Click this link for TOPICAL INDEX OF POSTS

About Me

A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Proof / Disproof of God based on Fallow Part One

The proof/disproof for god (Yahweh) involves:

Leviticus: 25:3 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune
thy vineyard, and gather in the produce thereof. 4 But in the seventh year shall be
a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath unto the LORD; thou shalt neither
sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. 5 That which groweth of itself of thy harvest
thou shalt not reap, and the grapes of thy undressed vine thou shalt not gather; it
shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. 6 And the sabbath-produce of the land
shall be for food for you: for thee, and for thy servant and for thy maid, and for
thy hired servant and for the settler by thy side that sojourn with thee; 7 and for
thy cattle, and for the beasts that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be
for food....18 Wherefore ye shall do My statutes, and keep Mine ordinances and
do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety. 19 And the land shall yield her
fruit, and ye shall eat until ye have enough, and dwell therein in safety. 20 And if ye
shall say: 'What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we may not sow, nor gather
in our increase'; 21 then I will command My blessing upon you in the sixth year,
and it shall bring forth produce for the three years. 22 And ye shall sow the eighth
year, and eat of the produce, the old store; until the ninth year, until her produce
come in, ye shall eat the old store.

Most, if not all academic scholars interpret Levit 25 (Shemita) regulations as
prescribing that every seventh year the entire country fallows simultaneously.

Shemita is a very complicated topic and I have limited my discussion almost solely
to the proposed 'proof/disproof'.

Before discussing the 'proof/disproof' please read the following important
background material carefully. It also provides academic support for Part 2 and
Part 3 and should be kept in mind while reading them. {ETA 12/15/2014 - A reader who desires to see the proof/disproof go to part 2 and part 3. Think of this Part 1 as supporting documentation to those other two posts.}

Native American Religions - by Paula Hartz 1997

P 53 Regarding Native Americans - "A sacred song can carry prayers to the spirit world, cure illness, and influence weather and events."

P 59  Native Americans believe that prayer and attention to the spirits can
influence the spirit world and therefore nature. Most agricultural tribes
performed a ritualistic dance to bring life giving rain."

African Religion by Aloysius Lugira 1999

P 73 " Rain is so important that there are special rites, and indeed, ritual specialists whose main function is to bring about rain at crucial times."

Religions of the American Indians - by Ake  Hultkrantz 1967, 1979 translation.

Page 274 In March masses of children are sacrificed to the Aztec god Tlaloc. The more they cry the more rain Tlaloc sends.


We have precedent for Jewish legal loopholes to abolish Shemita:

In Talmud Sanhedrin 26A R. Jannai abolishes it for economic reasons.

In Israel today there are available Rabbi sanctioned legal loopholes to plant
during the Shemita year.

What I am suggesting is the Priests or Rabbi's would have found ways to mitigate
Shemita in states of emergency, especially if life was in danger.


Handbook of Life in Bible Times by J.A. Thompson 1986

Page 132 Large government store houses have been excavated in Megiddo, Hazor,
Beer-Sheba and Beth Shemesh, where grain, wine, and olive oil were kept."


Life In Biblical Israel by King and Stager 2001

Page 91 There were granaries, silos, for grain storage both private and publicly
owned. There were storage pits, collard pithoi and large vessels.


The Economic Life of the Ancient World by Jules Toutain 1951

Page 9 Regarding Homeric and Hesiodic Society - To reduce soil exhaustion -  each
year one half of the land would fallow and the other half was sown.

Page 38 Greece by the  6th to 4th century B.C. fallowing was no longer the only
method to rest the soil. They had developed ways to obtain better yields than just
fallowing as in page 9.


The Scale and Nature of the Late Bronze Age Economies of Egypt and Cyprus by
Keith Padgham 2014

P 17 Cypriot Agriculture - It was customary to fallow up to 50% of cultivated
land. Also they practiced Bare Fallowing - Land was cultivated only once every
two to three years. Garnsey suggests that for dry or semi arid conditions: Year
one wheat or Barley. Year Two Legumes. Year Three Fallow.


