Why Jehovah Empties the Earth
“The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.”—Isa. 24:5, RS.
1, 2 What questions are posed about treatment of religious buildings, and how would you react in such situations?
ARE you a Catholic? What if someone should come into your cathedral, smear paint on the wall, overturn the seats, use a hatchet on the woodwork, break the stained-glass windows and smash the altar? Would you want him thrown out? Or would you shrug it off and let him remain to continue his vandalism and completely disrupt the services? Are you a Protestant? Would you let someone do that to your church building, after you had contributed money to build it? Maybe you are a Jew. Would you allow a man to wreck your synagogue? Or would you throw him out? Whatever your religion, if you have planned a place of worship, given money to build it, maybe even helped put it up with your own hands, then invited others to come worship with you there, and when they came they desecrated it and ruined it, would you be unconcerned and calmly let them continue their vandalism? Or would you take action against them?
2 Maybe it is not a church you have built. Maybe it is a museum or a library or a capitol building for your government. It is built for a special purpose. You want to see that purpose fulfilled. Now a crowd comes into the building to deface and mar it. Perhaps they do not wreck it. They may just misuse it, prevent its being used for the intended purpose. Even if they took care of the building, would you want your library turned into a rumpus room, or your church used for a brothel? That is not why you built it. You would rightly oust those who perverted its use. Moreover, you would have no respect for anyone who would let his building be so misused or ruined, would you?
3. What is God’s purpose for the earth, and man’s share in it?
3 So it is with God and the earth. God created the earth. He spent thousands of years preparing it for man’s habitation. He brought in light, purified the atmosphere, divided off sea and dry land, created a great variety of plants and animals, and finally gave man and woman their start in a beautiful paradise garden. They were to “cultivate it and to take care of it” and were to lovingly “have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every creeping animal” and were themselves to “be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.” By man’s care the created beauties of the earth with its grand variety of plant and animal life were to be kept at their peak, and by man’s reproducing his kind Jehovah’s purpose for making the earth could be accomplished: “Thus saith Jehovah that created the heavens, the God that formed the earth and made it, that established it and created it not a waste, that formed it to be inhabited: I am Jehovah; and there is none else.”—Gen. 2:15; 1:26, 28, NW; Isa 45:18, AS.
4. Who or what is to reflect Jehovah’s praise?
4 That was Jehovah’s purpose in creating the earth. He wanted it inhabited by obedient persons, told the first man that when he disobeyed he would die, and clearly and logically implied by this that so long as the man and his wife were obedient they would never die off the earth. The beautiful earth, along with the people on it and the universe around it, was to reflect his praise: “Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise the LORD [Jehovah] from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children!”—Ps. 148:2, 3, 7-12, RS.
5. How can both animate and inanimate things praise Jehovah without speaking?
5 But how can the voiceless sun and moon and stars praise Jehovah? In the same way that the fine craftsmanship of an object a man has made bespeaks the skill and wisdom of that man: “The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the sky shows forth the work of his hands. Day unto day pours forth speech, and night unto night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes forth through all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” And without speaking the earth, with its majestic mountains and green valleys teeming with fascinating birds and animals, proclaims the infinite wisdom and power of the Almighty God who made it. All of the glorious visible creation of God mirrors the majesty of Jehovah: “For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are understood by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.”—Ps. 19:1-4, AT; Rom. 1:20, NW.
6. Why is it reasonable to expect man to praise God?
6 But man, like the angels, was specially privileged. He was given intelligence, the power of speech, and the godly qualities of justice, love, wisdom and power. He was equipped to care for the earth and the animal life on it, to see that everything fully reflected Jehovah’s glory, and with his tongue he could add his verbal praise to swell the chorus ascending heavenward from earth. Could not God reasonably expect man’s praise and gratitude, in view of all he did for man? Is it not natural to show gratitude? Are not men considered rude if they fail to acknowledge courtesies or small favors from others? A normally kind person is unhappy if he is denied opportunity to show appreciation to his benefactors. To give expression to good impulses is pleasant; to smother such expression is a torment and a frustration. And how much more so is it when you have received, not just a minor courtesy or favor, but an earthly home and life itself! So Jehovah does not repress us but invites through the psalmist our expressions of praise: “Let everything that hath breath praise Jehovah.”—Ps. 150:6, AS.
