God’s Conscious Concern for the Land

“Looks After” or “Cares”

The Hebrew word for “looks after” in this verse is doresh. Almost all English translations render the word as “cares for.” The problem with this translation is that the verb root DRSh, which appears over 150 times in the Bible, simply does not mean “cares.” For example, this verb appears for the very first time in the Bible in Genesis 9.

After Noah and his family emerged from the ark after the flood, God gave them a number of commandments. Among them was the prohibition against murder:

But I will demand your blood of your lives, from every beast I will demand it. And from man, from every man for his brother, will I demand the life of man – Genesis 9:5

The word “demand,” repeated 3 times, is various conjugations of DRSh, the verb in our verse. 

But it’s not so simple for us to conclude based on this single verse in Genesis that DRSh means “demand.” Consider the following two examples, which make similar use of the word:

The children agitated within her. She said, ‘If so, why am I like this?’ and she went to inquire of the Lord.Genesis 25:22

You will seek from there the Lord your God, and you will find Him, when you search for Him with all your with all your heart and with all your soul.Deuteronomy 4:29

In neither of these two verses can we translate the verb DRSh as “demand” as it was translated in Genesis when God spoke to Noah. It is also difficult to apply the meanings that we have seen in the verses quoted from Genesis 25 and Deuteronomy 4 to our verse here in Deuteronomy 11.

Proactively anticipate

Based on the usages that we have seen in these few examples I would like to suggest that the verb root DRSh describes proactive anticipation. By “proactive anticipation” I mean, anticipation of an outcome that includes active steps by the one who is anticipating the outcome.

So, when God told Noah that He would hold people responsible for the deaths of other human beings, He meant that there will be an outcome, a punishment, that He will actively seek to bring about. Rebekah, pregnant with Jacob and Esau desperately wanted to know why her pregnancy was so difficult. She took steps to discover the explanation. And Deuteronomy 4:29 describes one who is making an effort to draw closer to God. The Bible is telling us that this must be an active process.

What does this mean for God?

Back to our verse. What does it mean that God always “looks after” or “cares for” – doresh – the land of Israel?

The previous verse told us that the land of Israel depends on rain. The verses that follow ours teach us that the amount of rainfall in the land of Israel depends entirely on the extent to which the nation of Israel dwelling in the land is obedient to God’s commandments. Based on both the context just outlined and our brief exploration of the meaning of the verb DRSh, I’d like to suggest an important lesson from this verse.

In this passage in Deuteronomy, the Bible describes a unique system for rainfall. If the nation of Israel prays, obeys the commandments, and lives in accordance with God’s will, there will be abundant rain. If they violate God’s will and turn to false gods, rain will not fall. Reading this, one might be led to think that, as supernatural as this cause-and-effect system is, it works in an unconscious and automated way. In other words, God set up a system whereby the direct result of our obedience or disobedience will be more or less rainfall. God set it up, so to speak, and the program runs. Obeying the commandments would be like putting money in a vending machine.

Our verse teaches us that this understanding is incorrect. While it’s true that the quantity of rainfall will be determined by our obedience to God, it is not an automated and unconscious system. God will always be actively involved, always consciously evaluating and deciding how to respond to our actions. This idea is then emphasized by the second half of the verse, “the eyes of the Lord your God are upon it from the beginning of the year until year’s end.”

In other words, God is actively concerned and involved. He didn’t simply set up a system within which we then operate. Our obedience to His will and His corresponding blessing of rain is a constant expression of an active and conscious relationship.

God’s promises of reward or punishment are not simply rules that are then unconsciously activated by our actions. God is always watching, always concerned, always involved.

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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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