Conies, also known as rock hyraxes, are small mammalians mentioned several times in the Bible. Though there is some debate about the exact identity of the animal referred to as a “coney” in Biblical times, most scholars believe it refers to the hyrax. This blog post will provide an in-depth look at what conies are, where they are mentioned in Scripture, and the significance behind these intriguing creatures.
An Introduction to Conies
The coney or hyrax is a small furry animal that looks similar to a large guinea pig or rabbit, but is more closely related to elephants and manatees. Here are some key facts about conies:
- Scientifically they are known as hyraxes and belong to the family Procaviidae. There are four living species of hyraxes.
- They are native to Africa and the Middle East and inhabit rocky terrain. Conies make their homes in rock crevices and cliffs.
- They are relatively small, typically measuring 12-24 inches long and weighing 4-12 pounds.
- Conies have rodent-like teeth but their feet have padding similar to hooved animals. They have small ears and short tails.
- They are herbivores who eat leaves, fruits, seeds, and grasses. Conies are diurnal, active during the day.
- Hyraxes are highly social animals living in colonies of up to 50 individuals. They use various squeaks and grunts to communicate.
- Though they resemble rodents, conies are more closely related to modern elephants and manatees. The ancient extinct order that includes elephants and manatees also contains hyraxes.
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So in summary, the coney or hyrax is a small furry social creature that inhabits rocky and mountainous regions of Africa and the Middle East. They have a unique appearance and social structure that sets them apart from other animals.
Where are Conies Mentioned in the Bible?
Conies are mentioned four times in the Bible, all within the Old Testament poetic and wisdom literature. Here are the specific passages:
Psalm 104:18 – “The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the conies.” (NKJV)
This passage is part of a Psalm praising God as creator. It mentions how God created places of refuge and habitation for all kinds of creatures, including making rocky cliffs where conies can live protected.
Proverbs 30:24-26 – “There are four things which are little on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer; the rock badgers are a feeble folk, yet they make their homes in the crags; the locusts have no king, yet they all advance in ranks; the spider skillfully grasps with its hands, and it is in kings’ palaces.”
Here conies are depicted as weak creatures, yet wisely making their homes in secure mountain rocks where they find safety.
Leviticus 11:5 – “And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you.” (NKJV)
In laying out laws about clean and unclean animals, Moses identifies that coney/hyraxes are not kosher because they chew their cud but don’t have split hooves.
Deuteronomy 14:7 – “Nevertheless, of those that chew the cud or have cloven hooves, you shall not eat, such as these: the camel, the hare, and the rock hyrax; for they chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves; they are unclean for you.” (NKJV)
Moses again lists the coney among unclean animals not to be eaten because of their feet and chewing habits.
So in summary, conies are mentioned in two Psalms and Proverbs passages poetically as inhabitants of the mountains. They are also mentioned twice in the Law as unclean animals not approved for eating.
Key Things the Bible Says About Conies
Though they are only mentioned four times, the biblical references to conies/hyraxes give us some important details:
- They were common inhabitants of the mountainous regions of the Middle East. The Bible writers could refer to them and expect their audiences to be familiar with the animal.
- Conies have adaptions that enable them to thrive in rocky and high elevation environments. This includes feet padding and ability to cling to rocks.
- They have chewing and digestion patterns similar to ruminants like cattle, but lack hooves, so were labeled as unclean.
- Despite being small and vulnerable, conies demonstrate wisdom in making their homes in extremely secure locations.
- God intentionally designed the conies and providentially provides for them in their mountain habitat.
So the Bible uses the curious coney as an example of God’s wise creative provision for the animals he has made. Though small, they thrive in a rugged environment thanks to divine design.
Identifying the Coney in the Bible
As mentioned, most modern scholars agree the coney referred to in the Bible is the hyrax. This small furry animal matches the descriptions of habitat and chewing habits. However, there has been some debate about this:
- In older English translations like the KJV, coney is translated as “rabbit” but rabbits were native to Spain and would not have lived wild in Israel.
- Some 19th century scholars proposed it was a jerboa, a desert rodent, but those don’t live among rocks.
- Archeologists have found no remains of rock badgers (an European marmot-like animal) in the Middle East, ruling that out.
- The pika and marmot are mountain-dwelling rodents but they do not have chewing cud-like hyraxes.
So by process of elimination, the modern consensus affirms the rock hyrax is the “coney” or “rock badger” the Bible describes. The hyrax explanation fits the geographical location and animal behavior details mentioned. They are abundant in exactly the mountainous regions the Bible references.
The Significance of the Coney
On the surface, the humble coney doesn’t seem like a significant animal. But we can draw some meaningful implications from the biblical passages on conies:
God cares for small, vulnerable creatures – The Bible’s depiction of conies living securely in rock cliffs illustrates how God provides for even inconspicuous animals. This should encourage us when we feel overlooked.
Adaptions reflect God’s creativity – The rock hyrax has unique physical traits perfectly suited for its environment. We should praise the Lord for his ingenious artistry and design evident in all creation.
Jesus fulfills the Law’s distinctions – Rules distinguishing clean and unclean animals symbolically set apart God’s holy people. Christ fulfilled the Law’s requirements through his sinless life so we can draw near to God through him.
God deserves our praise – Psalms and Proverbs poetically depict the habitats of different animals to provoke our worship of the wise Creator who imagined them all. Let conies remind us to praise God.
Though easy to overlook, the curious Biblical coneys speak volumes about God’s love, creativity, law, and glory. Their place in Scripture teaches us much about how God relates to his creatures and longs for them to know Him.
Conclusion: The Coneys’ Rocky Reminder
This deep dive into the Biblical coneys has uncovered key insights about their identity, depictions, and spiritual significance. In summary:
- Conies likely refer to hyraxes – small mammals adapted to living in rocky heights.
- They are referenced 4 times in the Old Testament wisdom literature and Law.
- The Bible uses them as examples of God’s protective care and ingenious design.
- Though weak, conies wisely find refuge in secure heights.
- Their chewing habits techncially made them unclean in the Law’s symbolism.
- Coneys remind us of God’s attentive provision, wise creativity, redemption through Christ, and deserve praise.
So next time you encounter the brief mentions of coneys in the Bible, remember these small yet significant symbols of our wise Creator’s care. Let them inspire awe at God’s provision, creativity, perfection, and glory. The humble rock-dwelling conies eloquently reflect eternal truths that should draw our hearts to worship the Lord.
- Conies or hyraxes were familiar animals in the Middle East that inhabited rocky cliffs.
- The Bible uses conies as examples of God’s protective care and creative design.
- Though weak, conies wisely made their homes in secure heights.
- Conies were labeled unclean since they chewed cud but lacked split hooves.
- Jesus fulfilled the purity laws, so our righteousness comes through faith in him.
- Coneys illustrate how God cares for the vulnerable and longs for people to know him through Christ.