February 4, 2014

Country Bumpkins I: People of the Land, People of God

Raking Hay

Joe Jones
The bible is filled with people that live in an agrarian or farming culture. People with simple (not simple-minded) straight-forward focus and work ethic. People that appreciate the reward of a hard days labor and understand there is a unique appreciation instilled having toiled in effort for what one attains. Even some of the laws of Moses pertain to farming. Many of the feasts in the Pentateuch revolved around the harvest and the agrarian culture. Many of the parables and principles given in the Bible are steeped in pastoral and agrarian language: Vines, trees, seed, wheat, first fruits, harvest, etc. So it is not odd that we should find mention of farmers or people that worked the land all throughout the Bible. For the purposes of this post, farming will be defined as a specialized labor or effort that engages in agriculture, raising living animals or plant life for food or raw materials. It can also refer to One who creates the aforementioned items too (God).

The term farmer usually applies to someone who does some combination of raising field crops, orchards, vineyards and one that raises poultry, beef of other livestock. The farmer themselves might actually be the owner of the farmed land or it could be a laborer on land owned by others.

Right from the beginning of God's Creation we see farming as God is not only the original Creator but He is also the original Farmer. 

Genesis 1:28-30 ~ And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” 

It is right in the very context of the Creation that we see the first farming and the first farmer Himself: God. We also see him give dominion to man to essentially do the same.

Genesis 2:8-9 ~ “…and the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.

It is immediately after the Fall that we see man need to exert exceptional effort to get the ground to yield what God had allowed initially without effort. In reference to the Fall and its effects…

Genesis 3:17-19 ~ “…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

It is ironic that these passages elaborating on the curse and what it has done to the Creation come immediately after the Protoevangelium or the first mention of the promised Messiah that would come from humanity.

Genesis 3:15 ~ And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The Protoevangelium was essentially the first mention of the Gospel or God’s statement to Adam and Eve (humanity) about the future relationship between the serpent (Devil) and man. Because the serpent had caused the Fall of man, a member of the human race would be the serpents undoing.

Farther on after the Fall in Genesis we see that Cain and Abel were farmers.

Genesis 4:2 ~ “Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.”

We know of Abel’s eventual fate and Cain’s horrible sin but their livelihood or trades are often quickly glanced over in pursuit of the more theological aspects of their sin. What we usually fail to see is that Cain was a tiller of the ground and Abel was a keeper of flocks or a herder that kept livestock (in pain you shall eat of it). Having been driven from Eden, the promised curse upon the ground comes to full fruition on the next generation. Cain and Abel are working the very cursed Creation that their parent’s sin had initiated. The parents clearly influenced the children’s chosen path in life in terms of their life’s employment. It is implied from reading the text that Adam probably would've had to have become a farmer after the expulsion from Eden or he and Eve would've starved. Neither Cain nor Abel sat idly around doing nothing but labored and worked which was an emulation of their earthly father and their Father in Heaven. In participating in this trade Cain and Abel work together with God to produce a viable good that is helpful to everyone. Ironically, they partially reverse an effect of the curse of the Fall. How? By raising the grain and livestock as it is both the work of God and human.

We also see that even in light of the Fall, man is still fruitful and still multiplying. This of course is allowed because of God’s mercy and grace. In light of this, “the boys” presented offerings to God. Although sin has put them outside of Eden, grace and mercy has kept them alive to still gain blessing from God. Sadly, we will see the difference in the true and false worshiper when it comes time for these two men to make their offerings to God…but that is another topic for another post.

When we reach the post- antediluvian period (post-flood) we see Noah shifts from shipbuilding to become a farmer.

Genesis 9:20 ~ “Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard.”

I guess what is interesting in this verse is that it tells us that Noah was already a “man of the soil”. Just as Adam and his sons had to find purpose and enterprise in their labor, so too the new head of the new race would need to follow suit. It also means that Noah must have been a husbandman or farmer before he was a mechanic or carpenter (the ark). He must have been able to provide sustenance for both himself and his family while building the ark. It is not like they had a diner down the street to stop in for a meal. In all these episodes we see the man or God appointed spiritual leader of the family providing for his family and doing so in obedience to God.

What I see in the passage of Noah planting a vineyard and getting drunk is a painful repeat of Genesis 1-3. We see the new head of the race (Noah) carrying within him the sin of his forefather (Adam). Noah having planted a vineyard reaps God’s blessing in its output, not unlike Adam and Eve reaping the blessing of God having planted Eden. But just like the stumble of Eve and then Adam in the Garden…so too we see the stumble of Noah in his passed-out drunkenness and the impropriety of his son. We see the imputed sin of Adam that is not eradicable without the eradication of all humanity. The sin and evil is within all humanity (Romans 3). Hence the need for all men to repent and turn to Christ.

So the next time you hear someone say, “I’m a farmer like my father was before me.” It might very well have a deeper and double meaning. For God Himself has within His infinite attributes that of a laborer, a worker, a farmer and a herder. He is a God that creates and raises things. He is a grower and a vine-dresser of vineyards/orchards. He is the first fruits of the Resurrection. He is the God of the harvest. He is the Good Shepherd and a tender of a flock.

Luke 10:2“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Sorry folks, I take pride in being labeled a backwoods Bible-thumping hick and a country bumpkin. I consider it a badge of honor and it appears that I am in good company when I read the Bible.

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