By Christopher Simon
Ancient Boundary Stones
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” ~ Isaiah 40:8 NIV
There is a prohibition in the Book of Proverbs which tells us “Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.” (Proverbs 22:28 NIV) This may sound curious to modern ears, but it is just a straightforward warning against theft or encroachment on someone else’s land. A few verses later the warning is repeated, with a bit more specificity: “Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you.” (Proverbs 23:10-11 NIV)
The ancient Israelites believed that the land belonged to God and was in a sense loaned to God’s people for their use. Thus, they allowed the poor and sojourners to glean the fields (cf. Leviticus 19:9-10), and the original distribution of the land for each tribe and family was expected to be honored (cf. Leviticus 25).
These rules and maxims are, in effect, a codification of God’s justice and fairness. The “ancient boundary stone” can also be taken metaphorically to apply to the ancient wisdom of the Bible. We do well to keep these ancient stones in place. Rules that have worked well for thousands of years should not be overturned lightly.