The last couple of Parashot dealt with members of Abraham's family, both Abraham and Nachor's descendants. As far as I can see, many of them, both righteous and wicked, were liers: it starts with Abraham fooling Pharao, continues with Itzhak repeating the same trick, then Rivka and Yaakov deceiving Isaac, then Lavan, and finally Rachel and Leah plotted against Yaakov, this continues with Yaakov's sons that fooled Shechem's residents as well as their father.

I saw interpreters explaining some lies as a countermeasure of the Tzadikim against the wicked, but most of those are not.

Off the top of my head, I don't recall other Biblical characters of the book of Genesis (Pharaohs, Avimelech, Malkitzedek, Shechem, Chamor, Efron, etc) being so deceptive, at least in the plain text.

Do commentators address why those qualities, in the Biblical narrative, are intrinsic to Terah's descendants?

  • Characteristics are natural traits. Most of your examples were against their nature and only used because they felt it was necessary. Avrahams life was in danger, same with Yitschak, yakov for sure it was against his nature, he is emes... and i could go on... but it seems obvious... why did they not be honest? Because they held that was what God wanted from them. They're all just doing what God wants.. sometimes God wants you not to be honest.. to describe trickery as qualities of the forefathers. Chas vishalom – Shlomy Nov 24 '20 at 20:42
  • I think you will find that by tomor and yehuda it had to go in around about way to deceive the satan. I would suggest all the other instances are similar. – interested Nov 25 '20 at 10:06
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    @interested maybe by the brachos.. but by pharoh? Yakovs sons? That doesn't make sense – Shlomy Nov 25 '20 at 19:31

None of the other people you mentioned here are ever discussed in depth or at length, only in their relation to the Forefathers. We really find no detail about them at all, never mind deception. And the deceptions of the forefathers were usually done in extenuating circumstances, to save lives. Yaakov's sons are faulted for fooling the people of Shechem and their father.

We also find that Tamar fooled Yehudah, even though she was not descended from Terach.


Because the ancient world believed everything was cyclical and doomed to repeat. Sinners and liars would always be sinners and liars. Corrupt kingdoms would always be that way.

And then you get the Torah narrative which shows people as they are, their sins and their good deeds, and the Torah clearly shows you the price for sins. It's not accidental that Jacob gets swindled by Lavan, it's not accidental that Abraham lies to Pharoah lies to Pharoah and there are problems. It's not accidental that Joseph's brothers lie about what happened to him and the issues that happen to them.

And then it's not accidental that the Torah focuses on Joseph who seems like he could never lie like his family does. Only to discover him lying to his brothers when he sees them again and acts like he doesn't know them in order to save his brother Benjamin. And we see righteous lying, we see someone who's trying to heal the situation and break the cycle. And indeed in his lifetime he set many things right.

But then his brothers lied to him when Jacob died, and suddenly the book of Genesis ends and when we begin Shemot we have fast become slaves. Then we get Moses, a murderer, who tries to save an entire nation. The Torah shows us how cycles can be broken, how weaknesses can become strengths. One should read the narratives and feel a connection to flawed characters, and find the strength to rise up as they did to change the world for the better, despite or maybe even because of their flaws.

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    Moses was absolutely not a murderer. He was saving a Jew from being beaten. – N.T. Nov 24 '20 at 20:53
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    Moses was a murderer for killing someone for doing their job, then trying to hide the evidence by burying the body. And then he fled prosecution. I don't know what country you live in, but most countries would classify such a person as a murderer. – Aaron Nov 24 '20 at 23:58
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    This is your own interpretation of what took place? – Shlomy Nov 25 '20 at 0:58
  • The Nazis would consider someone who killed an SS officer a murderer; I would consider him a hero. The same would apply here. – N.T. Nov 25 '20 at 7:18
  • @N.T. If a Canaanite slave killed a Hebrew taskmaster for hitting another Canaanite slave is he a hero? – Aaron Dec 6 '20 at 6:06

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