A Land Built for Prayer

This verse presents a contrast between the Promised Land, the land of Israel, on the one hand, and the land of Egypt, on the other. The verse before this one stated:

Egypt is a land that gets its water from the Nile River. Each year the Nile naturally swells and provides an abundance of water to all the surrounding low farmland. It is an ever-present source of water. In other words, Egypt has abundant water at all times. The land of Israel does not.

Based on this context, we can see that what is described here is not a blessing. The Bible describes the land of Israel as a land where irrigation for agriculture is not so easy to come by. “It is a land of mountains and valleys.” Even the water that comes through rainfall is not evenly distributed. Water on mountains flows to the valleys. And even the water found in underground springs and aquifers is the result of rainwater that seeps down through the ground. Was God telling Israel that the land they were entering was inferior to Egypt?

The point of this verse, and of the verses that surround it, is not to simply inform the people of Israel about the topography and sources of water that await them in the promised land. The message is a spiritual one. The land of Israel is built for faith and prayer.

It is worth noting that according to historical sources regarding ancient Egyptian religion, although Egyptians had an extensive religious system, prayer was almost entirely non-existent. The average person was not called upon to pray at any point. There were priests who carried out service to the gods on behalf of the people, but individual prayer was absent. Egyptians enjoyed constant abundance. They had no reason to pray.

While wealth is obviously a blessing from God, it comes with spiritual risks. 

The simple truth is that when people are materially comfortable, faith suffers. The opposite should be true. Benefitting from the blessings of God ought to make us more grateful to Him, more aware of His hand on our lives. But human nature is such that we are prone to forget about God when our material needs are met. This is a challenge to all of us who live in the relative luxury of modern Western Civilization. For all our problems, we are undoubtedly the most secure and wealthy society in human history.

The land of Israel is a land that depends on rainwater for survival. This remains true to today. Israelis are a rare society where everyone is happy on rainy days. Israeli news media carefully follows the progress of rainfall during the winter months, reporting on the quantity and discussing how much more we still need. The need for rain is an ever-present concern for Israel.

In Jewish practice, special prayers for rain are added to the daily liturgy during the winter months of the year. We can not complacently sit back and rely on readily available resources. We need to hope. We need to pray.

With this perspective, we can understand that our verse does, in fact, describe a great blessing. Ironically, the blessing in our verse is the fact that the land of Israel does not have abundant natural water sources. Because of this, we more readily turn to God in prayer. And that’s just the way He wants it. 

We must always recognize that everything that we have, and take for granted, is a gift from God. We must always rely on Him.

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Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki

Rabbi Pesach Wolicki is the Executive Director of Israel365 Action and the author of Verses for Zion and Cup of Salvation: A Powerful Journey Through King David's Psalms of Praise. He is a frequent guest on Erick Stakelbeck's The Watchman and a regular contributor to Israel365news.com and The Jerusalem Post.

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