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The Economics of Thanksgiving

Written by Gary North on November 28, 2013

O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever (Psalm 136:1-3)

This phrase appears in many of the Psalms, but when you find the same phrase three times in a row, you can safely conclude that the writer was trying to make a point, and he thought the point was important. I know of no passage in the Bible where any other phrase appears three times in succession.

Thanksgiving Day is an old tradition in the United States. It really did have its origins in Plymouth Colony, in the fall of 1621, when the Pilgrims who had survived their first year in New England invited Chief Massasoit to a feast, and he showed up with 90 braves and five deer. The feast lasted three days.

The first official Thanksgiving Day was celebrated on June 29, 1676, in Charlestown, Massachusetts, across the Charles River from Boston. Over a century later, George Washington proclaimed a day of thanksgiving on October 23, 1789, to be celebrated on Thursday, November 27. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln officially restored Thanksgiving as a wartime measure. He repeated this a year later. These original source documents are posted here:

The holiday then became an American tradition.


Lincoln was a strange contradiction religiously. He was a religious skeptic, yet he invoked the rhetoric of the King James Bible — accurately — on many occasions. His political rhetoric, which had been deeply influenced by his reading of the King James, was often masterful. For example, when he spoke of the cemetery of the Gettysburg battlefield as “this hallowed ground,” using the King James word for holy, as in “hallowed be thy name,” he was seeking to infuse the battle of Gettysburg with sacred meaning — a use of religious terminology that was as morally abhorrent as it was rhetorically successful. It is the sacraments that are sacred, not monuments to man’s bloody destructiveness.

In that same year, 1863, he used biblical themes in his October 3 Thanksgiving Day proclamation.

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13 thoughts on “The Economics of Thanksgiving

  1. Theodore Baker, 1894

    We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
    He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
    The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
    Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

    Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
    Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
    So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
    Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

    We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
    And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
    Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
    Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

  2. Buckeye Libertarian says:

    Anybody that wants to know more about the real Lincoln beyond what Mr. North touches on with respect to Lincoln's religious rhetoric should read Thomas J DiLorenzo's book Lincoln Unmasked. Wow. The term Lincolnesque is more appropriately associated with Stalinist or Maoist.

  3. Gary North: "[W]hen he spoke of the cemetery of the Gettysburg battlefield as “this hallowed ground,” using the King James word for holy, as in “hallowed be thy name,” he was seeking to infuse the battle of Gettysburg with sacred meaning — a use of religious terminology that was as morally abhorrent as it was rhetorically successful. It is the sacraments that are sacred, not monuments to man’s bloody destructiveness."

    Agreed. In fact, I address this very point in Part 2 of "The Gettysburg Address: Iconic, But is it Biblical?" Lord wiling, it will be posted tomorrow (Friday, November 29). In the meantime, see Part 1 at http://www.constitutionmythbusters.org/the-gettys… and be sure to sign to receive notices for future articles.

  4. Worship of Lincoln is like belief in human-caused global warming, or the myth that a "crazed lone nut" named Lee Oswald assassinated JFK. No amount of new evidence, passage of time, declassification of formerly top-secret documents, or defection by reputable scientists/whistleblowers will shake some peoples' fanatical conviction that these myths are reality.

  5. Thank you! I remember singing this in school. I appreciate the lyric.
    God bless you!

  6. Victor Barney says:

    It's just so tragic that the whole world, also as written in, that the whole world has been deceived! First, Hebrew is the ONLY SPIRITUALLY INSPIRED LANGUAGE(ZEPH. 3:9, ACTS 26:14, 1 COR. 4:6) with the last two examples even saying so in GREEK! WAKE-UP ANGLO-SAXON U.S.! It's "Elohim," NOT "God" the Babylonian deity of good luck, It's "Yahweh," not The LORD(i.e., in Hebrew, Lord means "Baal," whose worship totally is forbidden! It's "Yahshua,"(meaning in Hebrew that "Yahweh is salvation") not "Jesus" again worshipping the Greek Deity of Good Luck, even so acknowledged by it's author 'Petrus Galatinus," who came up with those names in the 1300's so that "Rome" could follow Roman tradition and worship the highest deity of Greece, who they had conquered and Greece worshipped the deity named "Zeus"! Ask any Hispanic how to pronounce "Jesus," while telling him your talking about the common Hispanic name…

  7. broken link

  8. I thought Thanksgiving Day as we know was quite recent – it was an idea promoted by Sarah Josepha Hale in the mid-19th century and inaugurated an annual holiday by FDR because he thought it was simulate economic activity.

  9. Dan Buckley says:

    1. Peter Galatinus lived 1460-1540, not in the 13th centuy. He is said to have been responsible (although the usage antedates him) for the usage of 'Jehovah', formed by placing the vowels of 'Adonai" into the tetragrammaton. All the Greek texts use the English equivalent of IESOUS. There is no 'sh' sound in Greek
    2. Real history is a study in truth, not in prejudice. The upper case rendition of LORD for the sacred name harkens back to the Septuagint usage of Adonai in place of the revered sacred name. Whenever those small upper case letters are seen, it indicates the tetragrammaton was used.

  10. Dan Buckley says:

    Some clarification is due. I implied that you said the 13th century; you said the 1300's, still wrong, but that is, of course, the 14th century rather than the 13th. The Septuagint does not use the Hebrew 'Adonai', but KYRIOS, the Greek translation of Adonai. Victor, your scriptural references do not attest to your assertion. And were Jesus' words 'spiritually inspired'? Jesus did not speak Hebrew, but rather Aramaic (Syro-Chaldean), a kindred yet distinct language. "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing – Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring."

  11. If you read the Bible carefully, you'll often find things said three times, for emphasis. In Middle Eastern culture, when you repeat a thing three times, it means you really mean it. For instance, if you invite someone to your home, he'll often demur or wait until you've extended the invitation three times. Then he knows you're not just saying it for the sake of form, you really want him as a guest.
    My most recent encounter with this was today, in reading Jeremiah 4 and 5. In it the LORD says He will not make a complete end of Israel in the upcoming Babylonian invasion (4:27, 5:10, and 5:18). My take on this emphasis is that He not only didn't make a complete end of Israel then, but that He will not ever do it in the future. 2600 years of history and a resurrected Israel backs me up on this assumption (plus many promises He's made regarding Israel's permanence).