“A Charming Mountain Goat”
CHARMING is not an adjective most of us would use to describe a goat. We may think of goats as useful animals that will eat practically anything and that provide us with tasty meat and nutritious milk—but we would hardly call them charming.
Nevertheless, the Bible describes a wife as “a lovable hind and a charming mountain goat.” (Proverbs 5:18, 19) Solomon, a writer of the book of Proverbs, was a keen observer of Israel’s wildlife, so undoubtedly he had good reason for using this metaphor. (1 Kings 4:30-33) Perhaps, like his father David, he had observed the mountain goats that frequent the area around En-gedi, near the shores of the Dead Sea.
Small flocks of mountain goats that live in the nearby Judean Desert regularly visit the spring of En-gedi. Since it is the only reliable water source in this barren area, En-gedi has been a favorite watering place for mountain goats for centuries. In fact the name En-gedi probably means “fountain of the kid,” a testimony to the regular presence of young goats in this area. King David found refuge here from the persecution of King Saul, although he had to dwell like a fugitive “upon the bare rocks of the mountain goats.”—1 Samuel 24:1, 2.
At En-gedi you can still watch a female ibex, or mountain goat, gracefully pick her way down a rocky ravine as she follows a male goat toward the water. Then you may begin to comprehend the comparison of the female ibex with a loyal wife. Her placid nature and elegant form also bespeak feminine virtues. The word “charming” apparently alludes to the grace and elegant appearance of the mountain goat.*
The female ibex has to be tough as well as graceful. As Jehovah pointed out to Job, the mountain goat gives birth in the crags, in rocky, inaccessible places where food may be scarce and temperatures are extreme. (Job 39:1) Despite these difficulties, she cares for her offspring and teaches them to climb and leap among the rocks as nimbly as she does. The ibex also valiantly protects her young from predators. One observer saw a mountain goat fighting off an eagle for half an hour, while the young kid crouched beneath her for protection.
Christian wives and mothers often have to rear their children under adverse circumstances. Like the mountain goat, they show dedication and unselfishness in caring for this God-given responsibility. And they bravely strive to protect their children from spiritual dangers. So, far from belittling women with this metaphor, Solomon was actually drawing attention to a woman’s grace and beauty—spiritual qualities that shine through even in the most difficult environment.
According to The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon, in this context the Hebrew word chen, translated “charming,” means ‘grace or elegance of form and appearance.’
[Pictures on page 30, 31]
A Christian wife and mother displays beautiful spiritual qualities when fulfilling her God-given responsibilities