7. What has resulted from the activities of some men, and what will Jehovah logically do?
7 But what if many men on earth misused it and its animals? What if they ruined the grasslands and stripped off the forests so that unimpeded erosion carried off the good topsoil and left dustbowls and deserts? These mountains and valleys would no longer reflect Jehovah’s praiseworthy creative powers. And if they slaughtered the animals and birds for selfish gain or merely for sport, these living creatures would vanish and no longer reflect Jehovah’s creative wisdom. Worse, if they wage war, follow scorched-earth policies and soak the soil with human blood, will mankind be a praise to Jehovah their Creator? Would not such activities impair earth’s ability to reflect the invisible, praiseworthy qualities of Jehovah? Would it not be like a man smearing mud on a mirror? Furthermore, would it not be like vandals coming into your church building, desecrating it and disrupting the religious services? If they so abused your invitation to come for worship, you would rightly put them out. By the same logic, should not Jehovah remove from the earth any who damage and desecrate it and spoil it for proper use by those who appreciate it and its Creator? Jehovah will remove such polluters of the earth; they shall not prevent the realization of his expressed purpose regarding the earth as a planet populated by his praisers: “I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”—Isa. 46:11.
WHY ISRAEL WAS TO DRIVE OUT THE CANAANITES
8. What do some presumptuous critics say, and wherein are they inconsistent?
8 Presumptuous critics of Jehovah say that he acted like an unfair bully when he told Israel to drive out the Canaanites from the Promised Land. It does not disturb them that their ancestors drove previous peoples from the land they now occupy, or that remnants of these previous peoples may now be herded onto barren reservations and left to starve. But it upsets them to think that God backed up the ousting of the Canaanites when Israel entered the land. Their ancestors did not own the earth, but they drove others from it. However, Jehovah owns the earth and everyone on it; yet they criticize him for doing as he sees fit with his own: “The earth is Jehovah’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” Moreover, their blasphemy of God is born of their ignorance of his Word, they being blind to the reason for God’s command to oust the Canaanites from the land.—Ps. 24:1, AS.
9. Why did God dispossess the Canaanites from the land of Canaan?
9 Did God despise the Canaanites without a cause? Was he showing race prejudice against them, discriminating against them because of nationality? Was it a case of special favoritism, removing them just to give the land to his chosen nation of Israel? To say yes is to say you are ignorant of the facts of the case. Israel was told why God would dispossess the Canaanites: “Do not say in your heart when Jehovah your God pushes them away from before you this, ‘It was for my own righteousness that Jehovah has brought me in to take possession of this land,’ whereas it is for the wickedness of these nations that Jehovah is driving them away from before you.” Here are some of their wickednesses that Israel was warned to avoid: “When you are entered into the land that Jehovah your God is giving you, you must not learn to do according to the detestable things of those nations. There should not be found in you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, anyone who employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead. For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah, and on account of these detestable things Jehovah your God is driving them away from before you.”—Deut. 9:4; 18:9-12, NW.
10, 11. By what practices did the Canaanites make the land unclean, and how did the land become cleansed?
10 After warning the Israelites not to have sex relations with close relatives or the mates of others, or men with men, or men with beasts, or women with beasts, and not to burn their children in fire to Molech, the god of the Ammonites, Jehovah says: “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things, because with all these things the nations whom I am sending out from before you have defiled themselves. Consequently the land is unclean, and I shall bring punishment for its iniquity upon it and the land will vomit its inhabitants out. And you yourselves must keep my statutes and my judicial decisions, and you must not do any of all these detestable things, whether a native or a temporary resident who is residing for a while in your midst. For all these detestable things the men of the land who were before you have done, so that the land is unclean. Then the land will not vomit you out for your defiling it the same way as it will certainly vomit the nations out who were before you.”—Lev. 18:24-28, NW.
11 “With all these things the nations whom I am sending out from before you have defiled themselves.” With all these promiscuous, depraved, perverted, abominable sexual sins these nations defiled themselves. They made sordid sex practices a part of their religion, using their groves and high places for orgies before phallic symbols or images. Concerning their lewd worship Rotherham, on page 259 of his Emphasised Bible translation, says: “Their very worship was grossly sensual and revoltingly cruel. In honour of their deities women surrendered their virtue. Their sacred places were brothels. The generative organs were openly represented by disgusting symbols. The peoples had holy (!) prostitutes, male and female. . . . Lustful gods are cruel, and demand to be worshipped with human blood.” When they burned their children in fire to Molech they committed ritual murder, and the blood of these victims defiled the land: “And you must not pollute the land in which you are, because it is blood that pollutes the land and for the land there may be no atonement respecting the blood that has been spilled upon it except by the blood of the one spilling it.” Using vivid and powerful figure of speech, Jehovah says that such horrible conduct makes the very land itself sick and nauseous and to cleanse and purge and rid itself of the sickening cause “the land will vomit its inhabitants out.”—Num. 35:33, NW.
12. What would happen to Israel if they copied the Canaanites, and how was Israel protected?
12 “Bad associations,” the Bible says, “spoil useful habits.” To associate with the Canaanites would spoil the Israelites. So Jehovah commanded Israel to stay separate, to be uncontaminated by the filthy Canaanite sex worship. To purge the land the Canaanites were to be driven out, and Israel was to be protected by keeping separate. God gave Israel his law to keep the nation clean so the land would not vomit Israel out also: “Now you people must keep all my statutes and all my judicial decisions and do them, that the land to which I am bringing you to dwell in it may not vomit you out. And you must not walk in the statutes of the nations whom I am sending out from before you, because they have done all these things and I abhor them.”—1 Cor. 15:33; Lev. 20:22, 23, NW.
THE LAND VOMITS OUT ISRAEL
13, 14. What did the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel do, and what did it result in?
13 But the Israelites did not drive out the Canaanites, nor did they stick to God’s law and keep separate from these lewd nations. The Israelites walked in the statutes of the heathen and fraternized with them, and how spoiled did Israel become by these bad associations! Listen to how degraded the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel became: “My people ask a piece of wood to guide them, a pole gives them their oracles! For a harlot-spirit has led them astray, they have left their God for a faithless way; they sacrifice on mountain heights, and offer incense on the hills, below the oak, the terebinth, the poplar—so pleasant is their shade. Thus your daughters play the harlot, matrons commit adultery. But I will not punish your daughters for harlotry, nor your matrons for adultery, when the men themselves go off with harlots, and sacrifice with temple-prostitutes. This brings a senseless people to their ruin.”—Hos. 4:12-14, Mo.
14 It brought these senseless Israelites to their ruin: “They kept setting up for themselves sacred pillars and sacred poles upon every high hill and under every luxuriant tree; and there on all the high places they continued to make sacrificial smoke the same as the nations whom Jehovah had taken into exile because of them and they kept doing bad things to offend Jehovah. And they continued to serve dungy idols, concerning which Jehovah had said to them: ‘You must not do this thing’; and they kept leaving all the commandments of Jehovah their God and proceeded to make for themselves molten statues, two calves, and to make a sacred pole, and they began to bow down to all the army of the heavens and to serve Baal; and they continued to make their sons and their daughters pass through the fire and to practice divination and to look for omens, and they kept selling themselves to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah, to offend him; Jehovah therefore got very incensed against Israel, so that he removed them from his sight.” How did Jehovah do this? “Israel went off its own soil into exile in Assyria.” Thus did the land vomit out the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel.—2 Ki. 17:10-12, 16-18, 23, NW.
15, 16. What does the historical record show as to the conduct of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah?
