WORD STUDY – HOBBLING A CAMEL – רכס
Psalms 31:20: “You will hide them in the secret place of your presence, from the pride of man.
God is promising to protect us or our goodness from the pride of man. Pride of man does not sound like too much of a threat. Why would we want to hide our goodness from the pride of man?
The word pride in the Hebrew that is used here is rokes which is a rather unusual word to use here for pride. When we think of pride we are thinking ga’avah which is arrogance or a sense of superiority. Rokes is not this, but then again it is very difficult to find an English word to fit this Hebrew word. It has been used for conspiracy, plots, evil leagues, snares but the meaning is ultimately dubious. The word seems to come from an Akkadian word for hobbling a camel, that is tying a camel’s forefeet and looping the rope around his neck causing him to hobble around. This is done to train the camel to perform the functions necessary to load the camel with goods or to ride the camel. It is a form of restraint. It may sound cruel, but it is really done so when the camel is performing his duties he will not injure himself.
I am no expert on camels, but one thing is certain, it is a means by which the owner exercises control over the animal. To have your goodness hidden from the pride of man may have the idea of God protecting us from people who will take advantage of our goodness. One example of rokes is a woman who binds herself to an abusive husband because she is afraid of homelessness and poverty if she leaves him. That husband is a rokes. She may be very good to him and he returns that goodness by taking advantage of it. He knows with her goodness he can get away with cheating on her and abusing her. This could also be someone with a job that has an abusive boss, or even a church with a controlling a pastor.
For David, it could have been the temptation to bind himself with a foreign power to protect his nation against the Assyrian armies. But David is referring to saints here, all those who fear and serve the Lord. That includes you and I. If you have a rokes in your life, David is speaking for you here. He is telling us that there is a secret place that we can hide. The word secret is satar which means secret things, unknown things. That secret place is the presence of God.
I watched a movie the other day of a Christian in a repressive country where Christianity was illegal and she was arrested for being a Christian. The guards were very cruel and would beat her for seeming no reason at all. Every time they brought her food, no matter how meager and spoiled it was she would smile and say thank you. When she met with another prisoner that she allowed to speak with the prisoner asked what cell she was in. When she told her the woman said: “Oh, you are that crazy one.” She asked what she meant and she said she overheard the guards talking about her and how she was always singing, happy and smiling. They said she had to be crazy. She told the woman about Jesus and the joy He brings. She told her about the satar, the secret place.
That secret place is His presence, The word in Hebrew for presence is pani and it is more than just a good feeling, it is something we have with us at all times, even through we do not feel it. It is satar hidden things associated with His presence, such as guardian angels, divine guidance, or fore runners (angels that prepare the circumstances that will protect you from a future event).
David is telling us that there are things that we are not even aware of that God performs in His presence. The word satar or hidden/secret has a numerical value of 660. Other words which have a numerical value of 660 is see, speak, fear, leave. The satar sees our fears, speaks to our fears and causes our fears and the evil forces or rokes to leave.
We are, at least I know I am, like Elisha’s servant. I see myself surrounded by the forces of the enemy and I throw up my hands and say, “Well, that’s it, I’m doomed.” It is at that time that I sure could use an Elisha to pray and say: “Lord open his eyes and let him see the 10,000 angels and their chariots of fire.” Indeed, David’s choice of the word satar secret (things) of His presence is telling us that we have a protective sources surrounding us that we are not even aware of. If God did open our eyes we would see the 10,000 angels with their chariots of fire.
We will never know until we get to heaven just how many attacks by the enemy never even came to our attention because of the protection of the satar secret things of His presence. The “secret things of His presence” is like a force field surrounding us and every day the enemy throws something at us to discourage us, wear us down or destroy us and it bounces right off that force field. However, note the prior verse, the “secrets of His presence” are only for those who “trust in Him before the sons of men” (v. 19). The key to the secret of His presence” is to trust in Him before the sons of men. Just as this Christian woman in prison trusted God before her Godless prison guards and as a result she called it her “Blessed Prison.”