BREAD AND LAND GO HAND IN HAND
The Creation Account in the Book of Genesis places the earth or the land in second place to heaven and it puts it first for life to exist. The Creator separated the earth from the waters and made it fertile and filled it with life and vegetation. Then, God made man to manage the land, the vegetation and the animals (Gen 1). Genesis Two tells us that God also made a garden and a man to work the land. It was too much for him, so God made him a suitable helper. Thus, the world was up and running, or was it? “Cultivated fields are an advantage to king and country” (Ecc. 5:9).
Genesis Three indicates that Adam did look after the ground but Eve found a pet and she ate what the pet ate and her desire changed. She found pleasure in what she ate and her husband delighted in her joyous mood and ate what she gave him. Then came the hangover and the loss of their physical strength to manage the ground. The weeds took over and their lives declined. They had a new enemy, called death. Everything edible died and had to be kept alive. Seeds that produced bread had to be kept alive before they were sown or planted. The ground itself could not produce without moisture. Nature did not always cooperate with rain. Man had to find ways to make the soil productive. God no longer told man what he should do. He had to discovered on his own, what was right and what was wrong and he was left with facing his own consequences.
The Book of Genesis is all about land and so is the entire Old Testament. The land provides the “Lebensraum,” or a place to live. The disagreement between Cain and Abel may have been over land, particularly pasture. The flood made Noah fear ever seeing land again. Abram left his people to find land that was no longer crowded. Canaan was still open range but not enough pasture for his nephew Lot and his own herd (Gen. 13). The first to plant some seed in Canaan was Isaac, Abram or Abraham’s son (Gen. 26:12). The first to settle permanently was Isaac’s second son Jacob. He purchased a piece of land from the sons of Hamor, father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver and pitched his tent (Gen. 33:19). The Shechem prince loved Dinah, Jacob’s daughter and wanted to integrate with her family, but he was not good enough for her brothers. They induced the Shechem men to circumcise and when they were disabled, her brothers Simeon and Levi killed the men and looted the Shechems. Jacob had to move to Bethel and acquire more land (Gen. 34). Jacob changed his name to Israel and stayed in Bethel until Joseph move his father and family to Goshen, best pasture land in Egypt where Jacob lived until his death. His sons returned his body to Canaan and buried him in the field of Machpela, a plot Abraham had bought for a burial ground.
Meanwhile in Egypt, Joseph stored all the surplus grain in Pharaoh’s storage and when the famine came he made the king the sole owner of Egypt. People gave up everything they possessed for bread. Pharaoh empowered Joseph to be the sole provider and distributor of bread. Such power led to the enslaving of all the people in Egypt and ultimately the Hebrews as well. The Egyptians felt threatened by the increasing Hebrew population and began to exterminate their male babies. Moses was saved by Pharaoh’s sister and raised as he own. This Moses became the architect in God’s hand to deliver Israel from slavery, had the Hebrews wander as shepherds in the wilderness for forty years and prepare them morally and militarily to be a united force to take possession of Canaan permanently. Under Joshua, Israel settled on solid land and continued mixed farming as the natives had done.
Under David and Solomon, the Hebrews became a formidable power in the world. That power lasted for as long as they could convince themselves and the world that it was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob behind their success and that He was permanently enshrined in the Temple in Jerusalem. God became homeless when the Temple was destroyed and Cyrus the Persian king decreed that it be rebuilt (Ezra 1:22-4). It was Jesus who freed God from the Temple and the Samaritan mountain (Jn. 4:21-24). Into our own time, Jews believed that Jerusalem and the surrounding area was and is God’s gift to them. The children of Hagar argue that Sarah’s sons had left Canaan and lost their right when they were away four hundred years. They lost it a second time to the Assyrians and Babylonians and ultimately to the Romans. Ishmael’s descendants never left the region, but neither have they done anything that made the area in question strategic.
