Change in the Land - Part 2




The Change in the Land - Part Two


We noted last time, that the beautiful, fertile land of Canaan had been transformed into a barren waste land. The main cause of this transformation can be traced to the disobedience of the Children of Israel. It was shown that one of the destructive processes was brought about by Israel’s unwillingness to obey God’s laws of conservation. As we will see this week, there were at least three other processes that played a role in the transformation of this land.

1) War: God had told Israel that He would protect her from her enemies if she would obey him however if they rebelled, they would be confronted continually with one invader after another. War has always been a major contributor to the destruction of land and its fruit. Israel was no exception to this rule. (Joel 1:1-2:17)

a. Foreign invaders would destroy or consume the crops intended for the people of Israel leaving them to suffer famine and causing the people to clear and farm forested land.

Deut 28:33-35, ―A nation whom you have not known shall eat the fruit of your land and the produce of your labor, and you shall be only oppressed and crushed continually. So you shall be driven mad because of the sight which your eyes see.

Deut 28:51-53, ―And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you. "They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the LORD your God has given you.”

We see this transpiring as early as the time of Gideon’s calling in Judges 6.

Judges 6:2-6, ―And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of the Midianites, the children of Israel made for themselves the dens, the caves, and the strongholds which are in the mountains. So it was, whenever Israel had sown, Midianites would come up; also Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. Then they would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, coming in as numerous as locusts; both they and their camels were without number; and they would enter the land to destroy it. So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord.”

The Midianites, the Amalekites, and other invaders would come into the land just as the crops were ready for harvesting. They planned to do this so that they might take the crops for themselves leaving the people of Israel to starve. The problem of invading armies had become so great that the Israelites had resorted to hiding in the mountains where the forests were. The mountains were easier to defend against their enemies but provided little source of food. It is probable that Israel began to clear the mountain forests in order to grow crops in areas that would be easier to defend. This was a hard area to farm and prone to erosion however desperate times call for desperate measures. This practice can be seen in the encounter of the Lord with Gideon. In Jdg 6:11 we find Gideon threshing wheat, not out in the middle of the fields where the wind was optimum for separating the wheat from the chaff. Rather he is in an area located probably near or on the sides of the mountain where he might be passed over by the enemy.

“Judges 6:11-12,―Gideon's act of threshing wheat in a winepress reflected both his fear of discovery by the Midianites and the smallness of his harvest. Normally wheat was threshed (the grain separated from the wheat stalks) in an open area on a threshing floor”2

“Judges 6:11, “Threshing floors were large areas of dirt or stone that were usually out in the open so that the breezes could be used to blow away the chaff. They would generally be used by the whole community. Threshing was done mostly in June and July, using a stick or by walking cattle over the sheaves. A winepress was a square or circular pit hollowed out of rock big enough for a few people to walk around in. Threshing activity in a winepress would be much less conspicuous than on a threshing floor.”3

One other aspect of constant invasion to consider is the destruction to fertile land by the continual tramping of army after army. Anyone who builds a new building and installs nice new sidewalks knows that often those using the building find short cuts to enter and leave the building other than the walks. The evidence is the killing of grass and the appearance of hard pack dirt from the constant trampling of feet. So it would be in the fields of Israel.

b. Foreign invaders would often destroy the fields, forests and other aspects of the land to make it difficult if not impossible for their enemies to recover and becomes a threat. This is often called a scorched earth campaign and it can leave the land so devastated it takes years to recover if it is capable of recovery. We see a perfect example of this in 2 Kings 3 when the armies of Judah, Israel, and Edom seek to destroy their mutual enemy, Moab.

2 Kings 3:25, “Then they destroyed the cities, and each man threw a stone on every good piece of land and filled it; and they stopped up all the springs of water and cut down all the good trees.”

c. Foreign invaders would often destroy the land and its resources just in the process of waging war. History tells us that many campaigns were carried out against Israel. The effects of constant warfare in and of themselves have a destructive impact upon a land and its resources. In Duet. 20 we have an example of how the activity of waging war can rob the land of its resources and in 2 Kings 25 we see it actually practiced.

Deut 20:19-20, “When you besiege a city for a long time, while making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them; if you can eat of them, do not cut them down to use in the siege, for the tree of the field is man's food. Only the trees which you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, to build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it is subdued.”

2 Kings 25:1, “Now it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and encamped against it; and they built a siege wall against it all around.”

2) Overpopulation: Too many people and too little land will often result in the exhaustion of the land and resources of a nation. Forested land is cleared to produce additional corps and fields are overgrazed leading to the erosion of the land’s fertility. J. H. Patterson has written:

“The second and third of these factors, clearance for agriculture and overgrazing are opposite sides of the same coin. They bespeak a situation in which an agriculture-based community is overcrowded on its available lands: the density of the population, both human and animal, has risen above acceptable levels. In any part of the world, but esp. in one with a marked dry season, such a situation will produce soil erosion: the erosion reduces fertility and soil-holding capacity still further, and so a cycle is initiated, which can only be reversed by total transformation of the economy and massive expenditure (on the lines of the Tennessee Valley Authority or the efforts of the modern Israeli state).”

