Windows on the Word

Life on the Edge


Life on the Edge


In the last Nugget, we discussed the steep and jagged cliffs, often called the cathedral cliffs, that ring the western shore of the Dead Sea and guard the entrance to the Judaean Desert (Hebrew: מִדְבַּר יְהוּדָה Midbar Yehuda).  This steep and treacherous area is the home of the Ibex.  The English KJV uses the word ‘hind’ – translated from אַיֶּ֥לֶת (ah-yeh-let), with the plural, אַיָּל֑וֹת (ah-yah-lot).  The word is first mentioned in Genesis 49:21 in Jacob’s prophecy of his sons: “Naphtali is a hind let loose: he giveth goodly words.”  Job 39:1 and Psalm 29:9 speak of the time of year when the hinds give birth – which is right now in March.  


Saul pursued David relentlessly for many years and almost killed him many times, but God always helped David to escape. When David was finally delivered from King Saul, he wrote his thanksgiving prayer down in the form of 2 Samuel chapter 22 which was later placed into the Psalms as Psalm 18.  The verse I am most interested in is 2 Sam. 22:34, “He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places.”  [also Psalm 18: 33]  David had intimate knowledge of the habits of the Yael because he often lived in their habitat at Engedi: “And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi. Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.” (1 Sam. 24:1-2)  [The phrase ‘wild goats’ refers to the Ibex.]

During the ten years that David lived in the Judean wilderness, “on the run” so to speak from Saul, he had to learn to trust in God alone.  However, one teacher that God sent to David were the graceful Ibex whose home he shared.  In 2 Sam. 22:34, David made particular mention of the feet of the Ibex.  This is because their feet is their most important asset. His hooves have a sharp outer rim and a soft inner pad, which provides traction on slippery rock surfaces. The rugged and trecherous terrain that is the home of the Yael is also his protection. The Ibex can climb up or down the sheer cathedral cliffs of the Dead Sea region.   The high places are their home!  When enemies approach, they climb even higher so that the enemy cannot follow.  What appears to be a precipice of danger to us, is a very safe place for the Ibex.


Like David, we also can learn much from the Ibex.  At the beginning of 2 Samuel 22, David wrote of God, “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer.”  As the Ibex make their homes high on the rocks, David said God was his rock! When enemies come upon the Ibex their safest place is often the most dangerous looking place – on the edge of some precipice where no enemy will dare climb. There the Ibex is safe.  Perhaps the times in our life that appear to be dangerous is actually just the Lord putting us out of harm’s way.  

Again David wrote, “The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.” Psalm 104:18  The ‘high hills’ referred to are the cathedral cliffs and the wild goats are of course the Ibex.  The word ‘refuge’ is also important.  The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says of the Hebrew word, מַחְסֶ֥ה (mahx-seh): “while it is used literally of taking shelter from a rainstorm (Isa 4:6; 25:4; Job 24:8) or from danger in the high hills (Ps 104:18), it is more often used figuratively of seeking refuge and thus putting confident trust in God.” (Deut 32:37)  David says the cliffs are the place of trust for the Ibex and God was the place of trust for David.  


God gave the Ibex sure-feet on the rocks, and He gave David sure-feet on the slippery slopes of life so that he could skillfully  maneuver.  The New Testament word for trust is faith. Hundreds of years after David, the prophet Habakkuk (חֲבַקּוּק) wrote his book reiterating David’s words as a closing doxology to the life of faith (אֱמוּנָתֹ֥) which is often life on the edge: “The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” – Hab. 3:19   

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