Much Increase With the Ox (1)
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School
Proverbs 14:4: “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.”
Proverbs is a book of wisdom. God blessed the author of Proverbs, Solomon, with more wisdom than He had given to any other man. Proverbs is not a short book. The instruction Solomon gives us covers many topics. Where did Solomon get his many ideas for writing Proverbs? Of course, God inspired Solomon but that does not mean that Solomon wrote Proverbs as though he were unconscious or a robot. God uses means.
There are times while reading Proverbs when I think Solomon travelled through different parts of his kingdom, and observed the people and the land around him. Because God gave Solomon wisdom, Solomon was able to see things an ordinary person simply passed over. Many would see things but not understand them. Solomon could observe the world and the people around him and understand spiritual truth. This is an aspect of the creation around us. When we view creation with the eyes of faith, we can learn about God and His truth. Creation teaches us about its Creator.
Many Israelites in Solomon’s day were farmers. The king had the opportunity to see many farms during his life. Solomon could tell which farms were fruitful and well run, and which farms were not. We also can walk through our neighbourhoods and pick out the houses which are maintained better than others. Perhaps there are houses in your neighbourhood which have nobody living in them. After a while, you can tell that the house is vacant and nobody is there to take care of the property. The lawn doesn’t look nice. The plants in the landscaping look overgrown. The property would benefit from some cleaning, raking or painting. Solomon could notice the same things about farms. Solomon could notice which farms were more productive than others.
When Solomon tells us, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox,” he is using a visible fact to teach us a spiritual truth. Let’s notice some things about the farm Solomon observed.
Solomon saw a farm with a clean crib. Most of us are of Dutch heritage, so we can certainly appreciate something that is clean. A crib in a farmyard is not something a baby sleeps in. A crib is a container for the farm animals’ food. Cribs could come in different sizes depending on the number and size of the animals which needed to be fed. Most often the crib would be filled with straw or grain. When the farmer noticed that the crib was growing empty, he would fill it with more food for his animals.
A crib filled with animal feed could appear messy. It isn’t clean. There might be straw sticking out of it at some crazy angles. Little piles of loose grain would be littered around on the ground as the animals pulled at it with their mouths. Animals would visit the crib often. Animals that feed by grazing, such as oxen, spend much of their day eating. Farm animals are not neat and tidy. We would notice droppings in the area of the crib which would be somewhat unpleasant to the eye and even more unpleasant for the nose. A crib on a busy, fruitful farm would not be clean.
However, Solomon saw a crib which was clean. There wasn’t any feed in it. There weren’t stray clumps of straw littering the ground. The area around the crib was not messy looking or bad smelling. It was clean.
Solomon continued to observe this farm until he understood why the crib was clean. He realized this farm had no oxen on it. Oxen were very important for the farmers of biblical days. They used oxen for many of the same purposes today’s farmers use tractors. Just as it is difficult for us to imagine a modern farmer without a tractor, farmers of long ago had oxen. Farmers ploughed their fields using oxen as they prepared to sow their seed. Oxen pulled wagons or carried heavy things as the farmers cleaned and maintained their fields. When it was time for harvest, the oxen would tread the grain.
Solomon saw a farmer who believed his life would be easier without oxen. He wouldn’t have the hassle of constantly seeing to it that the crib had feed in it. Having no oxen meant so unpleasant smell insulted his nose. He wouldn’t have to devote a certain portion of his grain to feed oxen. Whatever grain he harvested could be used solely for himself and his family. This “ox-less” farmer would find his chores decreased and experience an easier life. This farmer did not have the burden of taking care of oxen.
At least that is what this farmer thought. Solomon, however, being blessed with wisdom, realized something else. A farmer with no oxen to tend might have an easier life but, as Solomon instructs us, “much increase is by the strength of the ox.” Having oxen increases the farmer’s work but the oxen pay him back with an increased harvest. An increased harvest meant more food on the family table or, if there were enough crops left over, extra cash brought in because of increased sales of the surplus. Yes, part of the harvest would have to go to feeding the oxen but the strength of the oxen provided a much larger harvest. Oxen were worth it.
Who can plough and use more land for raising crops, the farmer with a hoe in his hands or the farmer with a plough and a team of oxen? Who could clean up more rocks and other debris from the field, a farmer with his own two hands and a small basket or a farmer with oxen which could pull a large, loaded wagon? Who would have a larger harvest, the farmer who would have to roll the ears of grain in his own hands or the farmer who used oxen and a threshing floor? to be continued ...