On each occasion that I have visited Israel it has never ceased to amaze me that there are rows upon rows of fruit and crops growing in the desert. It is a surreal sight to behold. Even having known about the irrigation systems where water is dispersed, I was intrigued and could not help but take a closer look at the tiny holes in the piping systems enabling produce to grow in hot and arid conditions. Not only was the scattering, regathering and reestablishment of Israel as a Nation State foretold but there are a few prophesies relating to abundant agricultural success.
Israel and agriculture
One cannot but notice how crucial agriculture was for Israel in ancient times. The first parable in Judges 9:7-15 is the parable of the trees and concerns the fig tree, olive tree, the vine, and the brambles. Many of Yeshua’s parables and sayings involved fruit, vines, and metaphors for an agriculturally dependent society. The Spring feasts and Autumn feasts where in relation to important agricultural harvests and were in contrast to the pagan ones of the surrounding nations.
Before we look at the prophesies it would be worth considering the land in ancient times, more modern times and at present. Josephus speaks of King Herod using the Masada mountain fortress at the top of the hill for cultivation. Israeli scientists have found evidence that the climate may well have been wetter two thousand years ago than it is today and are in general agreement with his assessment.[i]
More recent times explain the agricultural challenges that faced the early settlers.
Benjamin Disraeli made a fascinating comment in 1846. It is possible that he might have had Amos 9:13-15 in mind.
“The vineyards of Israel have ceased to exist, but the eternal law enjoins the Children of Israel to celebrate the vintage. A race that persists in celebrating its vintage, although it has no fruits to gather, will regain its vineyards.”[ii]
Mark Twain was a highly acclaimed, cynic, though equally humoured author. In ‘The Innocents Abroad’ he travelled through Europe though he took the most interest in the Holy Land near the end of the tour. Admittedly Twain was most likely in Palestine at the hottest time of the year since he writes “I would like to see the fringes of the Jordan in springtime, and Shechem, Esdraelon, Ajalon and the borders of Galilee-but even these spots would seem mere toy gardens set at wide intervals in the waste of limitless desolation.”[iii]Nonetheless he was certain that Palestine was dry and barren.
“Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of colour, they are un-picturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and despondent…Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods a spell that has withered its fields and fettered its energies.”[iv]
Those were not the only challenges. The problem of draining the swamps, the risk of catching malaria and having basic means and equipment to achieve that were further difficulties faced by the early settlers paving the way for subsequent generations.
‘Yet a group of Orthodox Jews had also broken away from the confines of their life in Jerusalem to try their hand at farming. They purchased a stretch of swampy land in the coastal plain close to the malaria-infested Yarkon River, 8 miles from the Mediterranean coast. The settlers were warned by a Greek doctor in Jaffa against settling in the swamp. “Over this entire blue and silent expanse of land I did not see a single flying bird,” wrote the doctor;”…the place must be so bad and rotten that even birds of prey, always obeying the inner instinct, take care not to approach the spot.” The settlers ignored this warning. In 1879 they named their settlement Petah Tikvah (literally, “Gate of Hope,” from Hosea 2:17). It was the first modern Jewish settlement. Today it is a city of more than 100,000 inhabitants and a part of metropolitan Tel Aviv.’[v]
Though undoubtedly the agricultural prophesies have further significance with regard to the still future Messianic kingdom, we are already seeing incredible parts of those prophecies being fulfilled. Israel is sending fruit to much of the world and the transformation of the land is something to be seen first- hand to be fully realised.
“Those who come He shall cause to take root in Jacob; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” (Isaiah 27:6)
Amos speaks of an incredibly successful period of productivity and links that with Israel being planted in their land from which they will never be uprooted.
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“When the plowman shall overtake the reaper,
And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
The mountains shall drip with sweet wine,
And all the hills shall flow with it.
14 I will bring back the captives of My people Israel;
They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them;
They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.
15 I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,”
Says the Lord your God.” (Amos 9:13-15)
Israel’s True Vine
Ultimately agricultural blessings are dependent upon God’s blessing. Israel’s true vine is the Messiah Himself. He is coming again, Before He does, make sure that you are abiding in the true vine so that you might be one of His disciples and ready for His return.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:1-8)
[i] Haim Watzman 3 September 1994 Lusher times at Masada New Scientist https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg14319410-500-lusher-times-at-masada/#
[ii] Benjamin Disraeli cited in Amos Elon Understanding Israel (Behrman House, 1976;New York), p66
[iii] Mark Twain The Innocents Abroad (Wordsworth Classics, 2010; Hertfordshire), p396
[iv] Ibid, p396
[v] Elon, p53