From Debt - Slavery in Israel and the Ancient Near East by Gregory Chirichigno  1993

P 304 There were examples of 7-year cycles in the ancient near east which already
had religious and cultic associations before similar Israelite Sabbatical was
instituted, although it is not entirely clear the Israelites borrowed this ancient
practice from any other culture.

Page 310 From Hopkins - a practical way an ancient Israelite Farmer could satisfy
Shemita with biennial rotation.  He divides the land into two plots. {Notation - C -
crop, F - Fallow, S - Shemita Fallow the whole country.} He plants as follows. In
the first year Plot 1 is cropped, while Plot 2 is fallowed. The sequence starting
from year one is:

Plot 1 C F C F C C S  F C F C F C S
Plot 2 F C F C F C S  C F C F C C S

[This is similar to the ancient Homeric and Hesiodic Society
crop-fallow-crop-fallow etc:  system mentioned above.]

Hopkins suggests that Shemita would promote social cohesion and enforce
elasticity of agricultural production.


Anchor Bible Dictionary Volume 5 1992

Regarding Sabbatical Year page 857

The existence of a seven year cycle of nature is found in Ugaritic Texts (Gordon
1953). "Its purpose was connected with the victory of Baal over Mot, and was to
ensure agricultural prosperity."  There are some parallels (particularly the seventh
year) which indicate the close association of religious belief and agricultural


The EERDMANS Bible Dictionary 1987

P 898 "It is not certain whether the Sabbatical Year was ever consistently
practiced" After citing several Tenach verses goes on to say "This suggests that
the actual observance of the Sabbatical year had been dropped before the exile..."


The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia 1988

P 252 "Observance of the Sabbatical year possessed agricultural and economic
value, for it prevented continuos tilling of the land (Levit 25:4)"

"...for almost 500 years before the exile of Judah in 587 B.C. the Sabbatical
regulation seems to have been widely disregarded..."


The Anchor Bible Leviticus 23-27 by Jacob Milgrom 2001

P 2156 "As argued by Cohen (1979:45-49), The Sabbatical year was rarely observed..."

P  2182 Reaping is forbidden in the Sabbatical year, but every Israelite is permitted
to benefit from whatever happens to be growing in the field.

P 2158 Regarding the after growth of verse 5 "There is ample evidence that the
after growth during the first fallow year is so abundant that at times two or three
harvests are obtained from one sowing in the Galilee highlands in Wadi Artas,
near Bethleham (Kalisch 1867-72)."

P 2246 "From earliest times Farmers would have realized that fertility was a
coefficient of periodic fallowness...Also  there was an  economic advantage to
accumulate surplus during the first six years to be consumed in the seventh and
thereby obviate the need to engage in a money economy.  And as demonstrated by
M. Hildenbrand and Hopkins (1985, see comment C), leaving the entire land fallow
for the seventh year, provided there had been judicious rotation during the
previous six, need not have resulted in economic stress."


Ancient Israel by Roland Der Vaux 1965 edition

Page 173 Regarding Sabbatical Year - Seven year periods also occurs in Oriental


My Sabbath post discusses the mythological  importance of seven.

Sabbatical Cycle or Seasonal Pattern ? Reflections on a New Book  (Kapelrud's
Baal in the Ras Shamra 1952) by , C. Gordon in Orientalia Volume 22, 1953

From Ugaritic Literature:

Mot's death at the hands of Baal (or Anath) lasted 7 years.

"...Seven years may Baal fail, yea 8 the Rider of Clouds; let there be no dew, no

Text 52 deals with the ushering in of a 7 year cycle of plenty.

"Moreover, other texts  such as  'seven years the god is ful' (75:II:45) tie in with
this 'cyclicity', regardless who the god may be."

"Seven-year famines result from the  slaying of a hero such as Gilgamesh, Aqhat
and probably Saul and Jonathan.
People feared unseasonable drought, locust plagues, blight, ....
When a succession of sterile years occurred life became unbearable. "Such
catastrophes were coupled in the minds of the people of Mesopotamia, Ugarit,
Israel, Egypt etc. with the seven-motif and therefore it occurs to us that while
seasonal pattern is ruled out, Sabbatical Cycle fits the facts. The land is to lie
fallow in the seventh year so that the next Sabbatical Cycle will be a fertile one.

