Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!
Genesis 2: 15
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.Read Genesis 2:15 Take-Aways »Read John Calvin's Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis »
Leviticus 25: 23-24
The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land.Read Leviticus 25:23-24 Take-Aways »Read The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary »Read Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible »
Deuteronomy 20: 19
If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down. Are trees in the field human beings that they should come under siege from you?Read Deuteronomy 20:19 Take-Aways »Read Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible »
2 Chronicles 7: 13-14
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.Continue Reading 2 Chronicles 7: 13-14 »Read 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 Take-Aways »Read New Interpreters Bible Commentary »
Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed, O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come. When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions. Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts.Continue Reading Psalms 65 »Read Psalm 65 Take-Aways »Read Calvin’s Commentary on Psalms »Read Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible »
Isaiah 5: 8
Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!Read Isaiah 5:8 Take-Aways »Read Calvin’s Commentary on Isaiah »Read Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible »Read New Interpreters Bible Commentary »
Genesis 2:15 Take-Aways
The first task God gives Adam after he is created is to care for the garden. Verse 5 describes the world before God caused anything to grow on it, noting “there was no one to till the ground.” Humanity was created alongside the earth to care for it. From the very beginning, God designated humanity to be stewards and entrusted us with creation. Simply put, caring for the earth is a duty we owe our Creator.
John Calvin's Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis
Chapter 2: v. 15 And the lord God took the man . . . Moses now adds, that the earth was given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its cultivation. Whence it follows, that men were created to employ themselves in some work, and not to lie down in inactivity and idleness. This labour, truly, was pleasant, and full of delight, entirely exempt from all trouble and weariness; since, however, God ordained that man should be exercised in the culture of the ground and condemned, in his person, all indolent repose. Wherefore, nothing is more contrary to the order of nature, than to consume life in eating, drinking, and sleeping, while in the meantime we propose nothing to ourselves to do. Moses adds, that the custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition, that being content with frugal and moderate use of them, we should take care of what shall remain. Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence; but let him endeavour to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits, that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits to be marred or ruined by neglect. Moreover, that this economy, and this diligence, with respect to those good things which God has given us to enjoy, may flourish among us; let every one regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved (Vol. 1, p125).
Leviticus 25:23-24 Take-Aways
Though the earth was given to humanity for its use, we must ever remember that it does not belong to us. We are not the Creator, and creation is not ours to do with as we please. Rather it is given to us in trust (cf. Lk 16:10-11), with the explicit command that we “provide for the redemption of the land.” Consider the images pervasive on television and the internet of crops withering from drought, wild fires raging, mudslides, and fields subsumed by floods. What does redemption for those lands look like? Rates of natural disasters have quadrupled in the last 20 years as a result of humanity’s insatiable consumption of natural resources. Are we treating the land as if we are but tenants on it? Are we showing proper respect for the true owner of the earth?
The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary
The central theology of this section, however, is found in vv. 23-24. The Lord declares that “the land is mine.” Thus the land and the crops belong to the Lord. For this reason the land cannot be sold forever. Jezebel failed to comprehend this fact, which Ahab conveniently forgot to tell her. Naboth could not sell, trade, or substitute his land at any price or inducement (see 1 Kings 21), for the ultimate owner of the land forbade such practices. What is true of Israel, in a larger sense, is true of all lands, for Ps 24:1 teaches that the earth is the Lord’s and all that is within the earth. (p1172)
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible
The Jubilee of the Fiftieth Year, Oppression Forbidden The word “jubilee” signifies a peculiarly animated sound of the silver trumpets. This sound was to be made on the evening of the great day of atonement; for the proclamation of gospel liberty and salvation results from the sacrifice of the Redeemer. It was provided that the lands should not be sold away from their families. They could only be disposed of, as it were, by leases till the year of jubilee, and then returned to the owner or his heir. This tended to preserve their tribes and families distinct, till the coming of the Messiah. The liberty every man was born to, if sold or forfeited, should return at the year of jubilee. This was typical of redemption by Christ from the slavery of sin and Satan, and of being brought again to the liberty of the children of God. All bargains ought to be made by this rule, “Ye shall not oppress one another,” not take advantage of one another’s ignorance or necessity, “but thou shalt fear thy God.” The fear of God reigning in the heart, would restrain from doing wrong to our neighbour in word or deed. Assurance was given that they should be great gainers, by observing these years of rest. If we are careful to do our duty, we may trust God with our comfort. This was a miracle for an encouragement to all who neither sowed or reaped. This was a miracle for an encouragement to all God’s people, in all ages, to trust him in the way of duty. There is nothing lost by faith and self-denial in obedience. Some asked, What shall we eat the seventh year? Thus many Christians anticipate evils, questioning what they shall do, and fearing to proceed in the way of duty. But we have no right to anticipate evils, so as to distress ourselves about them. To carnal minds we may appear to act absurdly, but the path of duty is ever the path of safety.
