1

In the Ivri (עִבְרִי) / Hebrew (ἑβραιου) text of Proverbs 23:10, we find a strange warning.

Proverbs 23:10 [MT

"Do not remove an ancient boundary, and do not enter the fields of the orphans" ( אַל־תַּ֖סֵּג גְּב֣וּל עוֹלָ֑ם וּבִשְׂדֵ֥י יְ֜תוֹמִ֗ים אַל־תָּבֹֽא )

WARNING : "and-Fields (וּבִשְׂדֵ֥י) of Orphans (יְ֜תוֹמִ֗ים) do Not-Enter (אַל־תָּבֹֽא) ".


What does Proverbs 23:10 mean regarding the prohibited entry in "Fields of Orphans"?

1
  • It means that one shouldn't (re)move the boundaries or landmarks of fields or lots, so as to make other people's areal possessions smaller than they are, and one's own bigger; especially not when it comes to those poorer or more helpless than oneself, such as widows and orphans.
    – Lucian
    Sep 28 '20 at 20:52
4

To understand this important instruction it is necessary to recall how ancient Israelite land and property was delineated.

Each family/clan had an allocated piece of land to work and from which to collect harvests. Only rarely were fences used, instead, "boundary stones" were used to mark corners and edges of property.

If an unscrupulous adjacent farmer wanted to increase his harvest, he might be tempted to harvest some of the crop of his neighbor by either moving the boundary stone, or, simply collecting the harvest within the paddock for the first few paces. This was illegal as this text makes clear.

Ancient farmers for vigilant to this illegal behavior. However, if a family had no father, there was no one to police the boundary to ensure that part of the harvest was not stolen.

Prov 23:10, 11 contains two parts:

  • A reminder that harvesting "over the boundary" was illegal
  • In the case of the orphan or fatherless, it was God who might exact vengeance on such criminal activity

The Pulpit commentary arrives at the same conclusion:

Verses 10, 11. - An enlargement of Proverbs 22:28 combined with Proverbs 22:22, 28. Verse 10. - Enter not into the fields of the fatherless. Do not think to appropriate the fields of orphans, as if there were no our to defend their rights (comp. Proverbs 15:25).

Benson add another dimension as well:

Proverbs 23:10-11. Enter not into the fields of the fatherless — Either to take away their goods, or rather, to possess their lands, as this phrase is used, 2 Samuel 5:6. For their Redeemer is mighty — Hebrew, גאלם, their near kinsman, to whom it belongs to avenge their wrongs, and to recover and maintain their rights: see on Leviticus 25:25; Numbers 35:12; Job 19:25. God is pleased to call himself the kinsman of the fatherless, to show how much he concerns himself for the relief of oppressed and helpless persons.

1

NIV Proverbs 23:10

Do not move an ancient boundary stone
or encroach on the fields of the fatherless,
11 for their Defender is strong;
he will take up their case against you.

The implication is that just because there is no man figure in the homestead, one should not take advantages of the fatherless.

John Gill's Exposition:

and enter not into the fields of the fatherless; to carry off the increase of them, to reap their wheat, or mow their grass, or turn in cattle to eat it; or to encroach upon them, take in any part of them, or join the whole to their own; for if there is a woe to them that lay field to field, much more to them that enter into and take the fields of the fatherless, and join them to their own, Isaiah 5:8.

God takes care of the vulnerable.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.