The Environment

We hear a good deal about this matter in the present day, mainly because it appears that as a result of technological advances and the continuing increase in the world human population serious damage is being done to the environment. It is foreseen that if something is not done to protect the environment the next generation and those generations following will inherit an impoverished earth.

That in many parts of the earth there is a population problem is no doubt true, but like all difficulties there is one to whom we can turn for help. God can provide a solution. In Exodus 1:7-14 the children of Israel were multiplying and because of this created a problem for the king of Egypt. God, however, had a solution: He would bring the children of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 6:10-13). This solution did not appeal to the king of Egypt, as God's solutions to our problems often do not. We often think we know best and this, if it does not lead to disaster, it can at least lead to a waste of our time (see for instance Jeremiah 38:17-23; 2 Kings 2:15-18).

Scripture teaches us that we should not be greedy. In Deuteronomy 24:19-23 it was laid down that when the harvest was reaped, a forgotten sheaf was to be left for the needy. Similarly, with the fruit of the olive tree and the vine. Trying to extract every scrap of produce from the earth is not something that Scripture approves of. What about leaving something for the wild creatures ? The law of Moses enjoined that the land was every seventh year to lie fallow. If this injunction were ignored it would lead to the land becoming impoverished. Continual cropping wears out the best land (Leviticus 25:1-7). Notice that the passage speaks of the needs of the wild creatures as well as mankind and cattle. It is worth noting here that it appears that it was because the children of Israel did not keep the instructions as to letting the land lie fallow that they were carried away to Babylon until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths (Leviticus 26:43; 2 Chronicles 36:21).

Adam was given dominion over the earth and all that was in it (Genesis 1:28-30; 2:15). Under God, mankind has the responsibility to look after the earth. Those that destroy or corrupt the earth will fall under God's judgement, so that we have it said that when the Lord comes he will: "destroy those that destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:18). (Destroy can be read corrupt) Then there is the matter of the earth's vegetation. When the Israelites went into the land and they planted fruit trees they were given instructions as to when they should start taking the fruit (Leviticus 19:23-25). They were also instructed not to destroy fruit trees when waging war against a city. They were to be preserved because they produced food that could be eaten (Deuteronomy 20:19-20).

As to animals, Scripture indicates that we should be concerned for them. It is said: "A righteous man is concerned for the life of his beast; but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12:10). From this passage we would gather that the righteous man would consider for his animals apart from the fact that their loss would be a loss to him as the owner. Other passages in the law of Moses show that animals are to have consideration. The injunction not to plough with an ox and an ass together would be one of them (Deuteronomy 22:10). An ox and an ass would not pull evenly and the ass being lower would suffer. Further, the ox and ass were to have rest on the seventh day as well the children of Israel (Exodus 23:12). Again we have: "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out [the corn]. " (Deuteronomy 25:4).

As to birds, the law of Moses prescribed that, if a bird's nest were found, though the young could be taken, the dam (mother) was not also to be taken. Although not specifically stated, the eggs could no doubt be taken and eaten as we do today hens eggs, and maybe the young if not eaten could possibly have been domesticated (Deuteronomy 22:6-7). This provision would help to ensure that a species was not significantly reduced in numbers or wiped out. It is to be noted that the passage speaks of a bird's nest that one finds by chance. The passage does not advocate searching for bird's nests. The fact that one comes across a nest by chance would suggest that it was not in a very safe place and would therefore probably be robbed by a predator sooner or later anyway and that taking the eggs or young would not be a loss that would not otherwise have been sustained. The song of birds is something that most people enjoy and it would be a great loss if it was diminished by a significant reduction in the bird population. Singing would suggest rejoicing, like the Psalmist who says: "Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice" (Psalm 65:8). Birds usually sing most in the morning and evening.

Again, the law of Moses proscribed the pollution of the environment. Thus there are provisions regarding toilet matters (Deuteronomy 23:12-14). Those that are not familiar with their Bibles may be surprised that such matters are in fact dealt with in Scripture.

The law of Moses also contains building regulations (Deuteronomy 22:8). The danger of falling is guarded against here. There are also regulations regarding animals which are dangerous (Exodus 21:28-36). The danger of being gored is to be guarded against. There are also quarantine laws to guard against the spread of disease (Leviticus 13), and so on.

We are not under the law of Moses, but this does not mean that there is not something to be learnt from the law's existence, both in regard to earthly matters and spiritual ones. Robbing the countryside by over farming, has its consequences as is now being realised. There are knock on effects so far as wildlife is concerned. The moral issue is greediness as we have seen above.