Reader: Tilling Is (Sort Of) Biblical
I read your recent articles on tilling with interest, and as you requested readers’ responses, herewith are my thoughts on tilling:
I believe tilling to be a concept described in a positive light in Scripture …but firstly I must distinguish between the modern concept and the original idea.
The modern concept of mouldboard plowing that opens the soil deeply, and inverts and buries the topsoil under the subsoil, is a harmful practice, and does not embody good husbandry or stewardship of the land. I am in total sympathy with the “no-till” movement’s reaction against this practice.
I do believe that we should measure any idea against Scripture. Here is what I found…
From the very beginning God purposed that man should till the soil –
Gen 2:5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.
Gen 3:23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
1Ch 27:26 And over them that did the work of the field for tillage of the ground was Ezri the son of Chelub:
Pro 13:23 Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that is destroyed for want of judgment.
I do realize that the words “till” and “tillage” have a broader meaning than simply to draw furrows in the soil, it also embodies the concept of serving the land, of stewardship and husbandry, but Scripture is clear that both the concepts of tilling and plowing, which are used alternately, include this furrowing in the soil, and describes many instances where draft animals were used to accomplish this:
1Sa 14:14 And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armourbearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow.
1Ki 19:19 So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.
Pro 20:4 The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.
Luk 17:7 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
1Cor 9:10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
The Hebrew word for plow (plough) found in Scripture is khaw-rash’: A primitive root; to scratch, that is, (by implication) to engrave, plough.
I therefore base my view of plowing or tilling on what I find in Scripture: It is something that God purposed man to do right from the beginning of creation, and something we find man doing right through Scripture, in both Old and New Testaments.
It involves scratching/drawing furrows in the soil, often by means of powered assistance (draft animals used in Scripture – and looking at Elisha’s example could be quite large and powerful – he plowed with 12 yoke of oxen – 24 beasts pulling his plow…that’s more power and traction than a small modern tractor provides!)
If we have to apply the Scriptural concept of tilling or plowing in our farming practices today it would steer us away from much of what is harmful to the land, and let us do what Scripture reveals is good for the land. In my understanding, using implements such as a chisel plough to break compacted soil or to make furrows, or a rake to even out soil or make a seedbed, or lightly using a disc plow to break clods or cut and spread green manures into the topsoil would be in harmony with this concept.
Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? Doth he open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rye in their place? For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.