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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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HEDGE.—This word belongs to the vocabulary of the parables of Jesus. It occurs in that of the Vineyard (Matthew 21:33, Mark 12:1), and in that of the Great Supper (Luke 14:23).

1. Literal application.—The hedge is a detail in the outfit of a vineyard, one of many other properties (Matthew 21:33 ||) in such a possession. It is a feature in the landscape of Palestine in the other case (‘highways and hedges,’ Luke 14:23). There is a connexion between the uses and the associations of the word. The contour of the land is controlled by the tillage of the soil. Vines need hedges. The word (φραγμός) used for a hedge in the Gospels ‘denotes a fence of any kind, whether hedge, or wall, or palings’ (Hastings, DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] ii. 340a). Another word might rather have called up a stone wall. φραγμός includes all the different kinds of hedges to be found in a country so furrowed with hills and valleys as is Palestine.

2. The parabolical use of the ‘hedge’ is rooted in the education of Israel. God made sea and desert a hedge of Palestine. Cf. Ellerton’s hymn—

‘Praise to our God, whose hounteous hand

Prepared of old our glorious land,

A garden fenced with silver sea.’ …

He hedged the people. He gave them individuals, institutions, the whole national economy, as hedges to protect their life and to restrain it. Enemies raided the land and broke down the hedges (Psalms 79, 80). Patriots and prophets saw and sang their gaps, and did their best to repair the historic institutional hedges. The tragedy of Jesus and the hedges was that He wanted them rooted up, while the chief priests hated the idea of their removal (Matthew 21:45). Through the tragedy gleams the philanthropic import of the hedge (Luke 14:23). The eye of love sees humanity submerged. ‘Them also he would bring.’ He would make hedge-row people happy. He had seen their misery as He stole to silent midnight prayer, up the hillsides with their mosaic of fields, along whose hedges and through the gaps of which He passed to pray to the Father in secret. It is humanity’s ragged regiment whom He would see housed by the compulsion of ‘the love (Luke 14:23) that will not let them go.’

Literature.—Geikie, Life of Christ, i. ch. 17; Thomson, Land and Book, ch. 14; Philochristus, chs. 1–3 for ‘Hedge of the Law.’

John R. Legge.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Hedge'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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