“To the question: Why was Israel so crowded in the land of Promise? The answers are clear. (1) Israel failed in its task of driving out from the land all the previous inhabitants. A series of weaknesses and compromises, beginning with Joshua’s treaty with the Gibeonites (Josh. 9:15; cf. 13:13; Jdg 1:27-35), resulted in the land being compelled to accommodate a double population. (This can be compared with the situation E of the Jordan between 1948 and the present time, when hundreds of thousands of Arabs, displaced by Israeli conquest, have been added to the population of the state of Jordan. Instead of having exclusive occupation of the conquered territories, Israel was sharing them with a part of the original population. (2) The nation never occupied the whole territory promised to it (cf Gen. 15:18; Josh. 1:4; 13:2-14; 23:4, 5; Judg 1:27-35). Almost from the start of Israel occupancy of the land, it proved difficult either to gain or to keep control of the lowlands; the uplands of Judea and Samaria formed the core area of the nation, and to these, for most of its history, the nation was confined. Whereas in terms of anthropology or social history this situation is a familiar one, the promise of Go certainly covered the lowlands as well as the mountains. The failure to occupy the whole land can be traced back to the same weakness of faith in their God that had prevented their ancestors from entering the land in the first place (Numb. 13:27-33; cf. Heb 3:16-19).”

“The effect of this failure to take what had been promised them can be judged by comparing the size of Israel as divided between the twelve tribes with the size of the kingdom at its apogee under Solomon. Although the exact borders of the latter are in doubt it seems clear that Solomon held sovereignty over an area between three and four times as large as the “basic” kingdom. Spread over such an area, and even allowing for the infertility of some parts of this greater empire, Israel such have suffered much less from overcrowding than in practice they did.”4

This problem of overcrowding was just another example of the sin of the people of Israel. God had commanded Israel to destroy all the people who lived in the land of Canaan. Initially they had great successes as they watched God deliver their enemies into their hands one after another. Not a single Canaanite nation could withstand the forces of Israel. However, after securing most of the land, the people became complacent and in the process lost confidence in their God and His promises. The result, several Canaanite nations continued to occupy the land, competing with Israel for the limited resources the land could provide. 

God had over and over promised Israel that He would deliver their enemies into Israel’s hands if they would only trust in Him. However, many of God’s wonderful promises are never realized because His Saints are not willing to trust in Him enough to step out in faith. This is so wonderfully demonstrated in the account of David and Goliath (1 Sam. 17). For 40+ days the Israelite army and King Saul were paralyzed by the boasting of a pagan giant. Never did even one of them consider God’s promises of victory nor the fact that the power of a giant was infinitesimal in comparison to the power of the Creator of the universe. David understood this and trusting in God’s promise of victory, he stepped out in faith and realized the blessings of God’ provision. This is a problem that limits the Saint’s effectiveness for Christ in this secular society in which we live.

3) Natural Disasters: bad weather and its effects happen at various times to all nations and people. Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, fire, drought, and etc are all apart of living in a sin cursed world. However for Israel, many of these natural disasters were direct results of their disobedience of God.

Deut 28:15, ―"But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:”

Deut 28:23-24, ―And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. The LORD will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed.”

Deut 28:38-42 "You shall carry much seed out to the field but gather little in, for the locust shall consume it. You shall plant vineyards and tend them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them. You shall have olive trees throughout all your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil; for your olives shall drop off. You shall beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours; for they shall go into captivity. Locusts shall consume all your trees and the produce of your land.”

2 Sam 21:1-2, ―Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the Lord . And the Lord answered, "It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites." So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; the children of Israel had sworn protection to them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah.”

I Kings 8:35-38, ―When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, ―then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance. "When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is; "whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple.

As God would use these events to chastise His people and bring them back to Him, the consequences of such harsh measures was often the destruction of the land. As God foretold He would bring the land to desolation because of the sin of Israel

Lev 26:32, “I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it.”

Take for example the drought brought upon Israel for 3 years at the time of Ahab (1 Kings 16-17). The land being dry for that long would be prone to wind erosion. Likewise, when the rain would come, with no vegetation left to hold the soil, the soil would be eroded heavily. This is in the mind of the Lord in Deuteronomy.

Deut 28:23-24, ―And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. "The LORD will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed.”

To conclude this portion there is one additional item that needs to be noted. These promises of destruction of land and nation due to sin were given to Israel and Israel only. All too often, Christians use these passages given only to Israel to prove that a specific disasters or plague that strikes a nation is the direct judgment of God. When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I heard many preachers reach out to these verses to prove that Katrina was God’s way of chastising the US and in particular the wicked city of New Orleans. We must be careful to apply to the Church Age what is given to the Church and apply to Israel what is given to her.

2 - Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament Copyright © 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries. All rights reserved. 10

3 -IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Copyright © 2000 by John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews and Mark W. Chavalas. Published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.

4 - J. H. Patterson, “Palestine,” Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Merrill C. Tenny,Zondervan

Publishing House, 1975, Volume Four, Section VIII, Pages 585.