This suggests original fertility rites in conjunction with the  Sabbatical Cycle. That
the institution goes back to pre-Israelite origins is evident from the extrabibilical
texts we have cited, especially those from Ugarit."


The Sabbatical Year
A Eugene D. Owen in e: Agricultural History, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan., 1938), pp. 32-45

The following is directly quoted from Owen.

It is reasonably certain that the practice of fallowing land in some systematic way is much older
than the Mosaic legislation and that it was not confined to theHebrews but belonged rather to a stage of agricultural development.

It may be questioned whether the spontaneous crop of a coun
try would be sufficient to sustain its population for a year. How-
ever, there was no command against storing for the sabbatical
year and thus diligence and thrift were rewarded.

There was also a promise of a much greater crop in the sixth year, which
could not be a result of natural causes since then the ground would
be more nearly exhausted than at any other time in the seven-year
period. Furthermore, there is at least one account in ancient
literature of some such system. It is said that in early times
there were many places in Albania where the land when sown
once produced two or even three crops, the first a crop of even
fiftyfold and the others coming up without additional plowing.
Though Palestine was not usually reputed to be an exceedingly
fertile land, making allowances for the probable exaggeration
of hearsay with regard to Albania, some return should be ex
pected from natural seeding of grain left in the field.
The references in ancient literature to returns from seeding fall
naturally into two groups: one, in which yields are about what
would be expected from the same sort of soil today; and the other,
in which they are so large as to be considered impossible by Ellen
Churchill Semple.

In the former group is the statement of Marcus Tullius Cicero
(106-43 B.C.) referring to Leontine in Sicily, which reads: "On
an acre of Leontini ground about a medimnus of wheat is usually
sown, according to the regular and constant allowance of seed.
The land returns about eightfold on a fair average, but in an
extraordinarily favourable season, about tenfold," and that of
Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 ? B.C.) who said, "the influence
of the kind of soil in a district is so great that the same seed yields
in some places ten-fold, in others fifteen-fold, as in several parts
of Etruria."

Of the second group of references, in addition to Strabo, may
be mentioned the Biblical comment, "Then Isaac sowed in that
land, and received in the same year an hundredfold." Herodotus
(484?-423 B.C), referring to Mesopotamia, wrote: "This
territory is of all that we know the best by far for producing
corn . . . it is so good that it returns as much as two-hundred-fold
for the average, and when it bears at its best it produces three hundred-
fold." He said, moreover, of Libya: "when it bears
best it produces a hundred-fold, but the land in the region of
Kinyps produces sometimes as much as three-hundred-fold."
Varro claimed that, "In Italy too, in the country about Sybaris,
they say that the usual yield is a hundred fold, and in Syria near
Gadara, and in Africa in Byzacium from one peek the return is
likewise a hundred pecks." In the parable of the sower, Jesus
spoke of certain good ground which brought forth thirtyfold,
sixtyfold, and even a hundredfold. Caius Plinius Secundus
(23-79 A.D.), better known as Pliny the Younger, stated that in
ordinary years land in Byzacium yielded one hundred and fiftyfold.
In another place he said that the Byzacium crop that
yields so remarkably is common wheat.

No references have been found to ancient yields so low as fourfold
and fivefold. Cicero mentioned a yield of eightfold to ten
fold in Sicily, and Varro tenfold to fifteenfold in Etruria. Against
these Strabo spoke of a yield of fiftyfold in Albania, and there
are two Scriptural references, separated by hundreds of years, to
yields of one hundredfold in Syria with additional mention of
sixtyfold and thirtyfold in the later instance. Varro mentioned a
yield of one hundredfold in Syria near Gadara and in Sybaris,
Italy and Byzacium, Africa. Herodotus said that Libya at its
best produced one hundredfold and mentioned a yield of two
hundredfold to three hundredfold in Mesopotamia and three
hundredfold in Kinyps in Africa, and Pliny cited a yield of one
hundred and fiftyfold for Byzacium.