Deuteronomy 20:19 Take-Aways
Opposing armies are not the only parties in warfare–creation itself is involved. At times, such as in war, we may think we know the best strategy to use the land for our benefit, but God created the land to nourish and sustain us. God designed creation to promote humanity’s well-being, and trees yield fruit so we can survive. But the land bears the consequences of human warfare. If we ignore God’s caution, we risk living to see peace after war but having destroyed the gift that enables our survival in times of peace. Moreover, fruit-bearing trees provide sustenance indiscriminately, for people on both sides of the battlefield. The command to preserve the trees suggests a way to extend love to enemies even in times of war. Who are we to destroy what God has provided for our good, and for the good of our enemies? (See “Human Sin and Creation” for more on the connections between creation care and war and peace).
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible
Peace to be Offered, What Cities Were to be Devoted Care is here taken that in besieging cities the fruit-trees should not be destroyed. God is a better friend to man than he is to himself; and God’s law consults our interests and comforts; while our own appetites and passions, which we indulge, are enemies to our welfare. Many of the Divine precepts restrain us from destroying that which is for our life and food. The Jews understand this as forbidding all wilful waste upon any account whatsoever. Every creature of God is good; as nothing is to be refused, so nothing is to be abused. We may live to want what we carelessly waste.
2 Chronicles 7: 13-14
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:13-14 Take-Aways
As in Lev 26, this passage shows a direct relationship between the faithfulness of God’s people and the land. Scripture repeatedly reveals that humanity is entrusted with creation and that caring for it is part of what it means to be faithful to God. It should be no surprise, then, that when we fail in this charge, the land itself suffers. We do no need to look to ancient Israel to see this truth born out. Today, irresponsible burning of non-renewable fossil fuels has led to an increase in the severity and occurrences of natural disasters. Rising temperatures create droughts and floods, which contribute to food and water scarcity. Disease carrying insects now live in regions where previously they could not survive, spreading illnesses such as malaria to people who have never before had to worry about them. But, as the chronicler states, redemption is always possible. We can be the responsible stewards God has called us to be and the land can be healed.
New Interpreters Bible Commentary
The Lord promised to honor such prayer and to wipe the slate clean in forgiveness, as Solomon had asked. Curses resting on the land would be removed. Rain would fall again on the drought-stricken land (6:26-27). The locusts of 6:28 would be banished, as in the book of Joel. Where there had been failure and loss, healing would be given. In Solomon’s prayer, the land of Israel had featured as an area of both deprivation and blessing (6:25, 27-28, 31). As generally in the OT, the land functioned as a spiritual barometer, registering the people’s loyalty to the Lord. The chronicler’s exposition of the Lord’s response to the king’s prayer sums up a crucial aspect of his message: Through worship at the Temple, God had provided a way of ending guilt and the spiritual and material crises it caused. Beyond a broken covenant lay divine resources of healing and restoration. The chronicler will weave this divine promise into the narratives that follow in order to reinforce a message of human guilt and divine love for the people of God (Volume III, p500).
Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion; and to you shall vows be performed, O you who answer prayer! To you all flesh shall come. When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us, you forgive our transgressions. Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple. By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. By your strength you established the mountains; you are girded with might. You silence the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples. Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs; you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy. You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.
Psalm 65 Take-Aways
This psalm praises God for God’s personal relationship with humanity, and it shows us that God’s love extends beyond humanity. God also has a personal relationship with creation. God visits the earth, waters it and enriches it, provides the people with grain, and blesses and softens the ground. Creation responds to God intimately, shouting and singing in joyful praise. Humanity in turn receives from God’s dynamic relationship with creation, and so creation itself enriches humanity’s worship of God. We worship a God whose provision exceeds the bare necessities of what we need – God’s provision is rich, bountiful, overflowing. Yes this God is humanity’s hope – but do we hear the words of this psalm that God is also the hope of the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas? Do we honor the relationship God has with creation, or in thinking about ourselves do we lose sight of it and forget this relationship is bound to our own?
