Agriculture, essential for food, but endangered because of soil, salary and sustainability issues. Practical Bible wisdom to the rescue.
Agriculture is the world’s biggest employer, with over 40% of the world’s population directly or indirectly involved. Yet, it is fraught with dreams and nightmares. Who wouldn’t want a country house with a plot of fertile soil for homegrown nutritious produce? But we know that village life for city dwellers is not workable in the 21st century.
At first sight, agriculture In the Bible doesn’t seem to be a preoccupation. However, when we take a closer look, it occupies a place of honor. It is the first accomplishment of God following the creation of the man. It includes the first directive given to the man.
8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden;
15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou may freely eat:
Those verses summarize both the functional work and diet of humankind. The Explanation showed that this physical translation has a deeper spiritual meaning that is primary understanding. Refresh your knowledge with the links. This article focuses on the agriculture aspect.
There are vital verses in Genesis 1 and 2 that lead into the above agriculture activity verses in Genesis 2. They give important clues about land, land cover, water and growing seasons. The third and fourth days of Creation are enlightening in this field (pun intended).
9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.
Read about the emphasis on dry land, and the same day God covers it with grass, herbs and trees. The lessons here is cover the land to protect it, keep the humidity in the ground. The second principle is biodiversity. A third point to retain is the presence of trees. This description flies in the face of monoculture with its vast treeless fields planted with one crop and left uncovered after the harvest. And we wonder why we have infertile soil and billowing dust, leading to depletion of the all-important topsoil. The principles of the third day of Creation are the basis for sane agriculture.
Creation days 4, 5, and 6 add further bricks to the edifice. Fertile soil depends on humus, which is a combination of legumes and earthworms and microorganisms in a symbiotic relationship. Humus is the end product of totally decomposed compost. Decomposition takes years, hence the need for a protective covering over time to maintain and build the soil. We can’t ask land to give, give, give without returning EVERYTHING it gives. Artificial fertilizer only gives the minimum back in wrong conditions, it’s a short-term solution. Remember the fig leaves that dressed Adam and Eve. The key is humus, which retains water (against drought) and minerals that roots capture.
Land cover and trees play a vital role in the nitrogen cycle. There is 71% nitrogen in the atmosphere and 3.3% in the human body. Some say nitrogen is the basis of life, why? Because it’s the composition of amino acids, the basis of human cells. There is NO way the human body can capture atmospheric nitrogen directly. Plant roots capture the nitrogen which we recuperate when we eat vegetables, fruit and meat. Animals digest plants, also transforming the nitrogen into amino acids consumable by humans. That’s a lesson from Creation day 3, the need for soil and soil cover.
Creation days 5 and 6 bring birds to disseminate seed and grazing animals to produce manure. It is a whole system. Today we call it sustainability or ecology or conservation. The principles of agriculture have been available for thousands of years in God’s Word. Let’s move on with Creation week, looking at it from an agriculture point of view.
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
This verse warrants a book which is forthcoming. Detractors who talk about a contradiction of creating the sun the first and fourth days neither understand the Biblical Hebrew nor the overall plan behind the Creation narrative. There’s a chronological story here. Once you have planted ground you need to harvest the produce. That’s what verse 14 is about, seasons. This verse is not about creation (the Biblical Hebrew reveals this), but Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The reference to the Sun and Moon is their usage, in short, the establishment of a calendar.
Not only planting and harvesting for agriculture, but all the Godly festival seasons revolve around this calendar. those Feast Days indicate the steps of God’s plan for the salvation of humankind. We’ve swept God’s calendar under the rug for both planting and harvesting the physical fruits of the Earth and the spiritual fruits of salvation.
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
Today, the climate crisis has changed the planting and harvesting seasons. Did you know that the biggest producers of tomatoes in Europe is Holland with NO land, using hydroponics? They’re grown in oversized greenhouses. Did you know that the biggest worldwide exporter of roses is Kenya? Globalization gives us roses year-round. No seasonal produce, we can supply and consume what we want, when we want. No more seasons. Such vegetables, flowers have to be genetically modified for power-growth and to support both travel and long conservation. At the expense of nutrition and health.
When it comes to specific laws related to agriculture the fact is, there aren’t many. And those that do exist deal with details rather than giving us overall guidance. There’s one short, but imposing law that has vast implications. Not only for agriculture, but for the lifestyle of the whole nation and its citizens. The Sabbatical year for agriculture land.
2 Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath to the LORD.
3 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;
4 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest to the land, a sabbath for the LORD: you shall neither sow your field, nor prune your vineyard.
5 That which grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, neither gather the grapes of your vine undressed: for it is a year of rest to the land.
6 And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for you, and for your servant, and for your maid, and for your hired servant, and for your stranger that sojourns with you.
7 And for your cattle, and for the beast that are in your land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.
The fundamental point to retain is this happens every seventh year, like the weekly seventh day of rest, the Sabbath, for people. The Sabbatical year is a year of land rest. If you want it to produce nourishing food for six years then you must maintain and build its fertility. The first thing we think about is deprivation, “what are we going to eat?!” Hint, remember, during the 40 years in the desert, what happened with the manna on the sixth day, a double portion.
Verse 22 adds a dimension to our understanding. “And you shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in you shall eat of the old store.” This is quite amazing. It’s say that in the 8th year there will still be stock from the OLD STORE. This can NOT be from the 7th year because you’re not allowed to harvest and keep anything. So, it must be from the SIXTH year. God blessed that crop so there was extra, and like Joseph in Egypt, you store it for the years in which there is less food.
