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The Covenantal Wealth of Nations

Written by Gary North on April 30, 2016

It ids better to be rich and healthy than it is to be poor and sick.

“Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store . . . The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee . . . And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee” (Deut. 28:4-5, 8, 11).

The previous passage cited a long list of curses. We now come to a passage devoted entirely to God’s sanctions in history. The theocentric focus of this passage is God as the sanctions-bringer. In response to Israel’s covenantal obedience (Deut. 28:1-2), God promised to bring blessings on the nation. These blessings would include wealth. Deuteronomy 28 is a recapitulation of Leviticus 26. It announces dual sanctions: blessing and cursing. The chapter begins with blessing; it ends with cursing. The section on cursing is much longer than the section on blessing.

This was not a land law. The entire passage is not a land law. Modern commentators who reject theonomy regard this passage as a land law, although they may use some other term to describe it. They do not acknowledge that these threatened corporate sanctions carry into the New Covenant. They are incorrect. These sanctions are historical. They are predictable. Covenantal rebellion by a society will lead to God’s imposition of these sanctions. This is why this passage and Leviticus 26 are among the most important in the Bible — I believe the most important — for the creation of an explicitly biblical social theory.

These promises related to measurable quantities – “increase,” “plenteous” — of specific goods: cattle, kine, sheep. “increase” here referred to storage implements: basket, storehouses. The numerical objectivity of these reference points is crucial for this passage. These were not inward blessings. The fulfillment of these covenantal promises, Moses told the nation, will be visible to the Israelites and their enemies alike They will serve as evidence of God’s sovereignty over history through the predictability of His covenant relationships.

Visible Testimony Under the Mosaic Covenant

The blessings and cursings of God under the Mosaic Covenant were sure. They were not disconnected from God’s law. There was a bedrock objectivity that united covenant-keepers and covenant-breakers. That which God regarded as a blessing, He told Israel, all men would regard as a blessing; the same was true of cursing. There was a shared universe of discourse and evaluation. This objectivity was not undermined by subjective evaluations by individuals or groups. The lists in Deuteronomy 28 were based on an agreement among subjective evaluators. The subjectivism of individual perception would not overcome the objectivity of the corporate sanctions. The nation would enjoy more

The idea of national blessings and cursings rests on the existence of objective measures. For men to make such evaluations, numerical measures must apply to the external world. To own a larger number of desirable goods is superior to owning fewer of them. However clever the methodological subjectivist may become. there is no escape from Deuteronomy 26. The objective superiority of more is assumed by God. Other things being equal, it is better to be rich and healthy than it is to be poor and sick.

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