Deuteronomy 11:8-17 – Promise, Obedience, and Ecology


Deuteronomy 11:8-17


The Promised Land, unlike Egypt, does not have a yearly, predictable flooding river to water the ground, but rather is sustained by rains which may – or may not – come. The provision of water is tied to obedience. 


God warns the Israelites that the hill country that they are promised is not like Egypt. In Egypt, irrigation canals could be opened or closed with no more work than simply kicking a bit of dirt to channel the abundant Nile River water where it was needed. God instructs the Israelites that the hill country has valleys, and therefore runoff and streams. But water will only come from the rains that fall directly on the land. Permanent rivers, like the Jordan, are far too low beyond the hills for irrigation purposes. The necessary rain will only come when God provides it. And God will cease providing rain if the people cease their covenantal love and obedience. 

The ecology of the land will give rise to many farming parables that would not make sense in the flat, open land farming of Egypt. The Lord’s vineyard on a hill (Isaiah 5), and Jesus’ parable of broadcasting seeds with different types of soil in close proximity (Matthew 13, Luke 8) presuppose terrace farming practices.