Was It Okay for Jacob to Lie to His Father?

by jimmyakin

in Bible, Bible History, Moral Theology

Jacob deceived his father to keep God's promises on track. Was this right?

The book of Genesis records an instance in which Jacob deceives his father, Isaac, by pretending to be his brother.

He does this so that he can inherit his father’s blessing.

All of this seems to happen in fulfillment of God’s plan for Israel.

Does that make it right?

Here’s the story . . .


Jacob and Esau

NOTE: This post is part of a series on the “dark passages” in the Bible. Click here to see all of the posts in the series.

Here is how the book of Genesis describes the birth and early life of Jacob and his twin brother, Esau:

Genesis 25

[22] The children struggled together within [Rebekah]; and she said, “If it is thus, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.

[23] And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples, born of you, shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the elder shall serve the younger.”

[27] When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents.

[28] Isaac loved Esau, because he ate of his game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

The Prophecy

Note the prophecy about the two children: “the elder [Esau] shall serve the younger [Jacob].”

This will ultimately be fulfilled by God using the line of Jacob to give rise to the people of Israel (in fact, “Israel” is an alternate name that Jacob will later acquire), but how will this take place?

At the moment, there seem to be two obstacles:

  • First, as the older child, Esau has the birthright.
  • Second, as Isaac favors Esau, he is likely to give him his dying, prophetic blessing.

The first obstacles is overcome when a famished Esau foolishly sells his birthright to Jacob (Gen 25:29-34).

That leaves us with the second problem . . .


Isaac Prepares to Bless Esau


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Bill912 January 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Could it be said that, in one sense, Jacob didn’t lie; that, when Esau sold Jacob his birthright, Jacob essentially became the firstborn, essentially became Esau?

Jimmy Akin January 5, 2013 at 3:04 pm

There are senses in which Jacob could be seen as entitled to the blessing (either because of the birthright he acquired or because of the prophecy), but it appears to me that Genesis still understands him as using illegitimate means to make sure he got it (lying) and that he suffered as a direct result of this.

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