Fox

Fox

is the rendering in the A.V. of שׁוּעָל (shual' Sept. ἀλόπηξ, as in Mt 8:20; Lu 9:58; Lu 13:32; Jg 15:4; Ne 4:3; Ps 63:10; Song 2:15; La 5:18; Eze 13:4), a name derived, according to Bochart (Hieroz. 2:190), from the coughing or yelping of that animal, but, according to Gesenius (Thes. Heb. page 1457), from its digging or burrowing under the ground. The latter remarks that jackals must be meant in Jg 15:4, since the fox is with great difficulty taken alive; and also in Ps 63:11, inasmuch as foxes do not feed on dead bodies, which are a favorite repast for the jackal. There is also another word, אַיִּים (iyim', literally howlers, occurs only in Isa 13:22; Isa 34:14; Jer 1; Jer 39, where it is rendered "wild beasts of the islands"), which seems to refer to the jackal, or some other species of the fox family. Fox is again the translation of ἀλώπηξ in Mt 8:20; Lu 9:5-8; Lu 13:32; but here also the word in the original texts may apply generically to several species rather than to one only. SEE ANIMAL.

Fox is thus applied to two or more species of the Canidae, though only strictly applicable in a systematic view to Taaleb, which is the Arabic name of a wild canine, probably the Syrian fox, Vulpes Thaleb or Taaleb of modern zoologists — and the only genuine species indigenous in Palestine. This animal is of the size of an English cur fox, and similarly formed; but thee ears are wider and longer, the fur in general ochry-rufous above, and whitish beneath: there is a faint black ring towards the tip of the tail, and the back of the ears are sooty, with bright fulvous edges. The species burrows, is silent sand solitary, extends eastward into Southern Persia, and is said to be found. in Natolia. The Syrian Taaleb is reputed to be very destructive in the vineyards, or, rather, a plunderer of ripe grapes; but he is certainly less so than the. jackal, whose ravages are carried on in troops, and with less fear of man. Ehrenberg's two species of Taalab (one of which he takes to be the Anubis of ancient Egypt, and Geoffroy's Canis Niloticus, the Abu Hossein of the Arabs) are nearly allied to, or varieties of the species, but residing in Egypt, and further to the south, where it seems they do not burrow. The Egyptian Vulpes Niloticus, and doubtless the common fox (V. vulgaris), are Palestine species. There is also the so-called Turkish fox (Cynalopex Turcicus) of Asia Minor, not unknown to the south as far as the Orontes,. and therefore likely to be an occasional visitant at least of the woods of Libanus. This animal is one of an osculant group, with the general character of vulpes, but having the pupils of the e yes less contractile in a vertical direction, and a gland on the base of the tail marked by a dark spot. There is, besides, one of a third group, namely, Thous anthus, or deeb of the Arabs, occasionally held to be the wolf of Scripture, because it resembles the species in general appearance, though so far inferior in weight, size, and powers as not to be in the least dangerous, or likely to be the wolf of the Bible. The first two do not howl, and the third is solitary and, howls seldom; but there is a fourth (Canis Syriacus, Ehrenb. Mammal. 2) which bowls, is lower and smaller than a fox, has a long, ill-furnished tail, small ears, and a rufous-gray livery. This can hardly be the Canis aurenus, or jackal of Palestine, and certainly not the χρύσεος of AElian. The German naturalists seem not to have considered it identical with the common Jackal (Sacalius aureus), which is sufficiently common along the coast, is eminently gregarious, offensive in smell; howls intolerably in complete concert with all others within hearing; burrows; is crepuscular and nocturnal, impudent, thievish; penetrates into outhouses; ravages poultry-yards more ruinously than the fox; feeds on game, lizards, locusts, insects, garbage, grapes; and leaves not even the graves of man himself undisturbed. It is probable that Canis Syriacus is but a chryseus, or wild dog, belonging to the group of Dholes, well known in India, and, though closely allied to, distinct from, the jackal. Russell heard of four species of Canidae at Aleppo, Emprich and Ehrenberg of four in Libanus, not identical with each other; nor are any of these clearly included in the thirteen species which the last-named writers recognize in Egypt. They still omit, or are not cognizant of, wild dogs, SEE DOG, and likewise other wild species in Arabia and Persia; all, including foxes, having migratory habits, and therefore not unlikely to visit Palestine. Some of these may have accompanied the movements of the great invasions of antiquity, or the caravans, and become acclimated; and, again, may have departed, or have been gradually extinguished by local circumstances, such as the destruction of the forests or of the inhabitants, and the consequent reduction of the means of subsistence; or, finally, they may have been extirpated since the introduction of gunpowder. Hasselquist (Travels, page 184) says foxes are common in the stony country about Bethlehem, and near the Convent of St. John, where, about vintage time, they destroy all the vines unless they are strictly watched. Thomson started up and chased one when passing over that part of the plain where Timnath is believed to have been situated (Land and Book, 2:340). That jackals and foxes were formerly very common in some parts of Palestine is evident from the names of places derived from these animals, as Hazar-Shual (Jos 15:28), Shaal-bim (Jg 1:35). SEE JACKAL.

