The Bible on Tree Preservation & Environmentalism

Deuteronomy 20:19, Do not destroy its trees. In its commentary on this passage, A Torah Commentary For Our Times states, “While the commandment deals specifically with cutting down trees during a siege, Jewish interpreters extend it to cover all forms of wasteful destruction under the principle of bal tashchit, or ‘do not destroy’ … [all w]asteful destruction is condemned. ‘Anyone who deliberately breaks dishes, tears clothing, wrecks a building, clogs up a fountain, or wastes food violates the law of bal tashchit’” (various rabbinical sources are cite vol. 3, p. 143). What did YHVH commission Adam to do? (See Gen 2:15.) The word dress literally means “to serve, work, dress, labor”in the sense of a servant or steward. The word keep means “to observe, guard, watch over, or preserve.”

Do you view yourself as a steward with a divine mandate to help preserve, watch over, and guard all that YHVH has given you responsibility over including your body, your marriage, your children, your gifts and talents, your car, your job, your home and yard and everything in your life? Do you view doing this as a good witness to those around you, as leaving a legacy for future generations, and as glorifying your Father in heaven?

Genesis 2:15, Took…put. Took is the Hebrew word laqach meaning “to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, receive, acquire, buy, bring, marry, take a wife, snatch, take away.” Put is the Hebrew word yanach meaning “to rest, settle down and remain, to repose, have rest, be quiet, to cause to rest, give rest to, make quiet, to cause to rest, cause to alight, set down, to lay or set down, deposit, let lie, place.” The implication here is that Elohim created man somewhere else and then brought him to and settled him in the Garden of Eden where he settled down in quiet rest.” Perhaps Elohim briefly allowed the first man to experience life outside the garden first before “planting” them therein, so that they would better appreciate the beauty, rest and peacefulness of the garden. In this way, Adam, the first father, head and priest of his family would have some personal experience out the garden and be able to accurately communicate to both his wife and children that life was better in the garden than outside the garden, thus encouraging them to stay obedient to YHVH and to walk in his ways, so that they could continue to enjoy the privileges thereof.

Tend/dress and keep it. Tend is the Hebrew word avad meaning “to work or serve.” Being a gardener was Adam’s occupation. Yeshua was the second Adam. After Yeshua’s resurrection, interestingly, he was mistaken as the gardener (John 20:15). See Gen 2:8—YHVH planted a garden.

The Torah teaches sustainable living and stewardship of the earth. The terms sustainability or sustainable living along with green, eco-friendly, etc. are currently fad concepts that are bandied about by those seeking to be politically correct—whatever that is supposed to mean. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, defines sustainability as follows: 

Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of responsibility, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resource use. In ecology, sustainability describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time, a necessary precondition for the well-being of humans and other organisms.

As the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes said, there is nothing new under the sun. In the beginning, Elohim placed man in the idyllic paradise called the Garden of Eden instructing him “to tend” (serve, work, till, dress) and “to keep” (guard, observe, protect) the garden (Gen 2:15). Man was commanded to become the steward of what Elohim had created—to preserve, maintain and to care for it.

To this day, YHVH has never rescinded these instructions to man even though modern environmentalists and conservationists may think they originated the idea of responsible stewardship of the environment. Long before Rosseau, Thoreau, the Sierra Club, Earth First, Nature Conservancy, Germany’s Green Party, and the Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) in America the Torah was preaching sustainable living and responsibly caring for the environment—YHVH’s creation. Let’s note how:

  • For the overall health and vigor of fruit trees, they were to be allowed to become established for three years before commercially harvesting their fruit (Lev 19:23–25).
  • So as not to deplete the soil’s fertility, agricultural land was to lay fallow every seventh year (Lev 25:2).
  • Fruit trees were to be preserved in times of war (Deut 20:19).
  • So as not to mongrelize similar types of fruits and vegetables through cross pollination, mixed seeds were not to be sowed together (Lev 19:19; Deut 22:9).
  • Interbreeding of diverse kinds of livestock was prohibited (Lev 19:19).
  • Work animals were allowed to eat the grain that they helped to thresh (Deut 25:4).
  • If a farm animal was injured or in danger, one was obligated to help the animal even if it belonged to someone else (Deut 22:4).
  • For the safety and well-being of work animals, an ox and donkey were not to be yoked together when plowing (Deut 22:10).
  • Work animals were to be allowed to rest on the Sabbath (Exod 20:8–11; Deut 5:14).
  • Humans are to rescue animals that are hurt, lost or that have fallen into a pit, even on the Sabbath (Matt 12:11, 12; Exod 23:4).
  • Bird’s nests and young hatchlings were to be cared for (Deut 22:6–7).
  • Humans were to care for the earth (and prevent diseases) by burying their excrement (Deut 23:13).
  • The establishment of toxic waste dumps for disease-contaminated materials (Lev 14:43–47).

