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The wilderness economy was a welfare economy. The Israelites were supplied with basic necessities even though the people did not work. But they lacked variety. People without the ability to feed themselves were fed by God: same old diet. People without the ability to clothe themselves were clothed by God: same old fashions. Israel wandered aimlessly because the nation had refused to march into war against Canaan (Num. 14). They were not fit to lead; so, they had to follow. They were welfare clients; they had no authority over the conditions of their existence. They took what was handed out to them. And like welfare clients generally, they constantly complained that their lifestyle just wasn't good enough (Num. 11). They had been unwilling to pay the price of freedom: conquest. God therefore cursed them to endure four decades of welfare economics. The only good thing about the wilderness welfare program was that it did not use the State as the agency of positive blessings. No one was coerced into paying for anyone else's lifestyle. God used a continuous series of miracles to sustain them all. Israel in the wilderness was a welfare society, not a welfare State. When Israel crossed into the Promised Land, the identifying marks of their wilderness subordination were removed by God: the manna and their permanent clothing. This annulment of the welfare economy was necessary for their spiritual maturation and their liberation. The marks of their subordination to God would henceforth be primarily confessional and ethical. The only food miracle that would remain in Israel would be the triple crop two years prior to a jubilee (Lev. 25:21). God promised to substitute a new means of Israel's preservation: economic growth. The zero-growth world of the welfare society would be replaced by the pro-growth world of covenantal remembrance.
- Gary North, Priorities and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Matthew Ch. 1 (1999), at www.garynorth.com/freebooks: HTML