1. NO SOWING No planting of crops.
Remember Day 3 of Creation, land and land cover. The land is not left UNcovered and untended. Just like the Sabbath is a day of spiritual rejuvenation, likewise the seventh year for the land. In modern talk, we’d say leaving the land fallow. To some this would mean plowing and nothing else. Not so. Plowing can be detrimental as it disturbs microorganisms and fungi growth in the soil. We can’t get into the details and I’m not a specialist. You can read up on agriculture practices at some included links. You plant the land with a cover crop like clover or lupin to fix nitrogen, it becomes green manure, this decomposes and forms the basis of humus.
The consequences of no sowing are no harvesting and therefore no selling of agriculture products during the 7th year and until the harvest of the 8th year.
Note verse 6, “the land shall be meat for you.” All those in your household for whom you’re responsible, your hired hands and those who help you out CAN EAT from the produce that spontaneously grows by itself. The household can eat any perennials, berries like strawberries, raspberries, fruit, vegetables (rhubarb), herbs and nuts. This variety of volunteer growth would encourage diversification of produce, which comes to fruition at different times during the year. We discussed this in Origin of the Universe, the availability of year-round produce.
2. ANIMALS are plenteous and unaffected by the Sabbatical year.
Leviticus 25:7 says, “And for your cattle, and for the beast that are in your land, shall all the increase thereof be meat.” Animals are beneficial for the land. They eat the grass and return dung. This cycle is enhanced in the 7th year because animals can graze on the cropland, adding to its fertility. Going back to Creation week we see the integration of Days 3, 5 and 6, land, land cover, insects, birds, and animals.
The meat produced is local, fresh and wholesome for the household.
Conclusion: If you have anything to do with agriculture you’ll be just fine during the Sabbath year for the land. If you are directly involved, you’ll have more time for another occupation be it reading, studying of occupational advancement. You are not allowed to sell any produce that year.
However, think about those NOT involved in agriculture. It becomes very difficult, if not impossible to survive. Under 21st century living conditions, the application of this law would be a catastrophe. We know it won’t happen, so we don’t need to go there. This law was applicable for the nation as a whole, it was the same year for everyone.
Every 7th year there’d be a shortage of some basic commodities. With the presence of animals, meat, eggs and milk would be plentiful. The land Sabbath would even encourage this, as sales of these products would even rise for the benefit of producers.
Producers can easily store grains, but farmers who solely depend on this for their income would have no new produce for sale. Vegetables and fruit can also be stored by drying, freezing, or bottling.
The Land Sabbath is simply one of self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetables via homegrown production! Under God’s system, there would be NO local fresh fruit and vegetable markets operating anywhere in the nation during the year of rest.
For the 21st century
How practical are Biblical principles for agriculture in today’s society? On a national scale, probably not a lot. On an individual scale, adaptation is the key. Just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we do nothing. Each situation is unique, so it’s impossible to be specific. But there are principles that we can apply from agriculture and the Land Sabbath.
Vegetable gardens at home, in schools and communities are a key initiative anyone can take. Detroit is a prime example in this field, but many other cities around the world are encouraging such programs.
Urban Agriculture involves introducing greenery to the city. On rooftops, in park and squares. Bringing people together is another aspect of gardening.
Regenerative Agriculture unfortunately this is sorely needed, fortunately there are more and more people getting involved, saving what used to be fertile land. Returning it to healthy production. Major programs of reforestation are taking place, especially in Africa.
Organic Farming. Very specialized, not for everyone, it is much appreciated with the term “bio.” This type of farming is essential, but along with vegetable gardens, urban and regenerative agriculture are not the solution today on a large scale basis. It would not feed the mega-cities around the world.
The implications for the occupational orientation of the nation are manifold. This leans heavily toward a society based on agriculture and not industry. This greatly impacts the layout and architecture of our cities. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we’re going back to the Middle Ages. To the contrary, we have to find the right balance between the two. In the West we’ve swung too far, too much to industrial farming and industry in general, which is one cause of the state of our land and our ill-health (Deuteronomy 28).
God created humankind from the dust of the ground. We are agriculture beings! We need to walk barefoot on real grass, plant flowers, get our hands dirty in fertile soil, see the results of growing our own vegetables, savor the taste of fruit picked from the trees in our yard. That’s where we came from, that’s what we are. That part of life helps maintain a sane mind in a sane body.
Homesteading is a return to a balance of agriculture in a modern society. Again, it’s not for everyone by any means. But, along with smallholding, it gives a glimpse and a glimmer of hope as to what agriculture done correctly can accomplish and bring to people. Here’s an article about Biblical agronomy from a hands-on successful farmer who shares his experience.
The land Sabbath and its emphasis on agriculture and countryside living is utopic in today’s society, but in a future Biblical scenario, it becomes the norm. The following description is a new tomorrow, a new Godly order where the fruits of land Sabbath agriculture practices will be apparent.
1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it
Every family with a vine and fig tree. Difficult to imagine if you live in LA, NY, New Delhi or Tokyo. We’ve turned things upside down. But practical Bible wisdom does layout the pattern for improving our agriculture and consequently our way of life in today’s society. And it shows us the potential in a new society where the fruits will become reality.
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