What Does the Bible Say About Borders?

Should a country maintain borders, or should we do away with them? They’ve been a contentious issue over the last couple of years, so I thought it’s time to see if the Bible has anything to say about borders. It turns out that it does!

God Creates Nations

When God created the world, there was only one group of people. At first, everyone had descended from Adam and Eve. While they had established different cities and roamed about, they all spoke the same language, were of the same race, and they were all united.

Eventually, they started to migrate together instead of migrating in different directions, and set forth to build a city on the plain of Shinar, where they began to build a tower that would reach Heaven.

When God saw what a unified people would be capable of, he confused their language, and dispersed them around the world, effectively creating the races, civilizations, and nations that resulted.

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:8-9, NIV)

God Creates Borders

If God didn’t care about borders, why did He make sure that an extremely detailed description of Israel’s borders were included in the Book of Joshua? If you’ve read the Bible, you’d know how tedious-yes, I said it-it is to read the specific details of not just Israel’s borders, but how Israel was to be divided between the Twelve Tribes. Did you ever wonder why God provided such detail? Maybe it was to get your attention!

God Respects Borders and Boundaries

In the Old Testament, there are borders that delineate not only nations, but private property. In many cases these are identified by landmarks, and we are provided with a view of how God views the those who take it upon themselves to disrespect boundaries that have been set:

The princes of Judah have become like those who move the landmark; upon them I will pour out my wrath like water (Hosea 5:10, ESV).

We see similar warnings in Deuteronomy 19:14 and 27:17, Proverbs 22:28 and 23:10, and Job 24:2.

Moses took the boundaries of a nation seriously enough that when the wandering Israelites wanted to pass through Edom, messengers were sent to the king to ask permission:

Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from a well. We will go along the King’s Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” (Numbers 20:17, ESV)

In the end, the king of Edom denied the request, and met the Israelites with a large army to make sure his rejection was adhered to. Did Israel complain to God? No, they turned away and took the long way around.

God Created Our Current Borders

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, (Acts 17:26)

Finally, we see that God is Sovereign over the history of nations, not just their physical boundaries, but their boundaries in time as well. In practical terms, this means that God put the starting boundary of the United States at 1776, and only He knows where the finishing boundary will be. It also means that He has put the northern and southern borders of the United States where they are, not man. It means that God has done the same with every other nation on Earth.

It is not the place of our government, or individuals, to disrespect the borders and boundaries of other nations, just as it is not their place to disrespect ours. To do so is to disrespect our Sovereign God.


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Note: This has been cross-posted from Medium where it was originally published 13 December 2018.

J. Alan Doak

J. Alan Doak is a blogger, reader, writer, news junkie, and student of the Bible. He is married and has three grown children. He holds a bachelor's degree in Pastoral Studies, and has blogged sporadically at this website, Reflection on Plumb, over several years.

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