Esau and Jacob are twin brothers that lived an estranged life because of behavior which leads to the younger brother into tricking his older brother out of a birth right and blessing. This begs the question: Are there good lies in the Bible? When one reads the account in Genesis Chapter 27, we find lies and scheming between family members that are by all accounts a family that knows and loves God.
5 Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, 7 ‘Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the Lord before I die.’ 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. 9 Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. 10 And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies. Genesis 27:5-10 ESV
Jacob wanted the blessing of the first born but it was not his blessing per normal customs as the second born. Rebecca their mother overhears the plan of Isaac their father to bless the older son chooses to conspire with Jacob to lie and steal the blessing from Esau. The Bible is clear these are lies. It is an amazing event to see the lies and the planning they go through to steal the blessing.
19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” 20 But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.” 21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands. So he blessed him. 24 He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.” Genesis 27:19-24 ESV
So Many Lies
I count at least 4 direct lies in this exchange that Jacob tells to his father. Even a lie that God had blessed the hunt. God was probably thinking don’t bring me into your lies. And these are not lies of omission. They are direct lies. Isaacs asks Jacob point blank “are you Esau” and Jacob responds “I am”. Amazing. How could God honor such a blessing given under such a circumstance?
There is no rebuke or condemnation in any Biblical commentary of these events. We are left with the impression that while there were hurt feelings and long-term consequences within the family these events are what God wanted and he if not approves then at least permits how we got there.
When the twins were born Rebekah was told directly by God that Jacob would be the patriarch. Both Isaac and Rebekah would have known that the promise would be to Jacob.
And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” Genesis 25:23 ESV
God is Always Right
Even more so we know that God loved Jacob and hated Esau. We also know that Isaac loved Esau more than he loved Jacob. Isaac because of his weakness for good food falls outside of God’s plan and God’s authority toward a greater promise.
Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Genesis 25:28 ESV
He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Psalms 47:4 ESV
There are many reasons why God hated Esau but we know that Esau had no relationship with God. We know that Esau took wives from the pagan communities around them. In short Esau was not worthy of the promise and the patriarchal line. We also know that whatever his faults Jacob had a relationship with God. God loved Jacob.
Following God; Divides People
What about the lies recorded by the Bible. Those contradict the very nature of God and their source falls at the feet of Isaac. Isaac knew what was right but he chooses Esau. Rebekah knowing what God wants takes matters into her own hands. It is Isaac’s weakness that prompts Rebekah to take actions to steal back what Isaac had planned to give to Esau. When Isaac left the authority of God and the promise, he knew to be true that the conflict was created.
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. Luke 16:10 ESV
Mystery and Paradox
This is a mystery and a paradox. The paradox is that God honors the lies because they aligned with his promised plan. And the mystery is what would have happened or how would God have intervened if Rebekah had not taken action. Jesus speaking in Luke talks about how we must be faithful in small ways if we will every be given much. Isaac and Rebekah are given much to be responsible for. Isaac because of his weakness and love for his son is being irresponsible. Rebekah loves her other son and wants to be responsible to what the Lord spoke to her becomes shrewd with lies to overcome the weakness of Isaac.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 ESV
Innocent in Action
Ultimately the source of any action, lie, or theft comes down to the intention of the heart. Jesus applauds his disciples being “wise as serpents”. He wants them to be skillful in human nature, to practice common sense, and understand the political games. But with those manipulations he demands that they be innocent in how they apply these skills. Rebekah took on tremendous risk in securing what God had already foretold. And it appears that her intent was innocent even if her actions are guilty. The outcome is what God wants but there is a price to pay for Jacob later in life.
Thanks for reading. I pray this difficult topic was helpful to your devotional or small group bible study.