Deut. 19 notes


לֹא תַסִּיג גְּבוּל רֵעֲךָ אֲשֶׁר גָּבְלוּ רִאשֹׁנִים בְּנַחֲלָתְךָ אֲשֶׁר תִּנְחַל בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ   19:14


Deut. 19:14  “You shall not move a landmark of your neighbor that had been set formerly in your portion that you will inherit in the land that the Lord, your God, will be giving you to possess it.”

                                                                                                                              [Return to Hose. 5:10]

Verse 19:14 seems to be completely out of place at this point in the monologue.  Here we have one verse, by itself, pertaining to a subject that has no apparent connection with the verses before or after it.  This sort of thing happens at several points throughout the bible.  Sometimes a connection, usually subtle, can be discovered.  Sometimes, as in this case, no obvious connection seems to exist.  It’s difficult to even determine what this verse means.  If I read this verse correctly, the subject landmark would have been in existence before or when the Israelites took over the Promised Land.  After they take possession, they are not to move it.  Why?  What possible purpose could this ordinance have?  No explanation is forthcoming.

It’s important to note that the second-person pronouns are all singular (as are all the others in this chapter, with one sole exception, in v. 19:19), thus (according to me) this verse is not addressing the individual.  This verse, like the others, is a commandment to the congregation in general.  Therefore, I believe that this verse is referring to the landmarks or boundaries between the three areas mentioned in Deut. 19:3.  In my humble opinion, that is what connects this verse with the previous verses.

The sages and rabbis interpret this verse to refer to individual land possessed by an Israelite, assuming that it prohibited one from stealing another’s property by moving his boundary marker.  I find that interpretation, although seemingly plausible, hard to accept.  Would not the elders have set an individual’s inheritance boundaries based on the size of his family and his tribe?  Would not he who was to possess the land have been consulted or at least accorded an opportunity to agree to the size and shape of his inheritance?  Would not anyone in right mind know if his boundary marker had been moved?  As I said above, I see this as not addressed to individuals; it’s about the people when they are in their land.

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