There are several narratives in the Bible pointing to deceivers. For example, Abraham and Isaac deceive Pharaoh and Abimelech about their wives, and Laban deceives Jacob by substituting Leah for Rachel. In the Old Testament, the function of deception was to reveal an individual’s character, and those affected by the act, or to show human weakness. That said, what’s the word for deceiver in Hebrew?
The word for deceiver in Hebrew is nakal (naw-kal’), a verb which also means a dishonest or untrustworthy person. It’s also closely related to nasha and aqeb. Nasha, naw-shaw, a primitive root, means to deceive, fool, or lead mentally or morally astray. While the Hebrew word aqeb, which represents heel, can also be translated to supplanter, beguiler, usurper, or deceiver, which fits the story of Jacob in the Bible.
What Does Deceiver (Nakal) Mean?
Deceiver, a noun, means one who deceives, a person who leads into error, a cheat, or an impostor. A good example of where it’s used in the Bible is in Genesis 27:12: “I shall seem to my father as a deceiver.”
Other examples of where the word nakal (deceiver) applies are in:
- 2 John 1:7: “I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.”
- Job 12:16: To him belong strength and insight; both deceived and deceiver are his.
- Jeremiah 9:4: Beware of your friends; do not trust anyone in your clan. For every one of them is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer.
On the other hand, Aqab also means “to handle the heel,” “holder of the heel” or “go for the heel” or “heel catcher,” which refers to the act of having control over someone, the ability to manipulate them, a supplanter, or usurper.
According to the dictionary, a supplanter is someone who takes the place of another or something that was there first. As a noun, supplanter can also mean a person that wrongfully or illegally seizes and holds the place of another or overthrow.
Aqeb as a root is mostly associated with trickery and scheming. For instance, the adjective aqob means insidious or deceitful, but it can also mean tricky or treacherous terrain. The noun aqeba means deceitfulness, while eqeb means consequence. Someone whose heel is visible can also imply to be easily manipulated.
Is Jacob a Deceiver?
Jacob, whose name comes from this word cluster, was born while holding onto his brother’s heel. Jacob’s name as “holder of the heel” or “supplanter” came about because he deprived his brother of his rights as the firstborn son (Genesis 27:36)
The deception is clearly in most of Jacobs’s life and it starts when Rebekah overhears Isaac’s plans with Esau and tries to trick her husband Isaac into giving the family blessing to Jacob instead of Esau. So, she enlists Jacob to help her with the deception plan. But Jacob is scared and asks, “What if my father touches me? I will seem to him as a deceiver, and I would bring a curse on myself, and not a blessing” (Genesis 27:12)
In this Scripture, Jacobs is aware that he is deceiving his father and that lying is displeasing to God and because of that, he might get cursed. However, he was still willing to participate in this deceiving scheme. His only worry was the plan would fail, not because they were wrong, but because he was not a hairy man like Esau.
While the evil plan succeeded, the blessing tore the family and came with hate and a desire to kill (Gen 27:41). Esau declared that as soon as his father was dead, he would kill his brother, and because of that, Rebekah sent Jacob away. Through this story of Jacob, it’s clear that deceit is an act of betrayal, and it violates the trust of our loved ones.
More deceit would follow Jacob as his father-in-law Laban, misled him into taking the wrong bride. Jacob’s sons also deceived him into thinking a wild beast killed Joseph. However, after a battle with YHWH, Jacob becomes Israel (Genesis 32:28) and is later forgiven by Esau.
So, Jacobs’s story eventually becomes more about forgiveness, unconditional love, and how God uses a person, despite their sinful nature or human weakness, to become a powerful force for good.
What Does the Bible Say About a Deceiver?
In the Bible, Satan, or the devil, is called the deceiver of the world (Revelation 12:8). We first meet Satan and learn about his fate in Genesis when he meets Eve in the Garden of Eden and falsely accuses God of deceit. As a deceiver, the devil is also mentioned in Revelation 20:3, while in 2 John 1:7, the deceiver is also called the antichrist.
The devil actively works to nullify the effect of the Word of God in people’s hearts (Matthew 13:3–4, 19). But as believers in Christ, we can be confident of salvation because Jesus has paid the price through His death and resurrection (1 John 2; Ephesians 2:8).
The punishment for a deceiver is also mentioned in the Bible. Malachi 1:14 states that a deceiver is cursed, while Revelation 20:10 points to the final destination for the devil and false prophets, which is a lake of fire and brimstone where they will be tormented forever.
Deceit, which comes in many forms is a sin. It can come in the form of lying spirits (1 Timothy 4:1) and as evildoers and impostors looking to lead believers astray (2 Timothy 3:13). In His Olivet Discourse, Jesus speaks about what will take place before His second coming. One of the warnings He gives is this: “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, to mislead (Matthew 24:24).
But will the false miracles the false messiahs and prophets perform lead believers astray? The Bible says believers know the “voice of the Lord” and cannot be easily deceived because, through Him, they have eternal life (John 10:2-5, 28).
The word nakal may not appear much in everyday conversation, but it is an important Hebrew word in Bible translations that teaches us about human weakness and the consequences of this type of sin. Nakal means deceiver, which often points to the life of Jacob or the devil. In the case of Jacob, he repented of the deceit rendered toward Isaac by him and his mother, and a powerful nation would come to be. However, the devil’s final place is in a lake of fire, where he will be tormented forever.