Calvin’s Commentary on Psalms
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom09.xxxi.ii.html 8 They also that dwell, etc. By the signs referred to, we must evidently understand those signal and memorable works of the Lord which bear the impress of his glorious hand. It is true, that the minutest and meanest objects, whether in the heavens or upon the earth, reflect to some extent the glory of God; but the name mentioned emphatically applies to miracles, as affording a better display of the divine majesty. So striking would be the proofs of God’s favor to his Church, that, as the Psalmist here intimates to us, they would constrain the homage and wonder of the most distant and barbarous nations. In the latter part of the verse, if we take the interpretation suggested by some, nothing more is meant, than that when the sun rises in the morning, men are refreshed by its light; and again, that when the moon and stars appear at night, they are relieved from the gloom into which they must otherwise have been sunk. 9. But while it is the kindness of God to his own people which is here more particularly celebrated as being better known, we are bound, in whatever part of the world we live, to acknowledge the riches of the Divine goodness seen in the earth’s fertility and increase. It is not of itself that it brings forth such an inexhaustible variety of fruits, but only in so far as it has been fitted by God for producing the food of man. Accordingly, there is a propriety and force in the form of expression used by the Psalmist when he adds, that corn is provided for man, because the earth has been so prepared by God; which means, that the reason of that abundance with which the earth teems, is its having been expressly formed by God in his fatherly care of the great household of mankind, to supply the wants of his children. 11. Notice is next taken of the valleys and level grounds, to show that there is no part of the earth overlooked by God, and that the riches of his liberality extend over all the world. The variety of its manifestation is commended when it is added, that the valleys and lower grounds are clothed with flocks, as well as with corn. He represents inanimate things as rejoicing, which may be said of them in a certain sense, as when we speak of the fields smiling, when they refresh our eye with their beauty. It may seem strange, that he should first tell us, that they shout for joy, and then add the feebler expression, that they sing; interposing, too, the intensative particle, אף, aph, they shout for joy, yea, they also sing The verb, however, admits of being taken in the future tense, they shall sing, and this denotes a continuation of joy, that they would rejoice, not only one year, but through the endless succession of the seasons. I may add, what is well known, that in Hebrew the order of expression is frequently inverted in this way.
Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible
In the third strophe (65: 9-13) the poet uses rich imagery and hyperbolic terms to describe how God cares for nature, the plants, people, and the animals. In v. 9 this idea is expressed in general terms; then it is worked out in detail in vv. 10-14: God drenches the earth with rain. He supplies the people with wheat. He is the source of fertility and abundance. Even the wilderness is luxuriantly green, and the livestock are fat. Like the second strophe, this strohe ends with “joy” (v. 13). All of nature bursts into song in praise of God, who crowns “the year . . . with bounty” (v. 11). It is difficult to determine the exact historical and cultic situation of the psalm. The last strophe in particular (65: 9-13) may well refer to a good rainy season and harvest. Psalm 65 is a stirring hymn of praise in which God – the God whose presence is so strongly felt in the temple – is praised for his forgiveness, his awe-inspiring deeds of salvation toward his people, his creative power, and his loving and abundant care for nature, his people, and the animals (pp 396-397).
Isaiah 5:8 Take-Aways
Twenty-first century Westerners often view land as property – a material object to be possessed. However, in an early Middle Eastern context, land is understood as something with whom both God and people have a relationship. This relationship is both political and economic, but it is also theological. Isaiah tells a poem about God’s relationship with God’s vineyard, and we see from the beginning that God’s love for the land provides a metaphor for God’s care for God’s people: “Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard.” First the land is God’s, and God gives the land to humanity to steward on God’s behalf. In this framework, God distributes land – it is not humanity’s “real estate.” Isaiah cautions his hearers against accumulating houses and fields in greed, as though it is theirs, regardless of the larger community who also has a relationship with the land because the land is God’s. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary picks up on this theme, saying, “Treating land simply or primarily as property narrows the vision of the environment as a whole.” Do we consider the environment as something we possess? An object that we can greedily acquire and use for our purposes? Or is land a gift we tend and steward as part of our loving response to God?
