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The Four Disguises: Jacob, Leah, Tamar, and Joseph

Written by Noreen Jacks. Posted in

The story of Jacob’s family ultimately centers on Joseph, the scapegoat in a sense, who was used by God to bring physical and spiritual redemption to the clan members and to the chosen nation that would spring forth from them. The wildly-irresponsible, flesh-driven sons of the patriarch would one day become the esteemed heads of the twelve tribes of Israel, and the Holy Messianic Seed would come through the line of Judah in the fullness of time. You may recall that the family narrative is replete with numerous disguises…four individuals who put on false pretenses…feigning to be someone or something they were not in order to achieve their goals, either misdirected or worthy.

Jacob: At the prompting of his mother, Rebekah, Jacob deceived his blind father into thinking he was the firstborn son, Esau, the one entitled to the patriarchal blessing and the double-portion inheritance. At Rebekah’s prodding, Jacob covered his smooth arms and neck with goat’s skin to impersonate his hairy twin, Esau (Gen 37). The master plan accomplished its sinister purpose, but Jacob paid for his deception many times over through the course of his life. One cannot help but wonder why God chose a deceiver to be the revered patriarch of the twelve tribes.

Leah: The next individual to play a deceptive role was Leah, the older sister of Rachel, possibly her twin sister. The Torah does not inform the reader of Leah’s personal involvement in the charade that took place, whether she was compelled to obey her father’s orders or if she purposely desired to steal her sister’s husband. Regardless of her personal level of deception, Leah masqueraded as Jacob’s bride with her face concealed under a heavy veil, duping even her unsuspecting groom until the following morning (Gen 29). In spite of Leah’s deceptive actions, God loved her and blessed her with one daughter and six sons, including Levi, the patriarch of the Levitical Priesthood, and Judah, the patriarch of the royal tribe that brought forth King David and Messiah Yeshua. The ways of God are far above the ways of man!

Tamar: Twice wed and twice dead! Such was Tamar’s legitimate tale of woe! Both of the pagan woman’s deceased husbands, the sons of Judah, were slain by God because of their wicked ways. The enterprising widow took justice into her own hands when her father-in-law failed to give her his third son in accordance with the ancient tradition of levirate marriage. Tamar’s disguise was that of a temple prostitute, a woman of ill repute, who obliged the recently widowed Judah during a weak moment of conscience. According to the times in which she lived, Tamar was within her legal rights, and Judah was wrong to deny her marriage to his only living son, Sheila (Gen 38). Twin sons, Perez and Zerah, were the fruit of the scandalous union. The names of the twins and their mother are listed in the genealogy of the Messiah (Matt 1:3).

Joseph: What was Joseph’s disguise, you might wonder? Nothing less than the royal robes of the Egyptian court! Joseph was also unrecognizable to his brethren because he was seventeen years older than when they last saw him. He was clean shaven of head and beard, distinguishing him as an Egyptian, and his speech was also Egyptian. Joseph’s disguise was necessary for him to grasp the mindset of his brothers. Were they still evil and jealous-minded, or had time tempered their wicked ways (Gen 42-45)? Fortunately for everyone involved, God had begun a profound work in their lives. This was accomplished primarily through Joseph’s trials and tribulations that God worked for everyone’s good (Rom 8:28).

In the historical account of Joseph and his family members, we see four disguises, four deceptions, all with a different purpose, some justifiable, others scandalous. Each of these scenarios reminds us that the Lord works in mysterious ways to accomplish His holy purpose. We must trust Him with every detail of our lives. We are also reminded to be who God created us to be.

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