Environmental Law In Deuteronomy: One Lens On A Biblical Theology Of Creation Care -- By: Sandra Richter

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 20:3 (NA 2010)
Article: Environmental Law In Deuteronomy: One Lens On A Biblical Theology Of Creation Care
Author: Sandra Richter

Environmental Law In Deuteronomy: One Lens On A Biblical Theology Of Creation Care

Sandra Richter

Wesley Biblical Seminary

Too often the Church dismisses the issue of environmentalism as peripheral, or even alien, to the theological witness of the Bible. Yet the testimony of both Old and New Testaments is that God is invested in the well-being of the earth and its creatures and that humanity bears responsibility as God’s steward of the same. This essay investigates this topic as it is communicated through the politeia of ancient Israel, the book of Deuteronomy. The laws of land tenure, agriculture, warfare, wild creatures, and animal husbandry are examined with an eye toward the larger biblical theological message of the Bible. Israel’s practice is compared to the norms of its ancient society, and modern parallels are proposed.

Key Words: environmentalism, deuteronomic law, biblical theology, agriculture, animal husbandry

Author’s note: This essay was presented as a plenary paper at the annual meeting of the Institute for Biblical Research, November 22, 2008. Portions have appeared previously in my “Biblical Theology of Creation Care,” The Asbury Journal 62 (2007), 67-76. My thanks are due to a number of experts and practitioners who helped me navigate data outside the field of biblical studies: Dr. Ben Brammell of the Department of Biology at the University of Kentucky; Frank Allen Cross Jr., a second-generation row crop and small grain farmer in Madera County, California; Scot Hoeksema, a biochemical engineer and botanist, currently residing in Lexington, KY; Ryan Strebeck of the Strebeck Family Ranch, a third generation cattle rancher of eastern New Mexico and Elk City, KS; and Ann Bell Stone of Elmwood Stock Farm, a diversified agriculture farm in Georgetown, KY.


In chaps. 38 and 39 of the book that bears his name, Job is hammered with a series of questions from on high. The intent of this interrogation? To remind him that he is creature, not Creator.

Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, or caused the dawn to know its place? . . . Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or have you walked in the recesses of the deep? . . . Is it by your

understanding that the hawk soars, stretching his wings toward the south? Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up, and makes his nest on high? (Job 38:12, 16; 39:26-27)

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