Moses' fifth speech, Part 19, Boundary markers
Feb 07, 2013
After speaking on the subject of murder and the difference between accidental and premeditated homicide, Moses then makes a short statement that almost seems to be out of place in the flow of his speech. Deuteronomy 19:14 says,
14 You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary mark, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you shall inherit in the land that the Lord your God gives you to possess.
This appears to have nothing to do with his previous teaching on murder, nor what follows in regard to the requirement of credible witnesses. Yet when we see it as a revelation of spiritual truth, it fits perfectly.
In fact, Moses has not really changed the subject at all, for he is not yet finished with the variations of murder and killing in general. Moses continues with this topic throughout the rest of his speech, but in the midst of his discussion, he speaks of landmarks, boundaries, or inheritance borders. What does this have to do with the topic at hand?
To move a boundary marker is to change the property lines in the attempt to steal land or trespass into another man’s inheritance. We see this in Proverbs 23:10-12,
10 Do not move the ancient boundary, or go into the fields of the fatherless; 11 For their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their case against you. 12 Apply your heart to discipline, and your ears to words of knowledge.
The writer contemplates a situation where the parent or guardian has died or has been killed, leaving someone “fatherless.” In such situations, God Himself becomes their ga’al, their redeemer of blood, as we see in Exodus 22:22-24,
22 And you shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; 24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.
David understood this as well, for during the years that he was an outlaw, his parents had renounced him, probably to protect their own estate from the wrath of Saul. Hence, he wrote in Psalm 27:10,
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.
In other words, those who have no earthly covering are like widows, orphans, and strangers. In such cases God becomes their direct covering as their redeemer of blood. Like David, many overcomers too have been cast out or forced to flee from the wrath of Saul. They are then criticized for having no church covering, when, in fact, they have the same covering that David himself enjoyed.
Getting back to Proverbs 23:10, the style of writing is a common Hebrew parallelism, where a statement is repeated but in a different way. In this case, moving the boundary is parallel to going into the fields of the fatherless. In other words, it is a case where a neighbor takes advantage of the orphan who appears to be vulnerable. He moves the boundary marker in order to steal the inheritance of the fatherless. But verse 11 says that God is their Redeemer (ga’al), who will plead the orphan’s case in the Divine Court. The advice, or instruction, is then given to us in verse 12: “Apply your heart to discipline, and your ears to words of knowledge.” The Hebrew word translated “discipline” is musar, which refers to correcting the behavior of a child through discipline, chastening, and instruction.
Discipline means that a child must learn not to trespass against the rights of others. He must discipline himself to stay within his bounds. He must not move his neighbor’s landmark so as to encroach upon the rights of others. Such discipline teaches a child not to be lawless, for the law itself is a behavioral boundary that establishes the border between one’s own inheritance and that of his neighbor.
So we see that Proverbs 23:10-12 expounds upon Deuteronomy 19:14 and shows us that this law is ultimately about those who would put away the law or change its moral boundaries to the detriment of those who are vulnerable. Much of the world has done this today by violating the rights of the unborn children, who are most vulnerable to attack. The lawless ones do not know that Jesus was very concerned about the children, saying in Matthew 18:10,
10 See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven.
In other words, every child has an angel in heaven who constantly represents them in the Divine Court. They have free access to the “face” or presence of God. That is, these angels have legal standing in the Divine Court and will always be recognized by the Court when they act as legal guardians (ga’al) for the children. While the Babylonian world does not recognize a child until it is born, God recognizes them from conception. The Babylonian world can be brutal against unwanted children up to the moment of its birth, but they hypocritically weep over the death of a child if it dies two seconds after it is born.
The world today, and many who call themselves Christians, have moved the boundary markers of the vulnerable. The problem of lawlessness has been with us since the beginning, for the carnal mind seeks to move the boundary markers that were established long ago. It is strange, but even those who are Spirit-filled and are able to work miracles and to prophesy can be lawless. We see this with King Saul who was filled with the Spirit and who prophesied (1 Samuel 10:6). We see this again in Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23, where his verdict is: “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
Therefore, when Moses gives instruction not to move ancient boundary markers, while speaking about murder and accidental homicide, he is making a statement about not being lawless. In fact, he brings in this law to emphasize what he said in the previous verse:
13 You shall not pity him, but you shall purge the blood of the innocent from Israel, that it may go well with you.
Moses was giving instruction to the judges, of course, who were to render verdicts in strict accordance with the law. Of course, in no way did this infringe upon the rights of the victims to show mercy and to forgive. In the same manner, the boundary markers were not to be moved, but any man had the right to give the use of his field to his neighbor for as long as he may wish.