15 This expulsion of Israel from the land should have been a warning to the two-tribe kingdom of Judah to the south, but it effected no reformation. Isaiah lashed out at Judah’s apostate plunge into filthy religious sex orgies: “Are you not apostate children, a faithless brood—you who inflame yourselves with lust among the terebinths, under every spreading tree, who slaughter children in the valley, among the clefts of the crags? With the smooth stones of the valley your lot is cast; they, they are your portion; to them have you poured libations, and offered cereal-offerings; and for these things can I be appeased? On a high and lofty mountain you have set up your bed; and thither have you climbed to offer sacrifice. Behind the door and the side posts you have set up your phallic symbol; and apart from me have you stripped and gone up, you have distended your parts; you have bargained for those whose embraces you love; and with them have you multiplied your harlotries, while gazing on the phallus.”—Isa. 57:4-8, AT.
16 There is a tradition that says Isaiah was bloodthirstily sawn asunder by wicked King Manasseh, and that it was this vile deed that prompted Paul’s expression, “they were sawn asunder.” However that may be, the above words of Isaiah would perfectly fit the evil reign of Manasseh. He built up the high places, erected altars to Baal, used spirit mediums and professional foretellers of events, put altars for star worship in the courtyards of Jehovah’s temple and even put in the temple one of the A.sheʹrah images, and he made his own son a flaming sacrifice to Molech. Manasseh seduced Judah “to do what was bad more than the nations whom Jehovah had annihilated.” Jehovah said: “He has acted more wickedly than all that the Amorites did that were prior to him and he proceeded to make even Judah sin with his dungy idols.”—Heb. 11:37; 2 Ki. 21:9, 11, NW.
17. What did Jehovah say about Judah’s lot, and what happened?
17 The land was polluted by its inhabitants, even more than when the Canaanites controlled it. Would Jehovah play favorites and show respect of persons? “Here I am bringing a calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah,” said Jehovah, “of which if any one hears both his ears will tingle.” With a homely illustration Jehovah continues: “I shall simply wipe Jerusalem clean just as one wipes the handleless bowl clean, wiping it clean and turning it upside down. And I shall indeed forsake the remnant of my possession and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they will simply become a spoil and plunder to all their enemies, for the reason that they did what was bad in my eyes and were continually offending me.” The Babylonians invaded the land, conquered it, and emptied it of inhabitants just like a dish is emptied of its contents when it is turned upside down. When the nation of Israel entered the land they were told that the Canaanites were being dispossessed because of their religious depravity, and were warned that if Israel copied these immoral, bloodthirsty religionists the land would again become defiled and polluted and nauseated and would vomit Israel out to cleanse itself. The Israelites ignored the warning; they were vomited out.—2 Ki. 21:12-15, NW.
18. How did Isaiah foretell the desolation of the land and show that God would show no respect of persons?
18 Isaiah foretold this dumping out of the land’s inhabitants, when he said: “Behold, the LORD [Jehovah] will lay waste the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the slave, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left.” No respect of persons was shown. No exceptions were made because of religious or financial or social position. All classes of people shared guilt for the pollution of the land, and all classes of people suffered for this guilt. They had transgressed God’s laws and violated the statutes given to protect them. They had broken the law covenant given through Moses that was to run until an indefinite, concealed time, until it had safeguarded them to the time of Messiah’s coming. But now their failure to keep it meant their removal from the land, their captivity in Babylon.—Isa. 24:1, 2, 5, 6, RS.
19. How is this a warning for us?
19 Jehovah did not create the earth to have it polluted by wicked persons. It was to reflect his praise, the living plants and animals on it were to do so, and certainly the specially privileged human creatures with their higher intellectual capacities were to be a praise to their Creator. If they fail to praise God themselves, and prevent others from doing so, and even pollute the earth until it is too soiled to mirror brightly the praise of its Maker, then those persons must be removed. Jehovah is no respecter of persons. He did it to the Canaanites. He did it to the Israelites. He will do it to the polluters of the earth today. These ancient happenings “that were written aforetime were written for our instruction,” and “these things went on befalling them as examples and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the accomplished ends of the systems of things have arrived.” Jehovah does not waver in his principles, nor does he swerve from his purposes: “I, Jehovah, change not.” We have our warning from God about polluting the earth, just as the Israelites had theirs. Let us obey ours, profiting from their failure to heed theirs.—Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11, NW; Mal. 3:6, AS.