“Remove not the ancient landmarks, which thy fathers have set.” Proverbs 22:28.
Our text is generally understood as referring to property markers, and is a charge to never take advantage of our neighbor by moving the property line in order to diminish that which is his, and thereby enlarge our own borders through deceit.
Adam Clarke believed, however, that this passage is not limited to property lines alone. He wrote that this passage teaches us more broadly that we should “take not what is not thine own in any case. Let all ancient divisions, and the usages connected with them, be held sacred. Bring in no new dogmas, nor rites, nor ceremonies, into religion, or the worship of God, that are not clearly laid down in the sacred writings,” and he referred to Jeremiah 6:16, which says, “Stand in the way; and see, and ask for the old paths, which is the good way, and walk therein; and ye shall find rest for your souls.”
The whole point of our text is to honor and respect those who have gone before us — to respect our heritage and not try to change things to suit ourselves.
Yet this is exactly what many are doing in modern day America. Somebody or some group doesn’t like a statue or some other landmark or memorial, so they tear it down and remove it — and in doing so they diminish that which belongs to others and enlarge their own interests. It has become an epidemic, an American phenomenon.
But those old landmarks are there for a reason. They were placed there by our ancestors for our benefit, that we should remember our history and culture, and thus better understand who we are and how we ought to be. To take these landmarks away is to rob our people of one of the most valuable of all earthly possessions, and that is our heritage.
We are told many times in the Word of God to remember — remember God’s goodness to us so that we may have thankful hearts toward Him and love Him — remember our rebellion against Him so that we may be humbled and grateful for His amazing grace — remember our great heritage as God’s people so that we may live our lives aright, joyfully serving our God.
Remembering is vital to our faith and happiness as a people. But how can we remember if we erase our past?
So, whether we deem them good or bad, let us not remove the ancient landmarks and memorials that were left to us by our forefathers. Let us rather leave our history and our monuments alone so that we may consider what they mean, and learn from them.
-Dr. Kenneth C. Kemble,