Today is the last day of our 30 Days [Biblically] Wild challenge that has been inspired by the Wild Life Trust‘s ‘30 Days Wild.’ Over the past four weeks we have looked at a range of plants, animals and birds. The idea has been to look at species with which we could reasonably expect to encounter in the UK and perhaps would necessarily expect to find mentioned in the Bible. What I hope to have in some way achieved is to raise an awareness of the extent to which non-human life and the environment saturates this collection of texts that is so often assumed to be simply about God and humans. In the same way, just as non-human life suffuses our landscapes (if we just spend a little time to look for it), so too it permeates and influences the biblical writings.
We can see that the biblical writers were profoundly aware of their deep interconnections with the land. The preservation of the land (materially as well as spiritually) was intricately tied to their preservation as a people. Hareuveni (1991) and then Benstein (2006) are right in emphasizing the way in which the land formed their theology and provided a rich vocabulary through which to express it.
Today’s post is a little bit of a cheat. But I really like goats (they are one of my research topics) and, although I know we don’t really have any wild goats left in the UK, I feel slightly vindicated by a news report covered by the BBC in March this year announcing that ‘Wild goats flock to Llandudno in bad weather‘!
Goats, along with sheep, have long been a part of human culture and economy and therefore also an intrinsic part of the human landscape (for a brief readable overview see Borowski, 1994 or Sasson, 2014). Encountering their rugged form on some bleak wilderness scarp can give us a very real impression of wildness and freedom, even though they are in fact indicators of the exact opposite. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed many a packed lunch on some windswept Welsh mountainside sharing Marmite sandwiches with a feral goat or two.
June 1st sees the launch of theWildlife Trust’s ‘30 Days Wild Challenge‘ that encourages everyone to get outside, reconnect with the natural world and to “do something wild every day throughout June”. To celebrate this initiative and to take up their challenge, I have decided to attempt to post a blog every day relating to an animal or plant that is familiar to us, and perhaps we might encounter on our own ‘30 Days Wild Challenge‘, but that can also be found in the Bible.
The natural world and the Bible
The natural world permeates the writings of the Bible. Its imagery and language are informed by the landscape, the weather patterns, the pulse of the seasons, the flora and the fauna, of the land in which the texts were produced.1 Jewish scholar and botanist, Nogah Hareuveni, goes so far as to argue that an intimate knowledge of (particularly ancient) Israel’s nature and landscape is essential to a proper understanding of the Biblical writings (Hareuveni, 1974, 1991). Continue reading →