How can we ask for forgiveness when we’ve wronged someone? How can we forgive others? Includes a teaching guide, 2 games, a craft, and a prayer exercise.
Needed: Craft paper and crayons or colored pencils for the craft, various small objects for the Poke the Bear game
Play Poke the Bear or Tag the Bear from the Jacob Tricks Esau lesson.
Tag the Bear
Like a normal game of team Tag, you’ll divide your group into two groups and choose one side to be It. The difference is that you’ll also secretly choose one leader or student on the other side to be the Bear. When the It tags anyone on the other team, they’re out. But when someone tags the Bear, the Bear roars and starts chasing them! The whole second team joins in for a role reversal of who’s chasing who. The last person left on the original It team wins.
Poke the Bear
Similar to the “No!” game from the Isaac Gets a Wife! Lesson, you’ll set a series of random objects in front of a leader or student at one end of your play area. The chosen person (the Bear) secretly decides which object will be their trigger. One by one, students from the other side of the play area run up and take one of the objects in front of the Bear. If it’s not the Bear chosen object, the Bear does nothing and the student stays in the play area. If the person takes the Bear’s chosen object, the Bear roars and chases after everyone, including those who haven’t taken their turn yet. Anyone the Bear tags is out. The last one left is the winner.
After either of these games, remind students that Jacob did some very mean things to Esau that made him very angry. It was fun to make the Bear bad in our game, but we should be careful not to treat people badly in real life so that they don’t get upset as Esau did.
Ask students, What does it mean to forgive someone?
If you do something wrong to someone, what do you have to do to make that person forgive you?
If someone does something wrong to you and hurts your feelings, what do they have to do to make you forgive them?
Well, last time we learned about two twin brothers, named Jacob and Esau. Esau was the oldest and he grew up to be a big, strong hunter. Jacob was the younger one and he liked to stay at home. Does anyone remember what bad things Jacob did to his brother, Esau?
When Esau came in from hunting one time and was very hungry, Jacob wouldn’t give Esau any food until Esau agreed to give him his birthright. Then, when their father, Isaac, was very old and blind, Jacob dressed up like Esau and tricked Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau.
Does anyone remember what Esau wanted to do to Jacob when he found out that Jacob had tricked Isaac and stolen his blessing? (Esau wanted to kill Jacob.)
So what did Jacob have to do so that Esau couldn’t kill him? (He had to run away.)
Today, we’re going to find out what happened to Jacob when he ran away from Esau and had to go live somewhere else.
Summarize Genesis 28-33 with the following Bible story, asking the included questions as you read.
Jacob left home and headed toward the country where his grandfather, Abraham, had grown up. One night, while he was still on his way to the old country, Jacob put a rock under his head for a pillow. How would you like to use a rock for a pillow?
He put a rock under his head and went to sleep. While he was sleeping there, he had a dream of a giant ladder, stretching all the way up into Heaven. Angels were climbing up and down on the ladder from Heaven to earth and God was standing at the top of the ladder. “I am the Lord,” God said, “the God of your grandfather, Abraham, and your father, Isaac. I will give you many children and I will give this country of Canaan to you and to your children and to your grandchildren forever. I will be with you and will not leave you.”
Then Jacob woke up and said, “If God will keep me safe on this journey and take care of me and bring me back to the country of Canaan, then I will serve Him as my God and will give Him a tenth of everything I get.”
Jacob went on a little farther and finally came to the town where his grandfather, Abraham, was from. There was a well outside the town and when Jacob came up to the well, he found a group of shepherds with their sheep, all gathered around the well with a large rock on top of it. “Why don’t you move the rock and give your animals a drink from the well?” Jacob asked the shepherds.
“The rock is very heavy,” the shepherds answered. “We have to wait until everyone gets here so everyone can help move the rock.”
While Jacob was still talking with the shepherds, his cousin, Rachel, came up to the well with her sheep. Jacob thought that Rachel was very beautiful. So when he saw her, he rolled the heavy stone off the well all by himself and gave her sheep some water. Then, when Rachel found out that Jacob was her cousin, she invited him to come to spend the night at her family’s house.
After Jacob had stayed with his cousins, Rachel and Leah, and his uncle, Laban, for a whole month, Jacob told his uncle that he loved Rachel and wanted to marry her. “I will work for you for seven years,” Jacob told his uncle, “if you will let me marry Rachel.”
Laban agreed and when those seven years were over, Laban gave a great wedding banquet, and Jacob thought he was marrying Rachel. But it was so dark outside during the wedding and since the woman he was marrying was wearing a veil over her face, Jacob couldn’t see that it wasn’t really Rachel he was marrying. In fact, he didn’t notice who it was he had married until the sun came up the next morning!
