Judges 15:4
Parallel Verses
New International Version
So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails,

King James Bible
And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.

Darby Bible Translation
And Samson went and caught three hundred jackals, and took torches, and turned tail to tail, and put a torch in the midst between the two tails.

World English Bible
Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned tail to tail, and put a torch in the midst between every two tails.

Young's Literal Translation
And Samson goeth and catcheth three hundred foxes, and taketh torches, and turneth tail unto tail, and putteth a torch between the two tails, in the midst,

Judges 15:4 Parallel
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible

Went and caught three hundred foxes - There has been much controversy concerning the meaning of the term שועלים shualim, some supposing it to mean foxes or jackals, and others handfuls or sheaves of corn. Much of the force of the objections against the common version will be diminished by the following considerations: -

1. Foxes, or jackals, are common and gregarious in that country.

2. It is not hinted that Samson collected them alone; he might have employed several hands in this work.

3. It is not said he collected them all in one day; he might have employed several days, as well as many persons, to furnish him with these means of vengeance.

4. In other countries, where ferocious beasts were less numerous, great multitudes have been exhibited at once.

Sylla, in a public show to the Roman citizens, exhibited one hundred lions; Caesar, four hundred, and Pompey, nearly six hundred. The Emperor Probus let loose in the theater, at one time, one thousand ostriches, one thousand stags, one thousand wild boars, one thousand does, and a countless multitude of other wild animals; at another time he exhibited one hundred leopards from Libya, one hundred from Syria, and three hundred bears. - See Flavius Vopiscus in the Life of Probus, cap. xix., beginning with Dedit Romanis etiam voluptates, etc.

That foxes, or the creature called shual, abounded in Judea, is evident from their frequent mention in Scripture, and from several places bearing their name. It appears they were so numerous that even their cubs ruined the vineyards; see Sol 2:15 : Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil our vines. Jeremiah complains that the foxes had occupied the mountains of Judea, Lamentations 5:18. They are mentioned as making incursions into enclosures, etc., Nehemiah 4:3. Ezekiel compares the numerous false prophets to these animals, Ezekiel 13:4. In Joshua 15:28 we find a place called Hazar Shual, "the court of the foxes:" and in Joshua 19:42 a place called Shaal-abbin, "the foxes;" no doubt from the number of those animals in that district. And mention is made of the land of Shual, or of the fox, 1 Samuel 13:17.

The creature called shual is represented by travelers and naturalists who have been in Judea as an animal between a wolf and a fox. Hasselquist, who was on the spot, and saw many of them, calls it the little Eastern fox. They are frequent in the East, and often destroy infirm persons and children.

Dr. Kennicott, however, objects to the common interpretation; and gives reasons, some of which are far from being destitute of weight. "The three hundred foxes," says he, "caught by Samson, have been so frequently the subject of banter and ridicule, that we should consider whether the words may not admit a more rational interpretation: for, besides the improbability arising here from the number of these foxes, the use made of them is also very strange. If these animals were tied tail to tail, they would probably pull contrary ways, and consequently stand still; whereas a firebrand tied to the tail of each fox singly would have been far more likely to answer the purpose here intended. To obviate these difficulties it has been well remarked, that the word שועלים shualim, here translated foxes, signifies also handfuls, Ezekiel 13:19, handfuls of barley; if we leave out that one letter ו vau, which has been inserted or omitted elsewhere, almost at pleasure. No less than seven Hebrew MSS. want that letter here, and read שעלים shealim. Admitting this version, we see that Samson took three hundred handfuls or sheaves of corn, and one hundred and fifty firebrands; that he turned the sheaves end to end, and put a firebrand between the two ends in the midst; and then, setting the brands on fire, sent the fire into the standing corn of the Philistines. The same word is now used twice in one chapter, (Ezekiel 13:4, Ezekiel 13:19); in the former verse signifying foxes, in the latter handfuls: and in 1 Kings 20:10, where we render it handfuls, it is αλωπεξι, foxes, in the Greek version." - Remarks on Select Passages.

The reasoning of Dr. Kennicott in the first part of this criticism has already been answered; other parts shall be considered below. Though there are seven MSS., which agree in the reading contended for by Dr. Kennicott, yet all the versions are on the other side. I see no improbability in the common version.

Turned tail to tail - Had he put a firebrand to each, which Dr. Kennicott thinks more reasonable, the creature, naturally terrified at fire, would have instantly taken to cover, and thus the design of Samson would have been frustrated. But, tying two of them together by their tails, they would frequently thwart each other in running, pull hither and thither, and thus make the greater devastation. Had he tied them all together, the confusion would have been so great that no execution could have been done.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

caught three. Dr. Kennicott and others contend, that for foxes, we should read handfuls or sheaves of corn. But

1. The word lachad, rendered caught, never signifies simply to get or take but always to catch, seize, or take by assault or stratagem.

2. Though the proposed alteration is sanctioned by seven MSS., yet all the versions are on the other side.

3. Admitting this alteration, it will be difficult to prove that the word shoal means either a sheaf or a handful of corn in the ear, and straw. It occurs but thrice in Scriptures (1ki

Judges 20:10 And we will take ten men of an hundred throughout all the tribes of Israel, and an hundred of a thousand...

. Is


Ezekiel 13:9 And my hand shall be on the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people...

): where it evidently means as much as can be contained in the hollow of the hand; but when handfuls of grain in the shock, or sheaves are intended, very different words are used. See

Ruth 2:15,16 And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not...

, etc.

4. It is not hinted that Samson collected them alone, or in one day; he might have employed many hands and several days in the work.

5. The word Shual properly denotes the jackal, which travellers describe as an animal in size between the wolf and fox, gregarious, as many as

200 having been seen together, and the most numerous of any in eastern countries; so that Samson might have caught many of them together in nets.

Psalm 63:10 They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes.

Songs 2:15 Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

Lamentations 5:18 Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk on it.

firebrands or touches

Whether the Degrees of Prophecy Can be Distinguished According to the Imaginary vision?
Objection 1: It would seem that the degrees of prophecy cannot be distinguished according to the imaginary vision. For the degrees of a thing bear relation to something that is on its own account, not on account of something else. Now, in prophecy, intellectual vision is sought on its own account, and imaginary vision on account of something else, as stated above (A[2], ad 2). Therefore it would seem that the degrees of prophecy are distinguished not according to imaginary, but only according to
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

For the understanding of the early history and religion of Israel, the book of Judges, which covers the period from the death of Joshua to the beginning of the struggle with the Philistines, is of inestimable importance; and it is very fortunate that the elements contributed by the later editors are so easily separated from the ancient stories whose moral they seek to point. That moral is most elaborately stated in ii. 6-iii. 6, which is a sort of programme or preface to iii. 7-xvi. 31, which constitutes
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

Cross References
Judges 15:3
Samson said to them, "This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them."

Judges 15:5
lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves.

Proverbs 26:18
Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death

Isaiah 7:4
Say to him, 'Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood--because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah.

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