The Promised Land was a land of milk, honey, trade and commerce

It is interesting to look up the meaning of the place name 'Canaan' in a Bible concordance. It literally means 'merchant'. I find it fascinating that Canaan, the Promised Land, should be so closely associated with trade and commerce. The spies sent to reconnoitre Canaan returned after forty days and reported, 'It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit' (Num 13:27). The samples of fruit the spies brought back with them included grapes, pomegranates and figs. It took two men to carry just one cluster of grapes between wooden poles!

This land was assuredly the land in which God intended to fulfil His promise of blessing to the 'fathers' of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Deut 6:10). These are the blessings identified in Deut 8:7-13:

  • plentiful, good quality water
  • wheat and barley
  • vines, fig trees and pomegranates
  • olive oil and honey
  • bread without scarcity
  • iron and copper
  • herds and flocks that multiply
  • multiplied silver and gold

As if that wasn't enough, God added a catch-all, '(A)ll that you have is multiplied'!

How was this to be achieved? Through work. And through trade and commerce. There is no mention of manna or quail from heaven here (see Ex 16)!

In Deut 28:11-12 God makes another significant promise to Israel: 'And the LORD will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand...'. This is an affirmation of work. Trade and commerce are commended in Proverbs 11:26 where wisdom says, 'The people will curse him who withholds grain, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it'.

I believe that God desires to bless His people. As heirs of the Abrahamic covenant, Christians also come under the blessing of the 'fathers'. Let us go into our promised land, committed to working and trading. How else do you think God might fulfil our prayer, 'Give us this day our daily bread' (Matt 6:11)?

Questions for discussion

1. To what extent do you think God blesses His people through work? (Read Deuteronomy 28:12, Psalm 128:2.)

2. How does working and trading relate to our prayer, 'Give us this day our daily bread'?

3. is it significant that the name of the promised land, Canaan, means 'merchant' or 'trade'?

4. In what sense is there a blessing on him who sells grain (Proverbs 11:26)?

Rod St Hill