Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 94

ATONEMENT, AGRICULTURE, AND ANIMAL FEEDING - Kirkpatrick opportune place for humankind to communicate something false about God if and when they, as His image bearers, abuse their relationship with creation. Knowing humanity’s relationship with creation was broken, God gives Israel Torah37 to guide her interactions with their land, livestock, and crops.38 God promises Israel that one of the benefits of following His Torah is that they, their land, and their livestock would be fecund (Dt 28:1–14). Instruction throughout the Pentateuch addresses “the longevity of the land’s fertility. The core of these laws is the Sabbath rest—a command to humanity regularly to cease production so that the land might be allowed an opportunity to replenish itself.”39 The laws pertaining to raising livestock a nd produce as well as the laws for tithing underscore that the land and that which it produces and supports does not belong to Israel but to God.40 The Lord commands Israel to let her livestock, her land, and all of her people—free and slave alike—rest, both weekly and every seven years. While this limits the rate at which Israel might occupy the Promised Land, the intention behind it is both God’s care for all of His creation and His concern that Israel care well for His land, cultivating it in such a way that they promote its longterm fertility even at the short-term expense of their dominion in it.41 The picture the Bible paints of humankind’s relationship with the land and all the living things therein was countercultural even at the time the law was given. Civilizations rose and fell based on physical strength, yes, but also on a land’s ability to sustain them. As a result, it was common for armies to raze the lands they conquered. Doing so hindered a people’s economic stability as well as the likelihood they would rise again to fight soon after.42 God, on the other hand, commanded first humankind and later Israel specifically to rule the land, yes, but also to work it and to keep watch over it, acting from a 37. I use the term Torah instead of law. Torah is better translated as instruction while law calls to mind check lists and rules, which were not the intention of the Torah. 38. Sandra Richter, “Environmental Law in Deuteronomy: One Lens on a Biblical Theology of Creation Care,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 20, no. 3 (2010): 357. See also how Deuteronomy’s Sabbath law in 5:12–25, combined with Exodus 20:8– 11, strengthens the importance of Sabbath for all Israel in J. G. McConville, Apollos Old Testament Commentary, vol. 5, Deuteronomy (Leicester, England: Apollos, 2002), 128. 39. Ibid., 363. 40. Ibid., 358, 361. 41. Ibid., 365. 42. Jeffrey H. Tigay, Deuteronomy =: [Devarim], The JPS Torah Commentary (Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 190. 91