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Did you know the Bible predicts the discovery of vast oil reserves deep beneath Israel? That’s what John Brown, the chair of Zion Oil and Gas Co. believes, and he’s been prospecting in Israel for the past three years because of it, according to a Feb. 26 article in The Tennessean

Brown was inspired by a passage from Genesis 49, which is a catalog of blessings given by an aged Jacob to his twelve sons. Joseph, the favorite, gets the most elaborate blessing (vv. 22-25, NRSV):

Joseph is a fruitful bough,

a fruitful bough by a spring;

his branches run over the wall.

The archers fiercely attacked him;

they shot at him and pressed him hard. 

Yet his bow remained taut,

and his arms were made agile

by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob,

by the name of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,

by the God of your father, who will help you,

by the Almighty who will bless you

with blessings of heaven above,

blessings of the deep that lies beneath,

blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

The blessing appears designed to wish that God’s beneficent care of Joseph will extend from the heavens above to the depths below, from the breast and from the womb. The wish is probably related to fertility: it begins with “Joseph is a fruitful bough,” and in a dry land that is prone to drought, fruitfulness/prosperity comes from water, which falls from the heavens as rain and wells up from the depths as springs and rivers.

Brown, however, prefers to think that “blessings of the deep that lies beneath” is a reference to oil, even though the only oil Jacob knew came from olives or animal fat. So, Brown started an oil exploration company that has recruited about 15,000 investors who think he’s on to something. Some of the investors are almost certainly theological dispensationalists, who have long considered the oil crisis to have prophetic significance. 

While it’s highly unlikely that old Jacob had petroleum or natural gas in mind when he blessed Joseph, interest in exploring Israel for energy has grown in recent years. For example, Rupert Murdoch and Jacob Rothschild have invested in the Genie Energy Corp., which is investigating oil shale projects in Israel, according to The Tennessean. It’s been known for some time that Israel has large deposits of oil shale, but only recently has the combination of improving technology and shrinking resources made the extraction of oil from shale economically feasible. 

Brown says he believes what the Bible says, is willing to stake his money on it, and that the discovery of oil will prove the Bible is true. 

Personally, I’m glad that the value of scripture will not rise or fall on finding gushers of black gold. Indeed, the truths we find so self-evident there are clearly far more precious than any treasure, even vast reserves of oil. 

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