Scot McKnight on the So-Called ‘Green’ Revolution of 1968 That Wasn’t

Image: Photo by Harald Arlander on Unsplash

Sometimes using our scientific knowledge to explain the Bible actually proves our skill at re-interpretation rather than actual reading of the Bible. Other times the Bible’s wisdom on something can become a guide for life today.

Take, for instance, farming and stewardship of the land. What the Bible advocated for Israel’s care of the land given it by God, when read wisely, pushes back against modern-day exploitation of the land.

We are reading Sandra Richter’s fine new book Stewards of Eden.

I begin with the so-called Green Revolution of 1968. Here are her words:

Better known as “industrialized agriculture,” this revolution was birthed in post-World War II America in response to global food shortages. The commitment was to develop and distribute high-yield cereal grains supported by synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, to modernize irrigation infrastructures, and to implement new farm-management techniques in order to increase the world’s food supply. The effort was so successful that Norman Borlaug, named the “father of the Green Revolution,” received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his profound contribution to ending human misery in Third World countries. But these gains have not come without a cost.

Before we get to the cost, we look briefly at what Israel’s covenant God taught Israel.

To begin with, Israel did not own the land. YHWH did. Israel was a tenant. The Land was a land grant to Israel. They were called to steward the land so granted to them, and the land could be reclaimed by Israel’s God if Israel did not live in the land as it was instructed.

This land grant framework for understanding the Land explains, Richter shows, the tithe and first born principles in texts like Deut 14:22-23, 15:19-20, and 18:3-5. These principles did two things: they made clear that Israel was a tenant and that Israel was to care for the poor and marginalized. Taxation reminded Israel time and time again that Israel did not own its land; God did. They were tenants for God. They were to be generous as God was generous.

More to our point: Israel’s agricultural law had a Sabbatical principle of “fallow”: land was to be farmed for six years and they fallowed. So, Lev 25:4-7.

This permits aeration and pasturage and replenishment and restoration.

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Source: Christianity Today