Word to the Wise (part 4) – Proverbs 22:28


Proverbs 22:28 Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set.

Be careful not to tread on the rights of other people. This is the essence of Solomon’s warning regarding property rights (Proverbs 22:28).

Ancient landmarks were literally stone markers that identified the boundaries of land ownership for the various tribes. The reason you couldn’t move them is that antiquity justified their permanence and you were required to respect that. These markers go all the way back to when Joshua divided the land according to sacred lot (Joshua 14-19), so they had stood for hundreds of years and date back to the earliest generations of Jewish settlers. Unfortunately crooked neighbors had a tendency to move the markers ever so slightly every so often. Over time this amounted to significant theft.

The point is that your neighbor is easy to take advantage of, and if you encroach on his rights, even an inch, you are in violation of the laws established by God to protect them. Christians should be the most careful observers of legal protection offered to all people. Furthermore, we should be prepared to defend the helpless in their distress as a function of our faith in the God of justice (James 1:27).

Once chapter later the author repeats himself and adds a motive clause. He says in Proverbs 23:10-11 “Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.” This introduces two more variables. The first is vulnerability, and the second is rescue.

The victims are referred to as being fatherless. This doesn’t necessarily means orphans, for even a child who has a mother can be fatherless. The term really means that the person has been bereft of their provision and protection. They are at risk, and they are defenseless. Or are they?

The second variable is that of rescue. Someone is watching. In this case it obviously refers to God himself who is acutely aware of every spurious transaction, land grab, selfish indulgence, and immoral scheme. It is God who will fight for the poor, and he’ll do it with zeal.

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