, Joseph sends the brothers back to Canaan, with instructions to bring their father back to them.

Day 28 (Gen 46-38): Chapter 46 begins with Jacob and his family packing up and heading for Egypt. They settle in Goshen. Our reading for the week concludes with the account of Jacob blessing Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh. Note that the details are very similar to Isaac’s blessing of Jacob over Esau. Once again, the younger son gets the bigger blessing.

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Discussion Questions:

Note to leader, especially if you are using this in Sunday School: Be sensitive to group members who may not have read or are not participating in the reading plan. Make sure you use the summary to help them get their bearings, and use the Scripture references in the parentheses so everyone can look up the passage.

As you went through the reading this week, what stood out to you? Is there anything you noticed that you had not seen before ? What questions did the readings raise?

Note to leader: This will be your first question every week. Allow group to share their highlights, but resist the temptation to comment, answer questions, or open it up for discussion. You want the group to get comfortable sharing their thoughts, without looking to you to be the expert on everything.

The following questions span the whole week’s reading. You probably will not have time to deal with all of them. Highlight the ones that are most interesting to you. As you listen to the group’s highlights, put a star next to any of the questions that address what stood out to someone in the group. Make sure you always ask Questions 9 and 10.

  1. When you look at all the dysfunction in Abraham’s family, what do you think God wants us to learn from these stories?
  2. Some stories in the Bible are prescriptive–they tell us what happened as an example to follow. Others, like Genesis 34, are descriptive–they tell us what happened without the expectation that we do the same thing. How do you discern the difference?
  3. Even after God gave Jacob the new name Israel, he is still primarily referred to as Jacob. Why do you think that is? Allow for responses, but suggest that it may simply be a way to differentiate Israel the man from Israel the nation.
  4. In the story of Jacob wrestling the man (Genesis 34), why does verse 25 say “the man” (God) “could not defeat Jacob”? Doesn’t God always win?
  5. Similarly, in verse 28, God says to Jacob, “you have struggled with God… and have prevailed.” What do you make of this?
  6. Jacob seems to demand a blessing from God in exchange for Jacob letting him go (v. 26). Is it right to “demand” anything from God? How do we make sense of this?
  7. Genesis 34:29 says that God blessed Jacob. But it doesn’t say how. Or does it?
  8. Ask a volunteer to read Genesis 12:3 (“all nations will be blessed by you”). Ask, did you see anything in the story of Joseph that was a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham? If no one says it, ask a volunteer to read Genesis 41:52.
  9. As we wrap up, are there any questions you had about anything you read that we haven’t addressed? (Don’t stress if you don’t know the answer. For some questions, there may not be an answer! You can toss the question to the whole group, give your opinion, or promise to research before next week. And always encourage them to post questions in our Facebook group. Pastor James or someone else may have an insight or an answer).
  10. What action steps or changes do you sense the Lord is leading you to do next week as a result of this study?






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