Jacob’s Tangled Web
Does the Bible commend lying? Some say Jacob was rewarded for deceiving his father into giving him the blessing that he sought to give Esau. But read Genesis 27. It is a compelling study against the practice of deception.
In this history, Moses brings to light that Jacob was not the only one guilty of deceit; in fact, it was the entire family. Isaac, Rebekah, Esau and Jacob all use one of the four broad categories of deception.
Verses 1 through 4 lay the foundation for the history of Jacob’s ruse. His father, Isaac, was old, feeble, blind and preparing for death. Under a veil of secrecy, the patriarch called for Esau, his favorite son (see Genesis 25:28). Isaac informed Esau that he planned to confer upon him the birthright blessing, undoubtedly a spectacular inheritance. As part of their private celebration he desired that Esau both hunt and prepare his favorite venison meat dish. Esau quickly complied with his father’s wishes and rushed off into the wilds (Genesis 27:5).
Here, both of these men were guilty of deceit. Why? Isaac offered his firstborn an inheritance he could not rightly give him. Before Esau’s birth, God informed Rebekah by a prophecy that her younger son would rule over his elder brother. Isaac would have known this meant that Jacob was to receive the birthright blessing (Genesis 25:23). Notice that Isaac did not include Rebekah in his plans for Esau. Why? He knew she would disagree. Also realize that Esau never valued his birthright and had sold it to his brother for a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:31). He neglected to tell his father he had done so. His lust for wealth motivated him to conceal the fact that Jacob already possessed the blessing.
In verses 6 through 30 of Genesis 27 the history gets interesting. Isaac’s plan would have been carried out flawlessly, it would seem, had not his wife listened in on her husband’s conversation. Rebekah—believing the prophecy yet not having the faith to confront Isaac or let God work it out—concocted a complex scheme to mislead Isaac into believing that Jacob was Esau. Jacob was wary of the plan because of his radically different physical appearance from his brother—Esau was very hairy; he was not. Jacob feared getting caught and cursed for lying to Isaac (verse 12). Notice, however, that Jacob did not stop the plan. Like his mother, he lacked the faith to let God work it out. What a shame: He actually was doubly entitled to the birthright. God had assigned it to him through prophecy, and he had purchased it.
Rebekah’s darkest deceit is revealed in her discussion with Jacob, the cooking of the goat meat and the design of Jacob’s disguise. She even used some of Esau’s own clothes (verse 15). The meat of two goats was necessary to conceal the fact that the meat dish was not actually venison (verse 9).
It was awful that she took advantage of her husband’s blindness, making Jacob appear to be hairy. Of course, Jacob’s knack for deception is exposed in verses 17 through 22. Like a deceitful spy, Jacob went to his father. Using the knowledge gained from his mother, he perfectly played the part of his brother. He said, I am Esau—a bald-faced lie. He presented his father with the false meat dish his mother had made as “my venison”—another calculated deception. When questioned about how he had returned from hunting so quickly, Jacob lied by saying that God had blessed him. How insidious to bring God into this dark picture! Jacob allowed his father to feel his hair-cloaked hands and smell Esau’s robe that he wore—real depravity.
Yet, the lie worked. Jacob received the blessing. But did Jacob get away with the outright lying and theatrical deceits? Not at all!
Look at the damage done by his deceit. Isaac was emotionally crushed by Jacob’s actions. Esau became so bitterly angry that he planned to assassinate Jacob after Isaac died. Jacob had to flee for his life. He never saw his mother again; she died before he returned to Canaan. Essentially, Rebekah was cursed because of all the lying (verse 13).
Genesis 29-50 show that Jacob’s pain did not end there. His uncle Laban deceived him into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. The woman he loved (Rachel) was barren. Laban, even after he became his father-in-law, took advantage of Jacob, practically enslaving him for 14 years. God forced Jacob to wrestle with Him all night to eventually receive the blessing (Genesis 32). Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped. His beloved second wife, Rachel, died in childbirth. To teach Jacob the deep evil of lying, God allowed him to be deceived by his own family. His sons misled him to believe that his favorite son, Joseph, was dead. When moving to Egypt to be with Joseph, Jacob confessed to Pharaoh that his life had been very hard—the few years he lived were filled with evil (Genesis 47:9).
We can only wonder what his life would have been like had he waited for God. Yet surely we can agree that Jacob was not better off after his lies and deceit.