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For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. (Leviticus 25:3-4, NIV)

Is there any scientific reason why God commanded them to let the land take a rest every 7 years? Will it increase the fertility of the land? If so, please provide some scientific research on this.

  • You have asked a question that is of incredible interest to me but that would occupy an entire book to answer. If you study the early civilizations that developed around the big rivers and contrast that with the city states of ancient Canaan you might get some idea. Fertilizing in Canaan was part of the religion as was the river flooding. Too long and complex an answer for this site. – gideon marx Jul 26 '14 at 17:33
  • Very, very good question though. – gideon marx Jul 26 '14 at 17:47
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Whether or not you would consider this as scientific evidence, we only have to look at recent history to find an answer.

The Dust bowl of the 1930's came about because the land was continuously farmed, and the nutrients of the land were depleted to a point that it could no longer support vegetation.

All things need to have their nutrients renewed periodically This is true of the land as well as mankind. Since the Dust bowl farmers routinely allow a portion of their land to go fallow, usually on a field rotational basis. Many even grow crops that leave a residue to be worked back into the ground, such as soy beans and corn.

God in his infinite wisdom knew that anything material would, through the process of aging, deteriorate, and that occasional renewing by the input of new nutrients would be necessary. The renewing of nutrients slows the process of deterioration, whether it is in man or plants or animals or even the land. And that is the reason for God declaring the Sabbath year.

That is also the reason why fertilization is such a necessary component of growing plants whether in your flower garden or on a large farm.

That is incidentally the reason for his declaring a Sabbath day for man.

Exodus 20:8 KJV Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

God knew that unless man's awareness of him and his laws was renewed on a frequent basis it would eventually fade from his memory, as we see the World today.

When God put man into the garden of Eden he charged him with caring for it:

Genesis 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

This alone tells me that nature and the land needs our attention, but even further when God ejected man from the garden of Eden he told Adam that his punishment would be:

Genesis 3:17 through 19 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Also:

Genesis 3:23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

Since man is essentially dust and needs to replenish himself through eating why would the land be any different?

  • You are on the right track but will find it difficult to substantiate your answer when it comes to modern grain farming areas and fertilizer. – gideon marx Jul 26 '14 at 17:28
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    @gideon Actually even the use of fertilizer isn't enough if you want a good yield every year as too much fertilizer can "burn" the soil. While letting a field go fallow may not be necessary, it's still the healthiest way to go. At the very least it's still in ones best interest to rotate the crop. A legume crop every 5-7 years will keep future crops at a higher yield. But a fallow year will promote best yields in following years. – PMII Jul 26 '14 at 18:27
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Yes, there is scientific backing for a Sabbath of the Land.

In Ancient times it was common to practice crop rotation, in which a rotation pattern of sowing different crops in different years was followed. At least one year of the rotation was usually 'fallow', i.e. with no crop sown. In early medieval Europe 'two field rotation' was normal, in which a crop was planted one year, and no crop the second. Later Three-field rotation was adopted, with one year of cereals, one year of legumes, and one year of fallow.

Although the science behind crop rotation was not known in ancient times it is now well understood and valid. From Wikipedia:

Crop rotation gives various nutrients to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals and other crops. Crop rotation also mitigates the build-up of pathogens and pests that often occurs when one species is continuously cropped, and can also improve soil structure and fertility by alternating deep-rooted and shallow-rooted plants.

Crop rotation was only abandoned in modern times as a result of the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides, and is still practiced in many parts of the world.

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