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A Method to the Madness
Mya McMillan

In the fall of 2000, my English/Social Studies class read the book of Genesis. We were then required to identify a theme found throughout the book and write an essay comparing each incident. I chose the theme of trickery (and I still don't remember why). Here is the essay I wrote.

The book of Genesis is full of many fascinating stories from Hebrew history, and throughout these stories, there are several recurring themes. One of the most common of these themes is trickery, which people resorted to quite often. Why did they do this? Was it really worth it? A few examples might hold the answers to these questions.
Trickery dates back from the beginning of the world, when Adam and Eve attempted to trick God after they had sinned in the garden of Eden. "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself," (3:10) Adam had lied; and Adam and Eve were promptly cast out of the garden and cursed. Adam and Eve were probably afraid God would be angry with them for sinning, but they were fools to lie about it. God shows over and over, throughout the Bible, that no one can decieve Him! If Adam and Eve had confessed their sin God might have been more merciful. But as it was, the first trick in history obviously did not succeed. You would think later generations would have learned something from that. But as we see in the next example, they didn't.
The next example is found when Abraham was forced by a famine to go to Egypt, where he was afraid the Pharaoh would kill him to take his wife, Sarah. "Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you," (12:13) Abraham asked her, and Sarah complied. Sure enough, the Pharaoh took Sarah, but God protected her and sent plagues down on the Pharaoh's house. Somehow from all this, the Pharaoh figured out that Sarah was really Abraham's wife. How he did that, the Bible never says, but he was angry enough to make Abraham leave Egypt. This probably wasn't a good thing, since Abraham had gone to Egypt because of the famine in the first place; where was he supposed to go now? Abraham obviously lived, as he is in several later stories, but it's a fair bet that it wasn't easy! And it all comes back to the fact that if Abraham hadn't tried to trick the Pharaoh, it wouldn't have happened. God may not have cursed Abraham for the decietfulness, but He didn't condone it either, and Abraham probably would have been better off if he had just been honest. (God would have protected him if the Pharaoh tried to kill him). Another trickery attempt flops.
The last example of trickery comes from Jacob's life. The grandson of Abraham, Jacob was born gripping the heel of his twin brother, a subtle omen of what he would become. (Grasping the heel was a symbol of trickery in that culture). He first (or was it really the first time?) began to live up to his name when he tricked his brother Esau out of his birthright. Esau started to hold a grudge against Jacob about then. But when Jacob later tricked Esau out of their father's blessing as well, Esau decided to kill him, saying, "The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob" (27:41). Jacob was forced to flee for his life--and he didn't even have fear as an excuse for his lies. Jacob did it out of pure greed. In the long run, it all paid off, because he got married, had twelve children and became very prosperous. On the other hand, he himself was tricked into marrying someone he didn't love, and that wouldn't have happened if he hadn't been forced to flee there in the first place. He also lived in fear of his brother for years before the two of them were reconciled. The fact that Jacob didn't suffer in exile is more due to luck--and maybe the fact that God had a plan for Jacob's many children--than anything else.
So, after looking at three very good examples of tricksters from the book of Genesis, it can probably be concluded that trickery generally didn't work. More than that, however, it wasn't even worth trying. The really interesting part is, people seemed to keep on tricking (or trying to trick) each other for the same reasons, and they never seemed to learn. After a while, you start to feel sorry for them, even if they did deserve what they got. But maybe we can learn a thing or two from them instead.

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