In times of financial, social, or medical uncertainty, the coney might seem like an unlikely example of wisdom.
But this little rodentlike critter, so common in certain regions of Africa and the Middle East, is worth getting to know.
The coney is interesting for a number of reasons. Based on DNA similarities, some biologists have suggested that the lowly coney (also called a hyrax or a rock badger) is the closest living relative to the elephant. But anyone who has seen one knows that it looks more like a well-fed guinea pig than an “elephant’s little brother.”
I caught a picture of one a few years ago while visiting En Gedi, where, according to the Bible, David once hid from King Saul among the rocks on the western shore of the Dead Sea. Although coneys are known for living among the rocks, they sometimes show up in branches of bushes or small trees where they feed on leaves.
This one didn’t seem too afraid of people. Maybe it’s because, in Israel, ancient Jewish food laws forbade the eating of coneys (Leviticus 11:5; Deuteronomy 14:7).
The Bible explains that coneys aren’t kosher, because although they chew their cud to get nourishment out of their diet of rough grass and leaves, they don’t have a separated hoof. I don’t understand the details. But once I learned that the coney recycles its food by reingesting its own partially digested waste, it sounded like a good idea not to eat them.
I was also interested to learn that the coney doesn’t have a good thermostat for controlling body temperature. That explains why they are often seen stretched out and sunning themselves like a reptile.
But what really interests me is the coney’s “David-like” habit of seeking protection among the rocks (1 Samuel 24).
Coneys illustrate wisdom in the face of danger. In spite of their confusing names, strange qualities, family issues, and noteworthy weaknesses, these little creatures, according to the Bible, know where to hide in times of trouble.
The 104th Psalm begins with praise for the greatness of a God who shows His care for all living creatures. In inspired poetry that delights in the provisions of the Creator, the psalmist says, “The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the coneys” (v.18 KJV).
Then among the Proverbs of Solomon, there is a simple statement, which in the King James Version says, “The coneys are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks” (Proverbs 30:26). The New Living Translation says about rock badgers: “They aren’t powerful, but they make their homes among the rocks.”
In both the song and the proverb, the implications are clear: Even though these weak little animals are subject to predation and death, they, by nature, seek the temporary provisions and means of protection given to them by their Creator.
David had in mind this wisdom long ago when he penned, “O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to You for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for You are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me” (Psalm 61:1-3 NLT).
Coneys can remind us of the sanctuary that is ours in Christ. According to the Bible, our ultimate rock of refuge is personified and fulfilled in the One who died and rose from the dead for us. According to the New Testament, those of us who seek protection in Christ are:
1. Forgiven of our sins (Ephesians 1:7).
2. Declared to be right with God (Romans 3:24; 2 Corinthians 5:18).
3. Hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).
4. Forever protected by the love of God (Romans 8:39).
5. Recipients of God’s consolation, comfort, and mercy (Philippians 2:1).
Without question, this “safety in Christ” is the ultimate rock of refuge that the coney and the whole Bible allude to.
“In Christ,” we are in the best possible position to weather the financial, social, and medical storms of life.
“In Christ,” we have the assurance of God’s presence and love regardless of our circumstances.
“In Christ,” we are in the best place to hear Jesus tell us not to worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and He will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the kingdom of God your primary concern (Matthew 6:31-33).
Father in heaven, as You have taught the lowly coney to find protection in the rocks, please help us to pray again today with Your servant David, “O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to You for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for You are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me” (Psalm 61:1-3 NLT). —Mart De Haan