Calvin’s Commentary on Isaiah
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom13.xii.i.html 8. Woe to them that join house to house and field to field. He now reproves their insatiable avarice and covetousness, from which the acts of cheating, injustice, and violence are wont to arise. For it cannot be condemned as a thing in itself wrong, if a man add field to field and house to house; but he looked at the disposition of mind, which cannot at all be satisfied, when it is once inflamed by the desire of gain. Accordingly, he describes the feelings of those who never have enough, and whom no wealth can satisfy. So great is the keenness of covetous men that they desire to have everything possessed by themselves alone, and reckon everything that is obtained by others to be something which they want, and which has been taken from them. Hence the beautiful observation of Chrysostom, that “covetous men, if they could, would willingly take the sun from the poor,” for they envy their brethren the common elements, and would gladly swallow them up; not that they might enjoy them, but because such is the madness to which their greed carries them. All the while they do not consider that they need the assistance of others, and that a man left alone can do nothing: all their care is to scrape together as much as they can, and thus they swallow up everything by their covetousness. He therefore accuses covetous and ambitious men of such folly that they would wish to have other men removed from the earth, that they might possess it alone; and consequently they set no limit to their desire of gain. For what madness is it to wish to have those driven away from the earth whom God has placed in it along with us, and to whom, as well as to ourselves, he has assigned it as their abode! Certainly nothing more ruinous could happen to them than to obtain their wish. Were they alone, they could not plough, or reap, or perform other offices indispensable to their subsistence, or supply themselves with the necessaries of life. For God has linked men so closely together, that they need the assistance and labor of each other; and none but a madman would disdain other men as hurtful or useless to him. Ambitious men cannot enjoy their renown but amidst a multitude. How blind are they, therefore, when they wish to drive and chase away others, that they may reign alone!
Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible
The first oracle (5:8-10) condemns those who accumulate land; there is no suggestion that the land has been stolen (as in the story of Naboth’s vineyard, 1 Kings 21), but even to purchase land in perpetuity was forbidden (Lev 25:23). On the Day of Atonement, which began the year of jubilee, all land returned to its original owner. Perhaps those who broke the law of jubilee were being condemned. Isaiah curses what has been taken: the houses will become deserted and the land barren. The punishment fits the crime (p 503).
New Interpreters Bible Commentary
This prophetic speech concerning houses and field–what we call real estate–presumes traditional Israelite understandings of land and justice, economics and power. Those who “join house to house, who add field to field” (v.8), subvert the ancient order concerning land–the land promised to the patriarchs, divided among the tribes and their families, and never to be treated as real estate that can be sold (Lev 25:23). So the greedy development of large estates by the few at the expense of the many is social and economic injustice, creating or expanding a class of homeless people. But it is more than that. Is is the violation of a divinely established order, taken to be the expression of election as well as justice. Land is not to be treated as property to be accumulated. It belongs to the Lord, whose equitable distribution of it among the tribes and clans as trustees is to be maintained in perpetuity. In the eight century BCE, economic shifts in the direction of capitalism were undermining the traditional ideas of stewardship of the land. The punishment implied in v. 8b, is the isolation of the greedy. Verses 9b-10 sketch a scene of judgment as an empty landscape, “desolate” and presumably ruined mansions whose owners and occupants have vanished. Such devastation may result from military invasion, but in this case the cause is crop failure. “Ten acres” (lit. “ten yoke.” the land that can be worked by ten yoke of oxen in a day) of vineyard will produce only about five and a half gallons of wine, and “a homer of seed shall yield a mere ephah”–that is, the harvest will be one-tenth of the seed planted. Since this announcement is the word of Yahweh, it sets judgment into motion. Remarkably, as in Gen 3:17-19, the Lord punishes sinners by cursing the land (p93). With regard to land, 5:8-10 continues a central theme of the Hebrew scriptures by insisting that land and land ownership are not simply economic or political issues but are spiritual and theological matters as well. The problem set out here is driven by greed, by those who overthrwo the ancient tradition that the tribes, clans, and families of Israel are trustees of the Lord’s land in order to acquire mor than they need. These verses evoke reflection on environmental, political, and economic issues. Treating land simply or primarily as property narrows the vision of the environment as a whole. Was the world created just to satisfy excessive human appetities? Political and military conflicts persist–and not just in modern Israel–because people disagree about God’s selection of stewards of particular lands, or, whether with theological justification or not, they disagree about conflicting claims to particular lands. Few in our time can understand the spiritual attachment to land or the economic disaster of not having it better than those who have lost farms that had been held in their family for generations (Vol. 6, p96).