Jacob, his name meant deceiver.   And the name also made the man. In current Nigerian parlance, we could properly refer to him as a “419” man, an “OBT.”

When his father was about to pass on to glory, the old man ‘placed an order’ for a special bush meat pepper soup. The father specifically stated that it had to be meat from ‘abroad’; from the wild. The ‘job’ (or ‘tender’) was given to Mr. Esua his first son. However, Jacob became aware of it through some privileged source, and decided to supply the ‘goods’ in the name of Esau the man who had been properly awarded the ‘contract,’ all without any consultation with Esau. Jacob simply went and had a ‘board meeting’ with Rebekah his senior business partner, and decided to supply the ‘pepper soup’ made with ‘local materials’ instead of the ‘foreign meat’ from the wild, as the ‘company,’ Isaac the father, had requested. They went to the backyard and killed two goats and, ‘overnight,’ were ready with the ‘material’ which would normally have taken a longer time to prepare, especially as the major component had to come from ‘abroad,’ not from the backyard.

Now Mr. Jacob had a proper fear. Mr. Isaac was a very thorough man. He would not accept to be bribed, and he would properly check the papers if they were genuine. Here again, Jacob’s senior partner and special 419 consultant, came up with another fine idea. They were to forge the papers, forge the dates, forge the signatures and names, and pretend that they were “Esau & Co.” whereas they were “Jacob & Co.” Thus they set about getting the false credentials. They took the skin of the goats and placed them on the hands and shoulders of Jacob. Those were his false papers. He wanted to give the impression that he was `Hairy Esau,’ the Managing Director of Esau & Co., whereas he was only `Smooth Jacob,’ the Coneman of Jacob & Co.

When he got into Mr. Isaac’s office, he announced his name as Mr. Esau. He had forged the letter head and signatures of Esau. Mr. Isaac was very suspicious, and had to ask again, “Who are you, please?”  “I am Esau, your elder son,” Jacob claimed. Mr. Isaac had a hunch, and requested to see his papers. Jacob drew close to present the false claims and affidavits and export papers of an artificial `hairy hand’ and `hairy shoulder.’ Meanwhile, Jacob, the practised crook that he was, tried to sound very cool, calm, and collected. He would not show any sign of uneasiness. In fact, he was even dressed to look more important than he actually was, in the clothes of Esau his elder brother. The elderly man studied the bunch of papers closely, but was still not satisfied. There was some discrepancy in the papers. So he asked, for instance, to know how Jacob, who was still claiming to be Esau, managed so soon to receive the `export’ of bush meat which alone should have taken him a fairly longer time. Here, Jacob lied in the name of the Lord. He brought in religion. He said God blessed him with such favour that as soon as he placed the order, he got it by special express; he claimed that it was air-freighted to him, not shipped by sea, as others usually did. He claimed a great `connection’ with the Big Man up there in heaven Who facilitated matters for him by helping him to process the papers quickly.

The deceiver began to play on the religious sentiments of Mr. Isaac. He pretended he also was such a nice God-fearing man, like Isaac; that he also believed in God, and believed in miracles, too. O praise God, Hallelujah. God had been so wonderful to him. He began to share false testimonies of how God had been specially blessing his business.

Mr. Isaac was somewhat taken in at this point by Mr. Jacob’s sweet tongue. The papers looked ‘hairy’ enough to be genuine ‘Esau’ products. The name and the signature said ‘Esau,’ the smell of the pepper soup product even had the touch of an expert, but the meat looked like the backyard handiwork of Jacob and Co. The other problem he had was with the date of receipt of the consignments from ‘abroad.’ “So soon?” Mr. Isaac had worried, but Mr. Jacob had said the date was no problem but simply a miracle of God’s great and favourable intervention.

Okay….  Mr. Isaac was uneasy….  Voice of Jacob, hand of Esau….  The product carried the label and brand name of Esau and Co., but it looked very much like the backyard work of a Jacob….  Anyway….  Against his innermost doubts, Mr. Isaac proceeded to acknowledge receipt of Mr. Jacob’s supply and paid instantly in cash by pronouncing blessings upon him. He virtually emptied his whole account of blessings to pay Jacob the impersonator.

Not long afterwards, the ‘deal’ blew up. The original Mr. Esau had come with his original pepper soup, and Mr. Isaac, visibly shaken, got confused about the ‘two’ Esaus. Only then did he realize that the first ‘Esau’ had been an impostor. By that time the man was nowhere to be found. He had quickly put all his blessings into a safe foreign account. But how was he going to leave the country? The law was after him, to deal with him for OBT, for Obtaining By Trickery the blessings or payments meant for someone else. Here again, his expert senior consultant on matters, was available to help. She told him that she had ‘connections’ abroad; that she was going to give him a note to her brother, Laban, in some country of Mesopotamia far away. She got him the necessary papers again, and visa, and had him smuggled out of the country by night, before the law would catch up with him. She was his baronness; he was her courier and front-man. Jacob was the man who made the moves, she was the one who used him behind the scene.

Meanwhile Esau had a problem.  What he had spent so much to import and manufacture would not be received anymore.  In fact, it was barely accepted out of courtesy; more as a gesture than anything else.  What besides, there was hardly any money left in the ‘blessings account’ of Isaac to pay him, because almost all of it was withdrawn to pay his impersonator, the OBT man, Jacob his own brother. Esau was stranded, Isaac was embarrassed, but Jacob was ‘gone abroad’ in self-exile to Padanaran in Mesopotamia.  Meanwhile, Madam Rebekah his baronness remained around, unknown, undiscovered, least suspected, especially as she also had close connections with all the other parties, and seemed to sympathise with them and offer her suggestions from time to time about the matter.

After about twenty-two years ‘abroad,’ Jacob was on his way back home, now a very rich man.  While abroad, in his characteristic ‘419’ and ‘OBT’ ways, he had deceived his uncle and ‘foreign boss,’ Mr. Laban, and was himself once majorly deceived by his boss who was also a crook.  He worked seven years for a wife, but received the ‘supply’ of a woman other than the one he had ‘paid’ for.  The deceiver had been deceived.  What he had been doing to others began to be done to him also, and painfully, too.  The smart man was being outsmarted.

On Jacob’s way back home, he had a very major encounter which changed him totally.  He ran into the true God, not the ‘419’ God whom he would claim had helped him in his business deals.  In his encounter with God, he was asked, “What is your name?”  In other words, “Who are you?”

For the first time in a major deal, he did not claim to be someone else.  He did not, as in the ‘Bushmeat Peppersoup Deal,’ claim to be Esau.  He admitted that he was Jacob, a name which meant deceiver.  In other words, he was, like David, acknowledging his transgressions (Psalm 51:3).  He was admitting and confessing his sins to the one God and only One who could change him.

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us  (John 1:9-10).

When Jacob the coneman admitted his sins before God, when he sincerely opened up himself before God, God also healed him, and thoroughly, too.  His name was changed from Jacob to  Israel; a name which meant Prince of God, or Power with God.  He no more had ‘deceit’ in his name.  He now had ‘God’ in his name and nature.  That God of Jacob still changes people today.

You may find the full text of the story of Jacob in the book of Genesis.  Genesis 27 – The Bushmeat Peppersoup Deal; Genesis 28 – The Escape ‘Abroad’ to MesopotamiaGenesis 29 – Life ‘Abroad,’ and The Deceit of the Deceiver; Genesis 31 – The Escape from Mesopotamia; and Genesis 32 – The Encounter with God.

From The Preacher’s diary,  
March 27, 1995

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