Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 11 December 2008


By Jim Jordal

Continuing from last week our discussion of Isaiah 3:13-15, we remember that the prophet charges the elders and princes (political, social and economic leaders today) of his people with four major sins: eating up the vineyard, keeping the plunder of the poor in their houses, crushing My people, and grinding the faces of the poor. Today, we look at the first of these charges: "For you have eaten up the vineyard…"

The vineyard metaphor is especially instructive since vineyards were the sources of productivity and wealth for both owner and worker. Isaiah described the house of Israel as the "vineyard of the Lord" (Isa. 5:7), as he lamented the injustice and oppression found within his nation. The phrase "eating up the vineyard" in modern idiom would mean destroying the people through misuse of productive wealth as a result of ignorance, deliberate abuse, greed, or incompetence. Examples would be damaging the earth through overuse, polluting waterways and the air because it’s cheaper than disposing of wastes properly, and in general befouling and corrupting everything—including people--that the oppressors touch. Isn’t this a fairly accurate description of what the colossus of global corporate capitalism often does in its drive for profits?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the vast "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico just off the mouth of the Mississippi River. It covers tens of thousands of square miles and increases in size every year. Why? Because of runoff into the river from heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers in the many states drained by the Mississippi. And why so much use of chemicals in farming? Because it’s cheaper and produces profit more quickly than doing it the right way using crop rotation, contour plowing, periodic fallowing, and natural fertilizers.

Especially significant now is the farm-belt race to replace gasoline with ethanol and other biomass products. Little or no mention is made by ethanol supporters of the destruction wrought by increased corn production in the form of degraded soils (corn requires large amounts of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizer) and lost conservation areas now being plowed up to raise more corn. Nor is there serious concern that world food prices have recently spiked upward at an alarming rate, especially for the Third World poor. Nor does it seem to matter that even if we devoted all corn production to ethanol we would only produce about three days worth of fuel, not to mention the fact that ethanol takes as much energy to produce as it gives. Neither do we consider what recent reports show—that plowing millions of acres of new land will result in loss of carbon retention by plant roots that will take many years to overcome. And until the advent of four-dollar gasoline almost nobody spoke seriously of energy conservation measures like large mandatory increases in automotive gas mileage and plug-in electric cars. What stupid suggestions! We can’t afford to threaten the auto industry (even though it’s virtually bankrupt) and its hordes of suppliers, or the oil industry with such nonsense. So it’s mostly human ignorance and the craze for profits that’s eating up the vineyard. Put the foot to the throttle with bigger and faster cars, no matter what the outcome.

Another method now "eating up the vineyard" is the continuous outsourcing and off shoring of high-paying American jobs. Economists patiently explain that increased trade results in more jobs for everyone because of the benefits of specialization and efficient use of resources. But try to tell that to the formerly middle class Ohio factory workers losing their lifetime $25 per hour manufacturing positions to $8 service sector jobs. They know something is terribly wrong, even if many politicians do not.

Whatever happened to God’s advice to Adam and Eve that they should "dress and keep" his Edenic creation? Rather than respect and care for God’s earth, the new paradigm became exploitation through subduing and dominating the earth and its wealth and creatures, including humans.

Today destruction of the earth and its creatures accelerates. As one form of earthly pillage is countered, another takes its place—and there seems no end. Bible prophets identified the rapacious global corporate system now in place as commercial Babylon (see Jer. 50, 51, and Rev. 18). It stands in direct antithesis to the Jubilee provisions (Lev. 25) given by God for the economic and social welfare of His people. These Divine principles for human betterment included Sabbath rest, cessation of excessive capital accumulation, sharing of the earth’s natural wealth by all people, fair treatment of debtors, no usury, and freedom for those in economic bondage. When God’s system of plenty for everyone replaces the human system of scarcity and oppression, then shall "all the trees of the field clap their hands" in joy, as Isaiah prophesies.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 11 December 2008 )