October 28, 2003
"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
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that which is old as worn out and out of date.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
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
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
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.