The first people that made the area productive were not the nomadic Hebrew shepherds. By their own admission, we have this account of the spies that were sent to look over the land and brought back some grapes. “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is the fruit. The people who live in the land are strong and the cities are walled and very large. Then we saw the sons of Anak the giant live there. The Amalekites are spread over the Negeb territory; the Hittites, Jebusites and the Amorites are protected by hilly country. The Canaanites controlled the sea shore and the river Jordan valley” (Num. 13:27-29). The spies also observed that they themselves looked like grasshoppers against the tall natives, descendants of the Nephilim who showed no fear of the small in statue Hebrews (Num. 13:31-33). Forty years later, Joshua’s Hebrew army conquered this strategic land that was already developed and very productive. The Israelites kept a large number of natives to teach and help them manage how to make bread. The Hebrews did not become farmers, shopkeeper or skilled laborers over night. The Hebrew were no different from all other nations that were and still are in search of a place or “Lebensraum” where they can make their own bread. We ourselves did the same things with the Poles in Poland. We kept them to help us work the land and raise bread for the Germans.
Israel is only a small example of the need for land to survive and the dispersions taught them that they can acquire land elsewhere and raise bread (Jer. 29:4-9). The scattered Jews did rather well among the people of the world in banking, farming, managing, teaching and in many other needs and skills. They did not have to displace and annihilate the Canaanites to survive. One does not have to owe land to make bread. And one must not allow a Joseph to put the management of food into the hands of one person. What Joseph did was a quick fix that lasted a long time before it could be corrected and changed. In many parts of the world, man continues to put his trust in a genius to feed them. The genius cannot feed us without the meek and humble farmer that takes care of the soil so that the seed can grow to give us bread in due time. The truth is that the genius has to be fed by the humble and small forgotten farmer that must fill his barns before he can offer himself as some generous benefactor to the people he wants to lead.
What can we learn from the Biblical project practiced by Israel? Perhaps, closer to home, what can we learn in our own time from nations that swallowed up the small farmer, the small shop and the small entrepreneur? It did not matter who took charge, capitalists or socialists, the end results were the same when the lack of bread brought down giants like China and Russia. Germany under Hitler, Italy under Mussolini and Japan under the emperor were small potatoes in the world picture of “Lebensraum.” Cuba, North Korea and Sweden are not worth mentioning as examples to feed the world’s masses. Great or small, these nations could not feed themselves because they did not let the small person and his small farms and enterprises supply the bread they themselves needed to exist and survive. There is no nation under the sun at the present time that has a viable plan to feed the world. China has begun to reduce the big man and has reintroduced the small provider, but it has failed to trim the government of the fat it operates on. A heavy top will bring down the house it rests on. The crush has been and will remain irreparable.
I remember as a boy, living several hundred feet from our neighbors across a dirt public road. They had four daughters, a grandmother and an uncle living with them on four acres with one cow, some pigs and chickens. They were happier than we were on four times as much land, a new home and a blacksmith shop. Not too far from us lived a Lord on numerous acres and ninety eight more in other places all over Poland, Russia and other countries in the region. In Russia, the communists had taken over his holdings. In Poland, he was accompanied by guards, fearing that his forced laborers might take his life. Shortly before the war he disappeared. After the war, I visited the family in East German. Again, they had a small plot of land where they raised their bread and booze. Grandma was gone but the family was as happy as they were in Poland. The difference between these people and the Ukrainian Lord was that people responsible for their own bread survived on much less than a rich man.
I took charge of a church in the heart of New York State. The city benefited from Urban Renewal by the
Federal Government. One project was housing for one hundred people that cost over a million Dollars and returned to the town less than a thousand Dollars I taxes. At the same time, a desperate lady with a husband in a wheelchair and two children needed a place to live. There was a deserted home in a good neighborhood. I took the lady to that place and told her that we would buy it and fix it up for her with three bedrooms on the Lower floor, a second bathroom for her husband and a ramp and a single apartment upstairs. She accepted our offer with tears of Joy. It cost us fifteen thousand Dollars to buy and restore the place and it gave the community over six hundred dollars in taxes per year. When we moved, we sold the place to the man who helped us restore it. His son moved in upstairs and the family remained living downstairs with separate entrances. We were actually competing to show that an individual could do far more on much less than a Government or a corporation. For us, the income gave us extra bread and more taxes for public use. That home had also a garden, very suitable for raising veggies. It is the individual human hand on some land that produces bread. The more hands we have to keep the land fertile, the more bread will be available. Bread and land go hand in hand.