Why You Can’t Live Without Trees

  • Trees (and other plants) produce oxygen. Human and animal life need the oxygen for their survival, which trees (and plants) produce. Plants take in CO2 (carbon dioxide), the gas humans and animals exhale, and turn it into O2 or oxygen.
  • All animals and humans receive food directly or indirectly from trees (and other plants). Food for humans that trees produce include nuts, fruits and syrups.
  • Trees produce clouds in non-coastal areas due to their uptake of water from the soil and then release it into the atmosphere to form rain clouds, which then are carried by air currents into otherwise arid areas not near coastal regions.

How Trees Benefit You

  • Trees improve water quality by taking up ground water, filtering it through their vascular system and then releasing it in a purified state into the atmosphere. This along with a trees releasing of pure oxygen is why the air feels so clean and refreshing in a forest.
  • Tree roots help to hold soil in place, especially on slopes, along roadways and on riverbanks, thus helping to prevent soil erosion and valuable topsoil from washing away. Topsoil, which takes hundreds and even thousands of years to produce is necessary for growing food crops.
  • Trees planted in urban areas soak up surface water that would otherwise run into storm sewers thus reducing the amount of polluted water going into our watersheds. 
  • Trees help to reduce energy consumption by humans. Trees lower ground temperatures by blocking sunlight from hitting the ground. The shade that trees produce benefits both humans and animals. For example, a house shaded from the hot sun can be 10 degrees cooler than a non-shaded area, thus saving money and valuable energy needed to cool a house in hot weather. In a general sense, shade from trees makes living conditions on earth more tolerable in hot climates for both humans and animals. They act as air conditioners in that on sunny days they release huge amounts of water which helps to cool the atmosphere. This natural process is called evaporative cooling.
  • Trees block harmful ultraviolet rays from hitting people who take shelter under them.
  • Trees also cool the air around them, since their leaves release water, making the earth more temperate.
  • Trees soak up large amounts surface water runoff (in their roots and leaves) from rain thus reducing soil erosion especially on hillsides, riverbanks and along roads (and loss of valuable food producing topsoil) and water-born pollutants that would otherwise flow into lakes, stream, rivers and eventually oceans.
  • From trees humans make many products essential to human life including wood and paper products, pharmaceuticals and food.
  • Trees provide habitat for countless animals and mircro-organisms that are essential to human survival. 
  • When trees take in carbon dioxide (CO2), they strip the carbon atom from the oxygen atoms, thus releasing the oxygen back into the atmosphere, but they keep the carbon with which they combine minerals from the soil to produce tree food. The food that trees don’t use immediately is stored in the roots, trunks and branches of the tree for later use. This is called carbon sequestration, and is a good thing in that this helps to reduce atmospheric “green house gases.”
  • Trees reduce air pollution by scrubbing the air of pollutants as they trap airborne particulate in their leaves, trunks and branches.
  • Trees promote physical, emotional and psychological health and healing of people as well as feelings of peace and well-being.
  • Trees in retail business areas help to increase business.
  • Trees mark the changing of the season, thus helping humans to mark time.
  • Trees create countless economic opportunities for humans (logging and wood products, arboricultual services, firewood, food and agricultural production and more).
  • Trees provide places for children to play and people to gather around for social functions.
  • Trees have served as memorials, historical markers, landmarks and property boundaries since time immemorial, since they live for so long. A tree memorial can become a living legacy to a loved one or an important historical figure. As such, trees help to give humans a sense of history, identity, permanency, and a connection to their past history. Trees also help to bring the generations together by giving people a sense of unity and a connection to the past.
  • Trees provide visual barriers from unsightly objects and views. They provide hedges, create screens, fences and separations between people when privacy is needed.
  • Trees create wind screen, thus protecting people, structures and crops from damaging weather (e.g. heat, wind and frost).
  • Trees are a valuable fuel source providing heat for homes and are an energy source to generate power.
  • The presence of trees increase property values.
  • Trees, in general, make the earth, our homes and cities a more visually pleasing, hospitable and inhabitable place to live.


2 thoughts on “The Bible on Tree Preservation & Environmentalism

  1. The Olive tree-a symbol of Israel-and we have to be grafted in! “Only God can make a tree” and “one is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anyplace else on earth” (all taken from poems. I see that when a couple is expecting a baby they create a nursery-Our Father put His kids in a garden (what do you call a place where you go to get plants? A NURSERY 🙂 Trees have trunks and limbs just like humans, except trees are better?

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