When God created human, he created Eden for the humankind. He bring Adam to the Garden of Eden and commanded him that “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat” (Gen. 2: 16). The present-day humankind takes this command as an open license for the exploitation of natural resources without any norms.
However, the book of Genesis do not favouring this argument. While Adam was introduced to the Garden of Eden, it is stated that “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Gen. 2: 15). The permission for the consumption was given later. It means that the humankind has the right to consume only if he fulfils his responsibility to preserve it.
Humankind’s responsibility for the preservation of nature again appeared during the great flood. Lord God ordered to Noah to bring a couple each from every living thing to the ark. He also commanded to store sufficient food for all of them and “keep them alive” (Gen. 6: 19-21). Later Lord God modified his command as “Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female; to keep seed alive in the face of all the earth” (Gen. 7: 2).
According to some Judaic scholars, ‘clean beast’ mentioned here are edible creatures. Hence, while ordering to keep ‘clean beast’ larger in number, the Lord God stress the liability of humankind to preserve his recourse’s sufficiently. The same verse also emphasising the responsibility of humankind to shield all creatures “to keep seed alive in the face of all the earth” even though they are not consumable.
One of the reasons for destruction of the nature is the rapidly increasing population. Humankind argues that he needs more and more natural resources to feed them all. However, the Lord God’s command to Noah did not authorize the humankind to eliminate any living creature even though they are inconsumable. Uncontrolled exploitation of any natural resources leads to the elimination of some living creature. An interruption in food chain collapses the total system.The Lord God did not forbid the humankind from consuming the natural resources for his needs if he tends it. Whilst he is not permitted to exploit it in the manner that endanger the eco-system. There must be some balance in between consumption and exploitation.
Prophet Isaiah describes this balance between consumption and exploitation of natural recourses in chapter 42, verses 10 to 12.
Sing unto the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof.
Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Let them give glory unto the LORD, and declare his praise in the islands.
A mere peripheral reading of this passage only means a call for praise. However, a close examination enlightens that Prophet Isaiah declaring the equilibrium of man and nature through these verses. The first part admits the right of the world altogether to praise the God almighty who is the creator of the universe. It can be interpreted that Prophet Isaiah stress the right of equality of all humankind in front of the Lord God since Israel, to whom he delivered this prophesy, always have the pride as the ‘chosen ones’ and treated the rest of the world as inferior. By elaborating his prophesy with the terminologies like “the end of the earth”, “the isles, and the inhabitants thereof” etc., Prophet Isaiah ruled out this prejudice and affirmed that all humankind, irrespective of their race and nativity, has the same right in front of the God.
In the contemporary world, this emphasis has higher magnitude. A nominal portion of the world population consumes most of the natural resources. The modern western world treats themselves as the chosen ones and claims their right over the whole world to exploit. Upon this false claim, they steal the livelihood of the rest of the world for their luxury.
Through this passage, Prophet Isaiah denies this superiority claim, acknowledges the right of survival of all humankind in the face of earth, and hence prohibits the maltreatment of life supporting system of one part of the world for the benefit of another. In a broader sense, this statement announces the equal right of all humankind over the natural resources.
The verses that follow this declaration also forbid the uncontrolled exploitation of nature by anyone. The first part is dealing with the wilderness and the cities thereof. The wilderness will remain unharmed if there is no human interference. When human settlements established there, they have to depend the forest for their livelihood and hence its deterioration begins. If greater pressure applied to produce more, the forests vanish rapidly. That endangers the survivability of these habitats.
The second part states about the villages where Kedar inhabit. According to Bible, Kedar is an Arab tribe living in dessert. They were herdsmen with flocks of sheep and goats. (Isa. 60: 7, Jer. 49: 29, 32). The productiveness of the pastures is vital for a community depends on sheep and goats. It is much critical if this community is dessert dwellers. Even an ordinary pasture will became infertile by uncontrolled grazing. No wonder if a pasture adjacent to dessert quickly turned as dessert, if greedy shepherds increase his flocks.
The third part deals with inhabitants of rock and the mountains. Even though the yield from rocks and mountains are minimal, people still lives there. Water scarcity is the common phenomena in such terrains. If plough hard, the little soil available for cultivation will vanish permanently by erosion. Only skillful management of water and soil preserve rocks and mountains livable.
In the last part, islands and its inhabitants are mentioned. In most cases, islanders are live upon the sea produce. Incidents proved that uncontrolled harvesting and pollution convert sea as nonproductive instantly. All these points targeting careful harvesting of natural recourses that alone sustain the equilibrium of man and nature.
In none of the above mentioned examples, Prophet Isaiah challenging the right of the humankind to inhabit, obviously to live upon, such endangered terrains. Thus, he acknowledges the right of the humankind, granted by the Lord God to freely eat.
However, by pointing the character of their habitat, he stress on its preservation by non-exploitation, the duty assigned to humankind by the God to dress it and to keep it.
The overall tune of this prophesies of Prophet Isaiah spinning around the sustainability of the nature. He envisages happy humankind of the whole world praising the Lord God. He mentions the inhabitants of the places where the stability of eco system resting at thin balance with human intervention. This is with a clear intention to urge the preservation of nature and to shoe the dangers of hysterical exploitation. In brief, these prophesy can be tagged as the ecological manifesto of Prophet Isaiah.
This manifesto of Prophet Isaiah is an integral part of the Sunday morning prayers of Malankara Orthodox Church during the Qwamtha (post Easter) period. The west Syrian fathers with heavenly wisdom, who comprise no pointless words in the prayers, might have added this for the regular chanting with the clear intent to alert regularly about the equilibrium of nature and humankind.
Dr. Meledath Kurian Thomas