Is it possible to fool God?

The Christian God is meant to know everything, to see inside our ‘inner most thoughts and hearts’. It would stand to reason then, that one shouldn’t be able to trick God. Yet in the Old Testament of the Bible, people did just that.

Enter the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau are sons of Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac is an important figure in Judaism and Christianity, being the son of Abraham, but we won’t dwell on all that here. Isaac is getting old, and blind. He told his son Esau to go and hunt some animals and prepare a tasty meal for him; then he will have his blessing (in the presence of the Lord) before he dies – that detail in brackets is important.

Of course, where would a Genesis story be without some conflict and betrayal? Isaac’s wife Rebekah overheard their conversation, and didn’t want Esau to receive the blessing. As to why, I’m not entirely sure, perhaps his choice of marrying Hittite women had something to do with it. Yep, she was racist. So what did Rebekah do? She told Jacob to go out and hunt a couple of goats, and then she will prepare a tasty meal. Jacob would then present this tasty meal to his dad, and pretend to be Esau, so that he will be blessed instead. There was just one snag apparently, Esau was really hairy, while Jacob wasn’t. To get around this, Rebekah put Esau’s clothes on Jacob, and um, covered his hands and neck with goatskins, in case Isaac touched him. Despite his initial objections, Jacob goes along with the plan.

So how does Rebekah’s plan work out? You know what? Lets just put the Bible verses in here:

21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”

22 Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. 24 “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked.

“I am,” he replied.

25 Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”

Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”

27 So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son
is like the smell of a field
that the Lord has blessed.
28 May God give you heaven’s dew
and earth’s richness—
an abundance of grain and new wine.
29 May nations serve you
and peoples bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed
and those who bless you be blessed.”

Genesis 27:21-29.

So apparently wearing goatskin is enough to convince Isaac that he’s talking to Esau. Despite hearing Jacob’s voice, he is convinced that he’s talking to Esau, because he said he was Esau. Righto. So Isaac gave his blessing, which mentions grain and wine, with presumably a lot of wealth and authority to go with it.

Conveniently, Esau was away all this time. Finally he came back with his meal ready for a blessing. Isaac is confused at this point, because he thought he had already blessed Esau. So now he wants to know what’s going on. Somehow he figures that he was deceived by Jacob, as in he explicitly admits it. So instead, God revokes Isaac’s blessing and gives it to Esau instead, while Jacob and Rebekah get reprimanded for their actions…

Ha! Just kidding. You know that isn’t going to happen. Here is what actually plays out:

37 Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”

38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

39 His father Isaac answered him,

“Your dwelling will be
away from the earth’s richness,
away from the dew of heaven above.
40 You will live by the sword
and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,
you will throw his yoke
from off your neck.”

Genesis 27:37-40.

So Isaac still decides to keep his blessing he mistakenly gave to Jacob (God ordained of course), and then asks Esau what he wants. When Esau asks to be blessed as well, he gets hit with a curse instead. Nice. After all that, Esau wants to kill Jacob. Rebekah gets wind of this and tells Jacob to escape to her brothers house. And then they all live happily ever after (except Esau).

Overall thoughts.

OK, here’s where I’m going with all this. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Jacob deceived Isaac (who is apparently impaired with low intelligence alongside poor eyesight), yet he gets blessed anyway. Esau gets cursed for asking for the blessing which was rightfully his. But what is a blessing? It is the divine favour of God, often associated with reward. So after Isaac blessed Jacob, God knowingly approved it. In other words, God rewarded someone who lied for their own personal gain. Either God is really stupid, just like Isaac is, or he’s not stupid and was OK with rewarding deceitful manipulative behavior.

And to think I used to believe in these stories!

5 thoughts on “Is it possible to fool God?

  1. These days I find it more interesting to explore the socio-historical context that informs the authors of these narratives. In this case, the author is bridging historical traditions with their current political affiliations. Esau represents Edom (southern Levant) and Jacob represents Israel. The YHWH cult was very likely a migration from Edom, so that Esau is firstborn in a literal chronological sense. As Israel coalesced around YHWH and became a distinct identity, Edom maintained their national god Qos. So the blessing narrative is mythologizing this history from the perspective of Israel as the people who are blessed by the “superior” god YHWH despite being an offshoot. For anybody interested, there’s some good info on this connection at https://www.academia.edu/33967463/Jacob-el_in_the_Land_of_Esau_and_the_Roots_of_Biblical_Religion and in the question and answer at https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/56254/was-yahweh-a-god-in-a-possible-edomite-pantheon

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No doubt much of what is written in Genesis is fiction, and has a mythological/storytelling aspect to it. That point is missed by the majority of Christians though, who interpret these stories as literal history, so I’m trying to highlight how ridiculous it is to do so.

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      1. Since my deconversion, I have had an interest in learning more about history surrounding the events in the Bible (when I have the time), particularly Jesus and early Christianity, so things like this are fascinating to me. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Oh it goes even further. I adore he Epicurean view: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then from whence comes evil?”

    Liked by 1 person

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