There are only two references to small yields, and they refer
to land in Italy and Sicily; to yields of fiftyfold or more there are
ten extending over three continents, being mentioned by six
authors one Hebrew, two Greeks, two Romans, and one Hebrew
writing in Greek. It is plausible, therefore, to presume that
there is some truth back of the latter statements.

Data compiled by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics of the
United States Department of Agriculture show that the average
return from wheat in the United States for the period 1928-1933
was 862,645 bushels harvested from 85,126 bushels of seed, a
little less than tenfold, and from corn, 2,522,065 bushels from
17,408 bushels of seed, or more than one hundred and fortyfourfold.
These figures are well within the range of the more
extravagant ancient claims.

Apart from the spiritual implications of the sabbatical year,
the curtailing of grain production necessitated a septennial
reduction in the number of livestock which, by culling out the
unfit, resulted in improvement in the quality of the remaining
animals. Furthermore, the decrease in the quantity of grain
reduced the tendency of the people to trade with neighboring
countries and served to prevent the accumulation of unwieldy
wealth. The people thus became more nearly economically
self-sufficient and capable of meeting their own needs at all
times. The year of fallow was also of unquestioned value to the
land. Fallow is a preventive of exhaustion, weediness, and larvae, and in dry
regions a conserver of moisture.


Studies in the Economics of the Bible by  Eli Ginzberg ,The Jewish
Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 22, No. 4 (Apr., 1932), pp. 343-408

The following is directly quoted from Ginzberg.

Leviticus 25.2

"In a later discussion of theories of land ownership we shall have
occasion to deal with the concept that the god or king is sole owner
of the land. This was a very widespread theory especially in Africa.
Cf. Breasted, Records of Ancient Egypt, Volume II- Lowie, Primitive

"In [Josephus's] Antiquities xiv 16-2 during one of Herod's wars it
is stated that the army was badly in need of provisions
for there was a famine in the land because it was a Sabbatical

Regarding Maccabees I-VI: 49:54 "Here is clearly
undeniable evidence that Jerusalem did make provision
for a seventh year. Likewise it assumes that the districts
around the city which supplied it with food must also have
observed the law to that degree at least that they did not
have any excess produce to sell."

"If the attempt be made to arrive at an estimate as to
what extent the agricultural part of the Sabbatical Laws
was observed, for there can be no doubt that it was not
entirely disregarded, one must not lose sight of the following

1. There is good reason to assume that at the time of
the Second Temple, Palestine was no longer the ideal land
flowing with milk and honey. The ravages of war must
have left their marks.
2. The population during the last hundred years before
the destruction of the Temple has been estimated at an
almost unbelievably high figure.
3. It is without an historical analogy anywhere that a
country not specially productive, possessed of a large
population, with comparatively primitive methods of agriculture
could have been able to remain idle for almost two years. "In the seventh you eat
the harvest of that which
was sown in the sixth, and as you are not permitted to sow
that year, it must also suffice for the eighth."
4. There are no historical records to show tremendous
importations of grain, nor is there any way of conceiving
how these could have been paid for.

In view of the foregoing arguments one is forced to
admit that it is totally impossible even to dream that all
Palestinian Jewry could have observed the Sabbatical Year.
It does not seem unlikely in view of the frequent reference
to Jerusalem in connection with the observance of the law,
and its relationship to a discussion of war in both Maccabees
and Josephus that a small observant minority around the
capital city permitted part or perhaps all of their fields
to lie fallow during this year.
The discussion of the second part of the law pertaining
to the Sabbatical Year can be much shorter than the
question which was just considered. Historical evidence
of the remission of debts during the seventh year is entirely
lacking. The very conservative nature of Jewish Law
and the reluctance of any individual, even a Hillel, to
inaugurate changes, leaves one but a single alternative in
attempting to explain the Prosbul.

Disregard of the regulation must have been almost universal and to ease
the conscience of a few law-believing if not law-abiding
individuals, Hillel finally officially permitted the law to be
disregarded by a technicality. It would not be surprising
that once again a small minority actually observed the
law. But it is out of the question that the rank and file of
a commercial nation could have lived a normal economic
life with such an institution actively in force. And there is
no reason to assume that they led an abnormal existence."

Continued Part 2

No comments: