Thesis Title

Patriarch as Trickster: the Social and Literary Function of the Jacob Cycle in Genesis 25-33


Brian R. Doak

Date of Graduation

Summer 2004


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

Victor Matthews


This essay explores the possibility of categorizing the biblical patriarch Jacob as a "trixster" character in light of some cross-culture studies on the trickster figure. Care is taken to present the story of Jacob in terms of its literary context in the book of Genesis, and a close reading of Genesis 25-33 shows that Jacob can indeed be called a "trickster" figure. This categorization allows us to understand the nature of Jacob's actions and serves as a guide for reading what are sometimes considered to be confusing or even "unedifying" incidents in the Jacob cycle. Although literary considerations (in their own right) are carefully evaluated, the presence of the trickster figure necessitates that we examine the social and political environment surrounding the composition and interpretation of the trickster stories themselves. Toward this end, I attempt to show that Jacob's story should not simply be read as an amusing tale of deception or an indistinct representation of "human nature," but rather that Jacob's adventures elicited a powerfully subversive and at times even satirical interpretation as a reaction to the policies of Persian domination in the 6th-4th centuries BCE.


Bible, Old Testament, literary criticism, trickster, Genesis, Jacob

Subject Categories



© Brian R. Doak