by Leon Mauldin
Synopsis: Leon discusses certain ancient boundary stones which have been excavated and which illustrate the Old Testament prohibition, "Do not move the ancient boundary or go into the fields of the fatherless" (Prov. 23:10).
On a recent trip to London, undertaken in January of 2018, for the purpose of photographing biblically-related artifacts in the British Museum, I came across this ancient Babylonian boundary stone, which dates to the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I, 1125-1104 BC (not to be confused with the biblical Nebuchadnezzar II of Daniel's day, who reigned from 605-562 BC). The accompanying placard states:
Boundary stones, or kudurru monuments, are records of land ownership and privileges such as tax exemption. They were made in southern Mesopotamia from the Kassite period onwards. Writing on this dudurru describes the military service of the chariot commander Ritt-Marduk, who campaigned in Elam (south Iran) for King Nebuchadnezzar I... Curses protect the stone from interference. The sun, moon, and star symbolize the gods Shamash, Sin, and Ishtar who guarantee the permanence of the king's reward. (SEE IMAGE 1)
Seeing this 3,000-year-old boundary stone put me in mind of Deut. 19:14, "Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it" (KJV). Other versions say, "Your neighbor's boundary mark" (NASB), "boundary marker" (CSB), and "boundary stone" (NIV).
Later, in Deuteronomy 27, Moses anticipated Israel's arrival in the land of Canaan under Joshua. They were instructed to assemble, six tribes on Mt. Ebal (mount of cursing), and six tribes on Mt. Gerizim (mount of blessing). It should not be overlooked that this (Shechem) is where childless Abraham was when YHWH gave him the land promise (Gen. 12:6-7). All the people were to agree to the terms stated in the law. Significantly, among the twelve "curses" specified pertaining to this matter of removing landmarks, the Law said, "Cursed is the one who moves his neighbor's boundary marker. And all the people will say, 'Amen!'" (Deut. 27:17, CSB).
There are currently thirteen boundary stones discovered that mark the biblical city of Tel Gezer (an amazing number for one city!). Gezer was one of Solomon's fortified cities, mentioned along with other building projects in 1 Kings 9:15: "Now this is the account of the forced labor which King Solomon levied to build the house of the LORD, his own house, the Millo, the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer." This Gezer landmark stone is displayed in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. (SEE IMAGE 2)
The Proverbs also include references to boundary stones. "Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set" (Prov. 22:28, KJV); "Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless" (Prov. 23:10, KJV). Both of these texts are rendered "ancient boundary stone" by the NET and NIV.
Hosea, the 8th century BC prophet, showed how judgment was coming upon the leadership of Israel, both priest and king (5:1). Interestingly one of the reasons for this coming punishment related to our topic: "The princes of Judah are like those who move boundary markers; I will pour out My fury on them like water" (5:10, CSB). The term water (Heb. mayim) "often refers to literal flood waters (Gen. 7:7, 10; 8:3, 7-9; Isa. 54:9) and figuratively describes the LORD's judgment that totally destroys the wicked" (NET notes). Cf. the NLT, "like a waterfall."
While traveling in eastern Turkey in 2007 (en route to Mt. Ararat), I saw fields which were marked by boundary stones. (SEE IMAGE 3)
Lessons: God has placed numerous spiritual landmarks, or boundary stones, in His word. This is true of the plan of salvation, the doctrine that is to be taught, what is acceptable worship, that which is the work and organization of the church. Don't move the ancient landmark!
Author Bio: Leon has worked with the Hanceville church of Christ in Hanceville, AL for 29 years. He and his wife, Linda, have three children and eight grandchildren (one deceased). The church's website is hancevillechurchofchrist.com. Leon's Message Board, devoted to Bible History and Geography, is at bleon1.wordpress.com. To learn about his biblical tours, please visit mauldinbiblelandtours.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image 1: Babylonian Boundry Stone
Image 2: Gezer Boundry Stone
Image 3: Eastern Turkey