Moses then moves on to the law of witnesses. Essentially, his instruction establishes the boundary markers in regard to witnesses. The courts were bound by the law to render judgment only at the mouth of two or three witnesses. The witnesses themselves were bound to speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth. These were the boundary markers of the law.
The prophet Zechariah also speaks of borders and boundaries of the law in his prophecies of Jerusalem and the New Jerusalem. Zechariah is one of the most difficult prophets to understand. He speaks so much about Jerusalem, but like the other prophets he does not distinguish between the Old and the New Jerusalem. In Zechariah 2:1-5 we read,
1 Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. 2 So I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see how wide it is and how long it is.” 3 And behold, the angel who was speaking with me was going out, and another angel was coming out to meet him, 4 and said to him, “Run, speak to that young man, saying, ‘Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls, because of the multitude of men and cattle within it. 5 for I’, declares the Lord, ‘will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst’.”
There are two men and two angels in this vision. Zechariah is one of the men, but he sees another man going out to measure the Old Jerusalem, apparently at the instruction of the first angel that had been speaking with Zechariah in the vision.
But as the first angel went out and passing from the scene, the second angel told the first angel to run quickly and tell the man with the measuring line NOT to measure Jerusalem. There seemed to be a change of plan. Why the contradiction? It is primarily to show the difference between the two Jerusalems. The earthly Jerusalem could be measured; the heavenly Jerusalem could not.
The stated reason for not measuring the city is seen in verse 4, “Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls, because of the multitude of men and cattle within it.” Although the metaphor is of an earthly city, it is speaking of the heavenly city, which is far greater and bigger and more inclusive than the old city. In that city are not only “men” but “cattle,” that is, sheep and goats that represent different types of people—clean people, for both sheep and goats are clean animals and can be used at Passover (Exodus 12:5).
This is a vague reference to all creation coming into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:18-22). The New Jerusalem is not limited as the Old Jerusalem has been. But the angel continues in verse 5, saying that God Himself “will be a wall of fire around her.” In other words, there is no physical wall, as the Old Jerusalem had. The wall of the New Jerusalem is the character of God Himself, as expressed in His Word, that is, the “fiery law” of Deuteronomy 33:2.
Walls are meant to restrict access to a city and to keep enemies from entering. Walls channel people toward the gates, telling people that if they wish to enter, they must enter through one of the gates. Isaiah speaks of the New Jerusalem and speaks of its walls in Isaiah 60:18, “you will call your walls salvation [Yeshua], and your gates praise.” He goes on to say that there will be no need of the sun or moon in that city, because God will be their source of light.
This prophecy is referenced in Revelation 21, where John describes the New Jerusalem. When we link these other prophecies with Zechariah’s vision, we see that Zechariah was speaking of the New Jerusalem with its wall of fire. The fiery wall depicts the character of God, for He appeared only as fire to Israel on Mount Horeb. Isaiah says that this wall of fire is to be called Yeshua, or Jesus Christ, for He is the One who is the exact expression of the character of the Father (Hebrews 1:3). The law expressed His character and His will, and Jesus precisely fulfilled both the letter and spirit of the law.
And so we see that the law of boundary markers speaks of the law that God spoke out of the midst of the fire (Deuteronomy 4:33). The walls of the Old Jerusalem were a metaphor for the law, but that city violated the law, and the glory of God departed in Ezekiel 10 and 11. The wall of the New Jerusalem, however, is a true wall of fire; but in spite of the restrictions of the law, the angel told Zechariah that it would house a great multitude. Therefore, it should not be measured nor should it be given boundaries, for it will be a universal kingdom, and when all are reconciled to Him, there will be no more enemies to keep out.
This is the nineteenth part of a series titled "Moses' Fifth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones