Jacob and the Divine Trickster: A Theology of Deception and YHWH's Fidelity to the Ancestral Promise of the Jacob Cycle
Author: John E. Anderson
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The book of Genesis contains a latent tension: Jacob as a brazen trickster who deceives members of his own family and YHWH’s chosen, from whom the entire people Israel derive and for whom they are named. How is one to address this tension? Scholars have long focused on the implications for the character and characterization of Jacob, but the very question, at its core, raises an issue that is theological in nature. The Jacob cycle (Gen 25–36) is just as much, if not more, a text about God as it is about Jacob, a point startlingly absent in a great deal of Genesis scholarship. Through a literary hermeneutic, emphasizing the symbolic relationship between how the text means and what the text means, and a keen eye to the larger task of Old Testament theology as literally “a word about God,” Anderson argues for the presence of what he has dubbed a theology of deception in the Jacob cycle: YHWH operates as a divine trickster who both uses and engages in deception for the perpetuation of the ancestral promise (Gen 12:1–3).
Anderson’s careful and thoughtful interweaving of trickster texts and traditions in the interest of theology is a unique contribution of this important volume. Anderson thus rightly gives due attention to the Old Testament’s image of God as dynamic, subversive, and unsettling; appreciating the complex and interactive ways that YHWH interacts with his chosen people. This witness to YHWH’s engagement in deception stands alongside and paradoxically informs the biblical text’s portrait of YHWH as trustworthy and a God who does not lie. Anderson’s Jacob and the Divine Trickster stands as a stimulating and provocative investigation into the most interesting and challenging character in the Bible, God, and marks the first true comprehensive treatment of YHWH as divine trickster. Anderson has set the stage to continue the conversation and investigation into a theology of deception in the Hebrew Bible.
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