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As the Deer

by Tim O'Hearn

Why can a female red deer never be first in line? Because she will always “be hind.” Why is a hind without a stag always a loser? Because to be a winner “You’ve Got to Have Hart.” (I apologize to my international readers for a joke that won’t translate well; I won’t apologize to my English speaking readers, because I never apologize for a pun, no matter how bad it is.) I needed a way, though, to introduce the animals called the hind and the hart. A hind is a female red deer, while a hart is the male of the breed. Both are mentioned several times in the Bible, and often in a way that we can learn lessons from them.

The red deer is especially noted for its pleasant and impressive appearance. Because of this, the Song of Songs refers to the boyfriend as a hart upon the mountains. “Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.” (SOS 8:14) (See also SOS 2:9,17.) In that same book the girlfriend admonishes her handmaidens not to disturb her sleeping boyfriend. In doing so, she emphasizes her admonition “by the hinds of the field.” Apparently they were so prized by the maidens of that time that people swore by the deer as they might swear by any valued object.

In showing God’s power, on psalmist notes that it is God who makes the hind to calve. (Ps 29:9) When God presented a series of questions to Job, to show how far above Job’s thoughts were his own, he asked, “Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? Canst thou mark when the hinds do calve?” (Job 39:1) The hind is under God’s power, and his watchfulness. If God so cares for the deer of the field, how much more will he care for you!

One of the noted characteristics of the hind (but not the hart) is its family loyalty. Mother red deer and their children form a family group that lasts until the children mate for themselves. Even then, young males often have territories that overlap those of their mothers. Biblical writers also noted this loyalty. “Rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.” (Prov 5:18-19) Jeremiah considered this loyalty so amazing that a violation of it would be as remarkable as God’s destruction of Jerusalem. “Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass.” (Jer 14:5) He goes on to talk about the sins of Jerusalem that would bring this marvel about.

Red deer are also noted for finding whatever they need for sustenance. Harts have come down from the hills to eat from farm crops when food was scarce. This persistence in finding what they need was noted by a psalmist. “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so my soul panteth after thee, O God.” (Ps 42:1)

The one characteristic of the red deer most noted by biblical writers, however, is their agility. “Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.” (Isa 35:6) Beyond noticing their mere leaping, many writers make reference specifically to the unerring hinds’ feet. (Yes, that would include their hind feet.) In 2 Samuel 22, David makes a psalm upon his deliverance from his enemies. This is also Psalm 18. In verse 34 (verse 33 in the Psalm) David says, “He maketh my feet like hinds' feet: and setteth me upon my high places.” He praises God for keeping him from falling. After Habakkuk had a vision of God in all his glory, he concludes by asserting God’s faithful support. “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)

The hart and the hind don’t worry about food, or falling. As we go through our days, we should be like they. Let us pant for God, who will plant our feet on the heights. Then we will be as pleasant in aspect as the hart or the hind.