Environmental Justice in the Bible
Presented by the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Conservation Center
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth.... God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw how good the light was.... God called the dry land "the earth," and the basin of the water he called "the sea." God saw how good it was. Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth vegetation: every kind of plant that bears seed and every kind of fruit tree on earth...." God saw how good it was.... God made the two great lights, the greater one to govern the day, and the lesser one to govern the night; and he made the stars.... God saw how good it was.... Then God said, "Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky." And so it happened: God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems, and all kinds of winged birds. God saw how good it was, and God blessed them, saying, "Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; and let the birds multiply on the earth...." Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures: cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds...." God saw how good it was. Then God said: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground." (Genesis 1:1-26)
God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: "Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth." God also said: "See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food." And so it happened. God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.... Such is the story of the heavens and the earth at their creation. (Genesis 1:27-31; 2:4)
Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and he placed there the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food.... A river rises in Eden to water the garden.... The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. (Genesis 2:8-10; 15)
So the Lord God formed out of the ground various wild animals and various birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each of them would be its name. (Genesis 2:19)
"As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." (NRSV Genesis 9:9-16)
The Lord God took Abram outside and said, "Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so," he added, "shall your descendants be." (Genesis 15:5)
When the Lord saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God called out to him from the bush, "Moses! Moses!" He answered, "Here I am." God said, "Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground." (Exodus 3:1-5)
For six years you may sow your land and gather in its produce. But the seventh year you shall let the land lie untilled and unharvested, that the poor among you may eat of it and the beasts of the field may eat what the poor leave. (Exodus 23:10-11)
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleaning of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:9)
All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. (Num 14:21)
When you enter the land into which I will bring you and begin to eat of the food of that land, you shall offer the Lord a contribution consisting of a cake of your first batch of dough. You shall offer it just as you offer a contribution from the threshing floor. Through your generations you shall give a contribution to the Lord from your first batch of dough. (Num 15:18-21)
"Thus says the Lord, 'I have purified this water. Never again shall death or miscarriage spring from it.'" And the water has stayed pure even to this day. (2 Kings 21-22)
"Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts!" they cried one to the other. "All the earth is filled with his glory!" (Isaiah 6:3)
Woe to you who join house to house, who connect field with field, till no room remains, and you are left to dwell alone in the midst of the land! In my hearing the Lord of hosts has sworn: Many houses shall be in ruins, large ones and fine, with no one to live in them. Ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one liquid measure, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah. Lambs shall graze there at pasture, and kids shall eat in the ruins of the rich. (Isaiah 5:8-17)
The earth mourns and fades, the world languishes and fades; both heaven and earth languish. The earth is polluted because of its inhabitants, who have transgressed laws, violated statutes, broken the ancient covenant. (Isaiah 24:4-5)
...Until the spirit from on high is poured out on us. Then will the desert become an orchard and the orchard be regarded as a forest. Right will dwell in the desert and justice abide in the orchard. Justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security. My people will live in peaceful country, in secure dwellings and quiet resting places. Happy are you who sow beside every stream, and let the ox and the ass go freely. (Isaiah 32:15-18, 20)
See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches, for I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland.... (Isaiah 43: 19-20)
The designer and maker of the earth who established it, not creating it to a waste, but designing it to be lived in. (Isaiah 45:18)
If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea; Your descendants would be like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their name never cut off or blotted out from my presence. (Isaiah 48:18-19)
I will now call to mind the works of the Lord, and will declare what I have seen. By the word of the Lord his works are made; and all his creatures do his will. The sun looks down on everything with its light, and the work of the Lord is full of his glory. (NRSV Sirach 42:15-16)
How desirable are all his works, and how sparkling they are to see! All these things live and remain for ever; each creature is preserved to meet a particular need. (NRSV Sirach 42:23)
On the first day you shall gather foliage from majestic trees, branches of palms and boughs of myrtles and of valley poplars, and then for a week you shall make merry before the Lord, your God. (Leviticus 23:40)
