Questions From Readers
● On page 280 of the book “This Means Everlasting Life” it states: “God’s curse on the earth outside Eden lasted till the flood, but all of men’s efforts since then at cultivating the soil have failed to convert the now widely populated earth into a paradise.” Does this mean that the earth is not now under the curse pronounced at the time Adam was ousted from Eden?—U. L., Canada.
Yes, that is the point being made. When ejecting Adam from Eden God said: “Because you followed your wife’s suggestions, and ate from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat, cursed shall be the ground through you, in suffering shall you gain your living from it as long as you live; thorns and thistles shall it produce for you, so that you will have to eat wild plants. By the sweat of your brow shall you earn your living.” (Gen. 3:17-19, AT) Centuries later the Noachian flood cleansed the earth of wickedness, leaving only persons counted righteous in God’s sight and who were devoted to true worship. Jehovah gave them a good start, reissued the command to multiply and fill the earth, and placed under man’s power the animal and plant realms, with no handicapping curse on the earth: “I will never again curse the soil because of man.” However, be it noted that the mandate to subdue the earth issued to Adam was not included in that given to Noah, indicating it would not be accomplished by the mere lifting of the curse.—Gen. 1:28; 6:17; 8:21; 9:1-17, AT.
Just a few centuries later one part of the earth was compared with Eden because of its lush beauty: “Lot looked out, and saw that the whole basin of the Jordan was well watered everywhere (this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the LORD’S own garden.” (Gen. 13:10, AT) Nor does the following report of the spies on the Promised Land sound like a cursed earth that provided only wild plants for food: “Reaching the valley of Eshcol, they cut a branch from there with a single cluster of grapes, and it took two of them to carry it on a stretcher, along with some pomegranates and some figs.” When later presenting this fruit to the Israelite community the spies said concerning the land: “It surely does flow with milk and honey, and here is its fruit.” (Num. 13:23-27, AT) Certainly Moses was not describing a cursed earth when using these glowing terms concerning the Promised Land, whose caretaker was the Lord:
“The LORD your God is bringing you into a fine land, a land with streams of water, with springs and pools welling up in the valleys and on the hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, fig-trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil-producing olives and honey; a land where you may eat food without stint, lacking nothing in it; a land whose stones contain iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.” “The land which you are invading for conquest is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it by hand like a vegetable garden. On the contrary, the land into which you are crossing for conquest is a land of hills and valleys, watered by rain from the sky, a land for which the LORD your God cares, the eyes of the LORD your God being continually on it, from the beginning to the end of the year. If you will but heed the commands that I am giving you today, to love the LORD your God, and serve him with all your mind and heart, he will give you rain for your land in due season, the winter rain and the spring rain, so that you will gather in your grain and wine and oil, and he will produce grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat your fill. Take care lest you be deceived into turning aside to serve alien gods and to pay homage to them, and the anger of the LORD blaze against you, and he shut up the skies so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you quickly perish off the fine land that the LORD is about to give you. See, I am putting before you today a blessing and a curse: a blessing, if you heed the commands of the LORD your God which I am giving you today; and a curse, if you do not heed the commands of the LORD your God.”—Deut. 8:7-9; 11:10-17, 26-28, AT; see also Isa. 51:3; Ezek. 20:6, 15; 36:35; Joel 2:3.
Note that by disobedience the Edenic beauty of the land would be lost, and subsequent rebellious unfaithfulness on the part of the Israelites did cause the loss of the paradiselike condition of the Promised Land. The earth today is not ordained to bring forth thorns and thistles as a result of the curse in Eden. That curse vanished with the Flood waters. In many parts of the earth today there are natural spots of breath-taking beauty and grandeur, and other locations men have transformed into glorious parks and gardens. But for the most part men have ruined the earth and ravaged the animal and plant realms because of commercial greed or sheer destructive lust. They have forgotten or ignored God’s purpose for man and the earth, shunned Jehovah’s true worship, and brought upon themselves divine disfavor rather than blessings, just as the Israelites did. The Bible speaks of curses for disobedience, and these curses will be climaxed at Armageddon in a devouring of earth’s wicked dwellers, when Jehovah God through Christ will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth”. (Lev. 26:14-39; Deut. 27:15-26; 28:15-68; Isa. 24:5, 6; Rev. 11:18, NW) It is the curse for disobedience and false worship that Revelation 22:3 (NW) mentions: “And no more will there be any curse.” The anointed remnant of spiritual Israel have been cleansed of past derelictions in matters of worship, and their field of worship has become pure and blessed like the original Eden. In Jehovah’s due time and under the reign of Christ’s kingdom, Armageddon survivors and resurrected ones will be used to fulfill the mandate to subdue the literal earth and transform it into an earth-wide paradise filled with praise for Jehovah.—Ps. 150:1-6.
● Why did Jehovah select Israel’s first human king from the tribe of Benjamin and hold out to that one the hope of the kingship remaining in his house forever, when previous prophecy had named Judah as the tribe from which kings would come?—R. G., Cuba.
Leah was the first one to marry and bear children for Jacob, but it was so only by a deception worked on Jacob. Rachel was the one he loved and bargained for, and hence it was to Rachel’s offspring that the birthright was to go, though Jacob’s offspring by Leah were older. (Gen. 29:18-28) Sarah was the beloved wife of Abraham, and it was to her offspring Isaac that the birthright went, even though Abraham’s son Ishmael by Hagar was older. So it was with Rachel’s offspring Joseph. However, Joseph became no tribal head in Israel, but his sons Manasseh and Ephraim did. Manasseh was the older, but divine direction caused the better blessing to go to Ephraim. Of him Jehovah said: “Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Gen. 48:8-20; Jer. 31:9) However, the tribe of Ephraim later eliminated itself from this favored position by many derelictions, and the psalmist tells of Jehovah’s action: “He refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: but chose the tribe of Judah.”—Ps. 78:9, 67, 68.
With Joseph, by Ephraim’s failure, eliminated, Rachel’s other offspring, Benjamin, had to have its chance. That opportunity came with Saul’s anointing as king, for Saul was a Benjamite. At 1 Samuel 13:13 it speaks of the possibility of Saul’s kingdom being established forever; but we must remember that the Hebrew word here translated “forever” is ohlahm. As shown in previous Watchtowers and in the “Let God Be True” book, this Hebrew word means a period of concealed or indefinite time, not necessarily for everlasting. True, Jehovah God knew before time that the kingdom would not remain in the house of Benjamin; but it was Saul’s own presumptuous and faithless course that caused his loss of the kingship for his household and tribe. The mere exercise of Jehovah’s power of foreknowledge did not actively force Saul to act reprehensibly. On his own Saul acted contrary to the express commands of Jehovah God, fully responsible for these violations in the face of knowledge of his sins.
With the favored Rachel’s offspring having had their chance, the older sons of Leah would be in line for the blessing of kingship. Ahead of Judah were Reuben, Simeon and Levi. All three of these were eliminated by the occurrences mentioned by Jacob at the time of his blessing of his sons. (Gen. 49:3-7) Moreover, later the Levites acted in noteworthy faithfulness and were rewarded by being given the blessings of the priesthood. That would prevent any of their number from becoming king. So Judah was now next in line, and the prophecy at Genesis 49:8-12 shows he would succeed in gaining the kingship, and being the human ancestor of the King who will reign forever, Christ Jesus. Of course, in all this Jehovah was under no obligation to conform to the general practice concerning the firstborn and birthright privileges. He could have chosen whomever he wanted, right at the outset, without eliminating those first in line according to human procedures.