Who do you think the woman was that Jacob married?
When Jacob woke up the next morning, he saw that it was his cousin, Leah, who he had married. Then, Jacob was very angry. “Why did you trick me?” Jacob yelled at his uncle, Laban. “I told you I would work for you if you would let me marry Rachel, not Leah.”
Then Laban said, “I will let you marry Rachel, but you had to marry Leah first since she is the oldest. Work for me for another seven years and I’ll let you marry Rachel.”
So Jacob kept working for his uncle and was married to both of the sisters. He was also married to two of Rachel and Leah’s servants, Bilhah and Zilpah. With four wives, Jacob soon had a very large family. He had twelve sons and some daughters too.
Finally, after working for his uncle for twenty years, Jacob decided that it was time for him to take his new family and go home.
Why had Jacob run away from home? (Because Esau was going to kill him for tricking Isaac and taking Esau’s blessing.)
Well, Jacob didn’t know if Esau still wanted to kill him, but he thought that he had stayed away long enough and that he might as well take the chance of going home.
Do you think Esau will try to kill Jacob when he goes home?
While Jacob and his family were on their way home, Jacob sent a messenger to tell Esau that he was coming. The messenger returned a few days later and said, “I told Esau you were coming home and now he is coming to meet you with four hundred armed men!”
Jacob was very afraid of his brother, Esau, and he divided his family into two groups, sending one that way and the other this way. “If Esau attacks one group of my family,” Jacob thought, “the other group might get away.” When the two groups of his family left, Jacob was all by himself. He prayed, “Oh, God, when I ran away from home, I didn’t have anything. But You said You would be with me and would protect me and take care of me and now, You have given me such a large family. But I am afraid that Esau will come and kill me and my family for what I did to him.”
When Jacob was finished praying, he took all of the hundreds of goats, sheep, cows, donkey, and camels that he had and sent his messengers ahead of him to give the animals to Esau as a gift. Jacob thought that maybe if he gave Esau such a large gift of so many animals that Esau would accept the gift and not hurt him.
Do you think it will work? Will Esau take the animals and not hurt Jacob?
Then a man, who was really God, came and wrestled with Jacob all night. When the sun was coming up, the man who was really God twisted Jacob’s hip and hurt him. But Jacob said that he wouldn’t let the man who was really God go until He blessed him. So God blessed Jacob and changed Jacob’s name from Jacob to Israel.
Then the man left and Jacob, limping from his hurt hip, walked on to meet his brother, Esau. When he saw Esau and his four hundred men coming, Jacob bowed down to the ground seven times to apologize. But Esau ran up to his brother, Jacob,…
What do you think Esau’s going to do?
Esau ran up to his brother, Jacob,… and hugged him and kissed him. Then Esau gave Jacob back all the animals Jacob had sent to Esau as a gift because Esau was just glad to see Jacob coming home and had forgiven him for all the wrong things Jacob had done to him.
Do you think it was nice for Esau to forgive Jacob?
It was nice. Even though Jacob did so many bad things to his brother, Esau was able to forgive him. And God wants us to forgive people when they do bad things to us, too. God always wants us to forgive, just like God forgives us when we do something wrong.
Game: Poke the Bear or Tag the Bear (with a Twist!)
Play either of the two games from the previous lesson. But this time, when the Bear starts to chase after the kids, start counting. The Bear can tag as many students as possible, but when you reach the number 3 on your count, they have to stop and either go back to their place or take a normal place in the game. If you’re playing Tag the Bear, choose a new Bear.
After the game, explain that when people feel mad or hurt, it can take them some time before they can forgive the person that hurt them. But God does want us to forgive others and make peace with them as soon as possible, just like the Bear was angry for a little while but then calmed back down.
Ask the students to think of one person who has done something wrong to them. Tell them to pray for God’s help to forgive that person. Next, have them think of a second person and repeat the prayer to God. Have them think of a third person and do the same thing.
Craft: Apology Letter
Have the students think of one person they’ve done something wrong to. Ask them to write a letter apologizing for what they did. The letter could be to a parent, sibling, or other family member or to a friend. Direct them to include what they did wrong. At the end, they should ask the person to forgive them. Remind them that it makes God happy when we apologize for the wrong things we do and ask other people to forgive us. When we do wrong things, we should also apologize to God.
Jesus, we thank You for the example of Esau forgiving his brother. And we thank You for always forgiving us when we do wrong things. We pray that You’ll help us forgive other people who do the wrong things to us. Amen.
This lesson is included in my book, Father Abraham: Children Sunday School Lessons on Genesis 12-50.