Who was a scammer in the Bible?

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By BibleAsk Team


In the Bible, there are several individuals whose actions could be classified as deceitful or fraudulent, fitting the modern definition of a “scammer.” Among these, Jacob, the son of Isaac and Rebekah, stands out as a prominent figure. His life story is a mixture of divine election, human frailty, and ultimate transformation. Jacob’s actions, particularly in his early life, reveal tendencies to deceive and manipulate for personal gain. His story provides profound insights into human nature and God’s grace.

Jacob: The Deceiver (Scammer)

Jacob’s very name, which means “supplanter” or “deceiver,” foreshadows his early behavior. Jacob’s deceitfulness is most notably highlighted in two major incidents: the acquisition of his brother Esau’s birthright and the deception of his father Isaac to receive the blessing intended for Esau.

The Birthright Incident

The first instance of Jacob’s deceit is recorded in Genesis 25:29-34. Jacob takes advantage of his brother Esau’s hunger to obtain the birthright, a privilege of the firstborn son, for a bowl of stew.

“Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.’ Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright as of this day.’ And Esau said, ‘Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?’ Then Jacob said, ‘Swear to me as of this day.’ So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (Genesis 25:29-34, NKJV).

This incident highlights Jacob’s opportunistic nature. He exploits his brother’s weakness and lack of foresight to gain a significant advantage, illustrating his willingness to use deceit and manipulation.

The Deception of Isaac

The second major incident is even more striking. In Genesis 27, Jacob deceives his father Isaac, with the help of his mother Rebekah, to receive the blessing meant for Esau. Isaac, old and nearly blind, intends to bless Esau before he dies. Rebekah overhears and instructs Jacob to disguise himself as Esau to receive the blessing.

“Then Rebekah took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she gave the savory food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob. So he went to his father and said, ‘My father.’ And he said, ‘Here I am. Who are you, my son?’ Jacob said to his father, ‘I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.’ But Isaac said to his son, ‘How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?’ And he said, ‘Because the Lord your God brought it to me.’ Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.’ So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, ‘The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.’ And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him.” (Genesis 27:15-23, NKJV).

Jacob’s deceit involves not only lying but also a significant disguise to fool his father. The result is that Jacob receives the blessing, leading to Esau’s deep anger and a prolonged estrangement between the brothers.

Jacob’s Transformation

Despite Jacob’s deceitful actions, his story is also one of transformation and redemption. Throughout his life, Jacob experiences profound encounters with God that gradually change him. One pivotal moment occurs when Jacob wrestles with a divine being in Genesis 32, leading to a significant change in his identity.

“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’ But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’ So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’ And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked, saying, ‘Tell me Your name, I pray.’ And He said, ‘Why is it that you ask about My name?’ And He blessed him there. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.'” (Genesis 32:24-30, NKJV).

This encounter marks a turning point in Jacob’s life. His name is changed to Israel, symbolizing his new identity and relationship with God. This transformation is further evidenced by his subsequent reconciliation with Esau in Genesis 33.

“But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” (Genesis 33:4, NKJV).

Jacob’s willingness to reconcile and make amends with his brother indicates a significant change in his character.

Other Biblical Figures Involved in Deception

While Jacob is a prominent example, other figures in the Bible also engaged in deceitful actions. For instance:

Abraham and Sarah

Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather, also engaged in deceit. Twice, he instructed his wife Sarah to lie about their relationship, claiming she was his sister to protect himself. Since she was his half sister, he felt justified in asking her to pass herself off as his sister. This occurred in Egypt (Genesis 12:10-20) and Gerar (Genesis 20:1-18). In both instances, Abraham’s deception put Sarah in compromising situations but was ultimately exposed by God.

Laban

Laban, Jacob’s uncle, was also a deceiver. He tricked Jacob into marrying Leah instead of Rachel, requiring Jacob to work an additional seven years to marry Rachel (Genesis 29:21-30). Laban’s deceitfulness created a strained relationship with Jacob, mirroring Jacob’s own deceptive tendencies.

Ananias and Sapphira

In the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira’s story in Acts 5:1-11 illustrates the severe consequences of deceit. They sold a piece of property and lied about the proceeds, pretending to donate the entire amount to the apostles while keeping a portion for themselves.

“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’ Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.” (Acts 5:1-5, NKJV).

Their deceit resulted in immediate judgment, emphasizing the seriousness of lying to the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

The Bible does not shy away from portraying the flawed and deceitful actions of its characters, providing an honest depiction of human nature. Jacob, with his early life marked by deception and manipulation, is a key example. However, his story also underscores the possibility of transformation and redemption through encounters with God.

Jacob’s journey from a deceiver to a patriarch of the Israelites highlights the profound impact of divine grace. Other Biblical figures, like Abraham, Sarah, Laban, and Ananias and Sapphira, further illustrate the prevalence and consequences of deceit. Ultimately, the Biblical narrative emphasizes that while deceit may bring temporary gains, it often leads to conflict and suffering. Yet, it also shows that through repentance and divine intervention, individuals can be transformed and redeemed, aligning their lives more closely with God’s will.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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