October 28, 2003

Ancient Boundaries
"Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your 
forefathers" (Mishlei / Proverbs / 22:28).

I am always amazed at the practical wisdom hidden away 
in the Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible. If you 
are not familiar with the Bible, you may be very 
surprised with this book.

The first nine chapters are an introduction to wisdom, 
where the need to pursue wisdom is graphically 
explained. Most of the rest of the book is devoted to 
short statements, designed in such a way to make you 
think. Some proverbs are comparisons, others are 
contrasts. The connections within these comparisons 
and contrasts are not always obvious. As one ponders 
them, their meaning begins to emerge. There are also 
proverbs, as in the case of the one I quoted above, 
that are simple, direct statements. Their simplicity 
doesn't mean they don't require much thought.

Let's read it again,

"Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by 
your forefathers" (Mishlei / Proverbs / 22:28).

Note no explanation is given as to why boundary stones 
should not be moved. It just tells us that they should 
not be.

A boundary stone is a stone used to mark real estate. 
If there is any doubt as to where one person's land 
ends and his neighbor's begins, the placement of the 
stone itself was supposed to settle any disputes, 
unless someone moved it, of course. 

The proverb tells us not to move ancient boundary 
stones. That doesn't mean it is permissible to move 
new or recently placed ones. It's just that recently 
established boundaries are less easily challenged, 
thus not requiring the same strong warning. Most of 
the people involved in the original decision to make 
that boundary would likely still be alive and around. 
But as time goes by and the original people are gone, 
the tendency to move those boundaries increases. Since 
most of us want to arrange life to our advantage, 
unless there is a strong deterrent, we would naturally 
disregard ancient boundaries.

We tend not to have a respect for older boundaries. 
That may be because we don't usually understand why 
the boundary was made in the first place. We think of 
that which is old as worn out and out of date. That is 
true for some things, but not for others. Yet the fact 
that a boundary is ancient actually reveals that it 
has endured through time. When encountering an ancient 
boundary, it would be wise to first investigate why 
has it remained for so long. Once we understand the 
reasons behind something, we may hesitate before 
moving it.

While this proverb is primarily concerned with real 
estate, God has establish other kinds of boundaries in 
life. His reasons for that include his desire to 
provide us with a healthy and safe environment to live 
and raise our children.

So many today have lost touch with the importance of 
these boundaries. Even among those who have committed 
their lives to a biblical lifestyle, there is an 
increased tendency to adjust them. Assuming that we 
are a more intelligent, more enlightened generation 
has caused us to dishonor our ancestors and too 
quickly throw away those principles, which they worked 
to preserve.

This doesn't mean that we should not be willing to 
examine our boundaries to see if they really are in 
keeping with those that God himself has established. 
When we discover that we have not been in line with 
God's boundaries, we need to make adjustments. But 
adjustments should only be made after very careful and 
thorough examination.

Remember no reason was given as to why ancient 
boundary stones should not be moved. The fact of their 
existence is a good enough reason to leave them where 
we find them.