Wow! Thanks everyone for the great discussion on what the Bible says about the life of the land. You all covered a lot of good points and came up with a lot of helpful Scriptures. I don’t know if I have whole lot more to add, but I will give a few summarizing thoughts.
1. There are different types of life: When we try to answer the question, “Does land have life?”, we have to define what we mean by ‘life’. If we mean the breath of life, as the Bible refers to the life of animals and people (Gen. 1:30, 2:7), then we would obviously have to answer no. But apparently there is a variety of what could be considered life. Fish and sea creatures apparently are alive, even though they don’t have the breath of life. And plants, although vastly different from what we would consider creatures, definitely have life compared to rocks and minerals (seeds dying, coming to life, 1 Cor. 15:36), though perhaps the reference to them ‘living’ and ‘dying’ is more figurative.
All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 1 Corinthians 15:39
2. Life must be valued and respected: Another thing I observe in Scripture is the principle that life is precious and must be valued and respected. However, not all life has the same value and isn’t all respected in the same degree. The life of man (male and female of every ‘race’), made in the image of God, is the most valued of all life and God forbids the shedding of man’s blood (Exodus 20:12) except in the protection of life (self-defense, Neh. 4:14) and community (capital punishment, Exodus 21:12). The life of animals is far less valuable than man’s, but God still requires us to respect it. Although we have been given the right to take the life of animals for our own use (Gen. 9:3), we must not abuse animals unnecessarily (Prov. 12:10) nor are we to eat their blood (Gen. 9:4), because the blood represents the life of the animal. As far as plants, it doesn’t appear to me in Scripture that they ‘die’ in the same way as living things with spirits (man and animals, Eccl. 3:21). As Dan said, I can only find were Scripture refers to plants as withering, not dying. And I find no references where we are commanded to respect the ‘life’ of plants. However, I would say the passage in Leviticus 19:19 about mingling seed could refer to an honoring of the design of the plants, and the commandment for the Israelites to abstain from cutting down fruit trees when besieging a city could refer to a recognition and appreciation of the gift of plants God has given for our benefit.
3. Only life can work and rest: As far as I can tell, the Scriptures never refer to anything ‘non-living’ as working or resting. In the Ten Commandments, the commandment relating to the Sabbath day of rest lists some of the things that must rest: family, servants, livestock, and foreigners, all apparently living. And the only other thing that I know of that God ever commanded us to let rest is the land (Lev. 25:4). Now, I wouldn’t say that Scripture supported the idea that land is a ‘being’, with a spirit. However, the term ‘land’ could easily include the complicated system of life that is based in the soil, as well as the physical ground itself. This living system is what the commandment seems to be directed at in terms of resting. It is this system that expends energy to bring forth food. And it is this system that God has chosen to let rest from plowing and planting.
Comment Quote: “Why would something dead need to rest?” -Nancy
4. Land must be treated as something living: Based on my studies so far of the Bible, I would say that land definitely doesn’t have the same kind of life that God has given to man and animals. However, although the definitions of ‘land’ and ‘life’ can be confusing, it seems clear that the Lord wants us to treat the land (the ground and its living system) with some of the same kind of respect that we give other living creatures that can be worked. Otherwise the land becomes merely an inanimate resource to use and manipulate as we see fit, instead of a wonderful gift from the Lord that we should care for and use for His Glory.
Comment Quote: “Whether or not it is “alive” in the sense that a cat or a pear tree are alive, we are to treat the land as if it were alive.” -Ellen
P.S. In case you haven’t already noticed, this post is slightly tardy, and I apologize. As most homesteader/farmer/bloggers know, it is hard to make time to blog when the immediacies of the farm and family are ever crying for our attention. But, as God gives me grace, I will do my best to be more consistent. Thank you for your patience and support.