Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen. Deuteronomy 27:17
There are certain parts of Palestine held in permanent ownership, but in the northern part of the country each farmer has his land assigned to him for one or two years, the amount being measured by a cord of a certain length, which is according to the number of members in his family, and his ability to cultivate it.
This must be a very old custom, for the land was distributed in this manner among the Hebrews in the days of Joshua, their inheritance being divided to them “by line.”
In Psalms 78:55 we read, “He divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.”
Among the Assyrians, in the days of Judah, we find these fatal words, “Thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the Lord (Micah 2:5).”
When the time of the year for the “lot” is due, all the men who desire to take part meet on the threshing floor, where the chief man of the town or village awaits them with a bag of small stones. On each stone he has written the name of a field or portion of a field, the “lot.” Many of the fields now have names similar to those in use during the time of our Lord. There is the “Field of Blood,” “Field of the Fight,” “Field of the Rocks,” and many others.
After all the men arrive, the Chief calls a small boy, far too young to know what it all means. The lad takes a pebble out of the bag and hands it to one of the men, and continues doing so until all are supplied. Not one of the men can read, he does not understand where his lot is situated, but when he receives the stone from the child he says, “This is my lot, may God maintain it.” A thought something like this is found in the sixteenth psalm, and the fifth verse, “Thou maintainest my lot.”
The Chief then reads the name of the field which is written on each stone, so that every man knows the portion of land assigned to him for the coming year.
The lot may be a long way from his dwelling, so that it will take him hours to reach it each morning and make him very late arriving home at night. The lot may be exceedingly rocky, barren and unproductive, where, work as hard as he is able, there will be but little raised. The lot may be the very last thing and place he would desire, but he takes it quietly. If unlucky one year, he looks forward to something more favorable next year.
David is no doubt thinking of these people when he rejoices that his “lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage (Psa. 16:6).