When you enter the land that I am giving you, let the land, too, keep a sabbath for the Lord. For six years you may sow your field, and for six years prune your vineyard, gathering in their produce. But during the seventh year the land shall have a complete rest, a sabbath for the Lord. (Leviticus 25:2-4)
Land must not be sold in perpetuity, for the land belongs to me, and to me you are only strangers and guests. (Leviticus 25:23)
For the land which you are to enter and occupy is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you would sow your seed and then water it by hand, as in a vegetable garden. No, the land into which you are crossing for conquest is a land of hills and valleys that drinks in rain from the heavens, a land which the Lord, your God, looks after; his eyes are upon it continually from the beginning of the year to the end. If, then, you truly heed my commandments which I enjoin on you today, loving and serving the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul, I will give the seasonal rain to your land, the early rain and the late rain, that you may have your grain, wine, and oil to gather in; and I will bring forth grass in your fields for your animals. Thus you may eat your fill. (Deuteronomy 11:10-15)
Justice and justice alone shall be your aim, that you may have life and may possess the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you. (Deuteronomy 16:20)
There is no fidelity, no tenderness, no knowledge of God in the country, only perjury and lies, slaughter, theft, adultery, and violence, murder after murder. This is why the country is in mourning, and all who live in it pine away, even the wild animals and the birds of heaven; the fish of the sea themselves are perishing. (Hosea 4: 2-3)
"The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle, or a young stag. Behold, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. My beloved speaks and says to me: 'Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.' My beloved is mine and I am his, he pastures his flock among the lilies. Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle, or a young stag upon rugged mountains." (Song of Songs: 2: 8-10,16-17)
But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being. (NRSV Job 12:7-10)
No doubt about it, but God reveals wonders, and does great deeds that we cannot understand. When He says to the snow, "Fall on the earth," or tells the rain to pour down in torrents, He brings all men's strivings to a standstill so that each must acknowledge His hand at work. (Job 37: 5-7)
Stand and consider the wondrous works of God! (Job 37:14)
Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its size; do you know? Who stretched out the measuring line for it? Into what were its pedestals sunk, and who laid the cornerstone, while the morning stars sang in chorus and all the sons of God [angels] shouted for joy? (Job 39:4-7)
Then the Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said.... See, besides you I made Behemoth [hippopotamus], that feeds on grass like an ox. Behold the strength in his loins, and his vigor in the sinews of his belly. He carries his tail like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are like cables. His bones are like tubes of bronze; his frame is like iron rods. He came at the beginning of God's ways, and was made the taskmaster of his fellows; For the produce of the mountains is brought to him, and of all wild animals he makes sport. Under the lotus tree he lies, in coverts of the reedy swamp. The lotus trees cover him with their shade; all about him are the poplars on the bank. If the river grows violent, he is not disturbed; he is tranquil though the torrent surges about his mouth. Who can capture him by his eyes, or pierce his nose with a trap?" (Job 40:6 and Job 40:15-24)
Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, nor go the way of sinners....Rather the law of the Lord is their joy; God's law they study day and night. They are like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:2-3)
O Lord, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth! You have set your majesty above the heavens!
Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have drawn a defense against your foes, to silence enemy and avenger.
When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place --
What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them rule over the works of your hands, put all things at their feet:
All sheep and oxen, even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth!
It is God who governs the world with justice, who judges the people with fairness. The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9-10)
The Lord is just and loves just deeds; the upright shall see his face. (Psalm 11:7)
The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its builder's craft. One day to the next conveys that message; one night to the next imparts that knowledge. There is no word or sound, no voice is heard; Yet their report goes forth through all the earth, their message, to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:2-5)
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. (NRSV Psalm 23:1-2)
The earth is the Lord's and all it holds, the world and those who live there. For God founded it on the seas, established it over the rivers. (Psalm 24:1-2)
The Lord loves justice and right and fills the earth with goodness. (Psalm 33:5)
As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. (NRSV Psalm 42:1)
For every animal of the forest is mine, beasts by the thousands on my mountains. I know every bird of the heavens; the creatures of the field belong to me. (Psalm 50: 10-11)
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Some of the quotations contained herein are from The New American Bible, copyright © 1970
(including the Revised New Testament © 1986). All rights reserved.
Some of the quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), Catholic Edition,
copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.,
and are used by permission. All rights reserved.
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