Are you on guard against deceit?

The Bible contains many warnings against deceit. Unfortunately, the very nature of deceit means there is not a simple formula to avoid deceit. Before we look at the Bible’s warnings about deceit, let’s look at a passage that illustrates how easy it can be to get drawn into deceit.

Genesis tells us about a couple named isaac and Rebekah. They had twin boys named Esau and Jacob. Esau was the firstborn, but Rebekah had been told by Yahweh that the older would serve the younger. As you start to read the following story, notice who instigated a deception.

Gen. 27:6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying,

Gen. 27:7 ‘Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death.’

Gen. 27:8 “Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you.

Gen. 27:9 “Go now to the flock and bring me two choice young goats from there, that I may prepare them as a savory dish for your father, such as he loves.

Gen. 27:10 “Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death.”

The deception in Genesis 27 was instigated by Rebekah. Notice Jacob’s hesitation.

Gen. 27:11 Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man.

Gen. 27:12 “Perhaps my father will feel me, then I will be as a deceiver in his sight, and I will bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing.”

It appears that Jacob’s initial reaction was that this was a bad idea. However, his mother persuaded him to proceed with her plan. In the following verses, notice the actions Rebekah took.

Gen. 27:13 But his mother said to him, “Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.”

Gen. 27:14 So he went and got them, and brought them to his mother; and his mother made savory food such as his father loved.

Gen. 27:15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son.

Gen. 27:16 And she put the skins of the young goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck.

Gen. 27:17 She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob.

Now notice Jacob’s blatant lie and notice that Isaac almost detected the deception.

Gen. 27:18 ¶ Then he came to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?”

Gen. 27:19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.”

Gen. 27:20 Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?” And he said, “Because the LORD your God caused it to happen to me.”

Gen. 27:21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.”

Gen. 27:22 So Jacob came close to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”

Gen. 27:23 He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.

Gen. 27:24 And he said, “Are you really my son Esau?” And he said, “I am.”

Gen. 27:25 So he said, “Bring it to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, that I may bless you.”

Yes, this was Rebekah’s idea, but Jacob was not innocent; the plan would not have worked without his full participation. Yes, he was caught between obeying his mother, and his fear of being caught. Yes, he was somewhat deceived into participating in this plan. However, at some point he made a decision to go along with the deception.

After this, the deception was exposed. Notice Isaac’s reaction.

Gen. 27:30 ¶ Now it came about, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had hardly gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting.

Gen. 27:31 Then he also made savory food, and brought it to his father; and he said to his father, “Let my father arise and eat of his son’s game, that you may bless me.”

Gen. 27:32 Isaac his father said to him, “Who are you?” And he said, “I am your son, your firstborn, Esau.”

Gen. 27:33 Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him? Yes, and he shall be blessed.”

The text tells us that Isaac trembled violently. It would have been very scary for him to realize that he had been deceived so badly on something as important as his blessing. Now notice Esau’s reaction and notice who got all the blame.

Gen. 27:34 When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!”

Gen. 27:35 And he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.”

Gen. 27:36 Then he said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.”

Jacob received all the blame because he was the one who got caught. The Bible doesn’t tell us if Isaac or Esau ever learned that Rebekah was the instigator of this. Regardless, Jacob was the one who did the actual deception, he was the one who got caught, and he received the blame. (I also want to point out that Esau blamed Jacob for taking his birthright, but Esau sold his birthright. Esau was not correct in placing the blame for that on Jacob.)

Now notice the consequences that Jacob suffered. Notice also that Rebekah continued being less than honest with Isaac.

Gen. 27:41 ¶ So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

Gen. 27:42 Now when the words of her elder son Esau were reported to Rebekah, she sent and called her younger son Jacob, and said to him, “Behold your brother Esau is consoling himself concerning you by planning to kill you.

Gen. 27:43 “Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban!

Gen. 27:44 “Stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury subsides,

Gen. 27:45 until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send and get you from there. Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?”

Gen. 27:46 ¶ Rebekah said to Isaac, “I am tired of living because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, like these, from the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?”

Gen. 28:1 ¶ So Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him, and said to him, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.

Gen. 28:2 “Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father; and from there take to yourself a wife from the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother.

Because Jacob went along with a plan that was not his idea, now he was fearing for his life and he had to flee from his home.

Now let’s look at some verses that warn us against being deceived.

1Cor. 3:18 ¶ Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.

1Cor. 6:9-10 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

1Cor. 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
Gal. 6:3 For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

Gal. 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

Eph. 5:6 ¶ Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

2Th. 2:3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

James 1:26 ¶ If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.

1John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

1John 2:26 ¶ These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.

1John 3:7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;

2John 7 ¶ For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

It can be difficult to avoid being a deceiver and being deceived. Jacob’s initial reaction to his mother’s plan was negative, but he was persuaded to go along. Isaac almost detected the deception because the voice sounded like Jacob, but he was persuaded that it was Esau when it really wasn’t. As we go through life, we are often tempted to do something deceitful, and many times the deceit is presented as justified and the best thing to do. However, just as Jacob suffered all the consequences of his mother’s plan, so too if we get caught being deceitful, we may suffer all the consequences even though it wasn’t our idea and even if we were deceived into doing what we did. The Bible warns us many times against deceit. It is not easy to avoid deceit; therefore, deceit is something we need to be constantly vigilant about so that we aren’t deceived into sin nor deceived into being a deceiver.


Further Reading

Are you trusting or suspicious?

Do you ever wonder where life went wrong?

Should we read ancient Bible stories?


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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”