The Ancient Landmark
“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set” Proverbs 22:28. I lived in the Tar Heel state for about five years, in a quiet part of the county, just off the main road. Not long after we moved in, I saw our neighbor digging holes about six feet into our yard. He was planting some big shrubs for a privacy fence, but where none of the plants took up any space in his yard. I asked him if he realized he would be taking a lot of my already small piece of property, and he said, “What’s a few feet among neighbors?” We eventually worked it out (when he dug up his shrubs). I had the property surveyed, and it turned out that the previous owner of the home had done the same thing and had even built a shed that split the property line.
The Proverb says not to remove the ancient landmark. Don’t move the property line that’s been there for ages for your advantage, as if your desires now take precedence over what has been established and settled. Those landmarks were set up as a settled and fixed reference point. Generations come and go, but that landmark is supposed to stand. King Ahab offered a tidy sum for Naboth’s vineyard and Naboth’s no was an emphatic one. “The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee” 1 Kings 21:3. Ahab wanted the land because it was valuable and near his capital. When the inheritance was taken in the conquest, there was no king in Israel, no capital city, but a lot had happened in the 500 years. Times changed and the value of the land changed, but the landmark had not.
For the Jewish people, their land was passed down as the inheritance God gave them. It was not something to be trifled with or thought little of. God’s law granted property rights. The command not to steal has a flip side—you have the right to keep what’s yours. Your neighbor doesn’t even have the right to look at what you have and wish it was his (Exodus 20:15; 17). People who advocate for open borders, strangely enough, often live far away from the border they want to erase. Some landmarks are more valuable than others in an unjust society. Last year, I went to Washington, D.C., and saw the White House from afar. I couldn’t get too close. A big fence surrounded it with armed guards to mark and protect the property. The “what’s the big deal about property lines” crowd always seems to be the one encroaching on others, not losing out.
Moving landmarks is a sin against the property owner and the future generations, who are the losers from one person’s greed and envy. It’s a sin against a society that destroys one of the basic fundamentals of individual happiness, to be able to live peaceably and steward what you’ve received from the Lord.