Bible concordance for FOX.

The fox is proverbially fond of grapes (Aristoph. Equit. 1076 sq.; Theocr. 5:112 sq.; Nicand. Alexipharm. 185; Phaedr. 4:2; Galen, Alim. Facult. 3:2), and a very destructive visitor to vineyards (Song 2:15). The proverbially cunning character of the fox is alluded to in Eze 13:4, where the prophets of Israel are said to be like foxes in the desert, and in Lu 13:22, where our Savior calls Herod "that fox." The fox's habit of burrowing among ruins is referred to in Ne 4:3, and La 5:18 (see also Mt 8:20). (On Ps 63:11, see Pausan. 4:18, 4.) The Rabbinical writers make frequent mention of the fox and his habits. In the Talmud it is said, "The fox does not die from being under the earth; he is used to it, and it does not hurt him." And again, "He has gained as much as a fox in a ploughed field," i.e., nothing. Another proverb relating to him is this:

"If the fox be at the rudder, Speak him fairly, My dear brother."

Definition of fox

Foxes are figured in hunting-scenes on the Egyptian monuments (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt, 1:224, abridgm.). SEE CHASE.

None of the usual explanations of the controverted passage in Jg 15:4-5, relative to the foxes, jackals, or other canines which Samson employed to set fire to the corn of the Philistines is altogether satisfactory. First, taking Dr. Kennicott's proposed explanation of the case (Remarks on Select Passages in the O.T., Oxf. 1787, page 100), on the authority of seven Heb. MSS., by changing שׁוּעָלַים to שׁעָלַים, thus reading handfuls (comp. the Sept. at 1Ki 20:10), i.e., "sheaves" instead of "foxes," and translating זָנָב, " end" instead of "tail, the meaning then would be, that Samson merely connected three hundred shocks of corn, already reaped, by bands or ends, and thus burned the whole. We admit that this, at first view, appears a rational explanation (see Hopkins, Plumb-line Papers, Auburn, 1862, page 20 sq.); but it should be observed that three hundred shocks of corn would not make two stacks, and therefore the result would be quite inadequate, considered as a punishment or act of vengeance upon the Philistine population, then predominant over the greater part of Palestine; and if we take shocks to mean corn-stacks, then it may be asked how, and for what object, were three hundred corn-stacks brought together in one place from so large a surface of country. The task, in that hilly region, would have occupied all the cattle and vehicles for several months; and then the corn could not have been thrashed out without making the whole population travel repeatedly, in order finally to reload the grain and take it to their threshing-floors. Nor will the verb לָקִח (" caught") bear the rendering thus required, for it properly means to ensnare, to take captive, and is specially applied to. the act of catching animals (e.g., Am 3:5). (See, also, what an anonymous French author has written under the title of de Samson, and his arguments refuted in a treatise, " De Vulpibus Simsonaeis," by Gebhard, in Thes. Nov. Theol. Philippians 1:553 sq.; and comp. Gasser, Comment. ad loc. [Hal. 1751]; Pfaff; Von dem Fuchsen Simsons [Tub. 1753]; Schroder, De vulpibus Simsonis [Marb. 1713]; Tage, De vulpibus Simsonaeis [Griefsw. 1707]). The proposed reading of Kennicott has deservedly found little favor with commentators. Not to mention the authority of the important old versions which are opposed to this view, it is pretty certain that שׁעָלַים cannot mean "sheaves." The word, which occurs only three times, denotes in Isa 40:12 "the hollow of the hand," and in 1Ki 20:10; Eze 13:19, "handfuls." Reverting, therefore, to the interpretation of foxes burning the harvest by means of firebrands attached to their tails, the case is borne out by Ovid (Fasti, 4:681)

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

"Cur igitur missae junctis ardentia telis Terga ferunt vulpes" —

in allusion to the fact that the Romans, at the feast in honor of Ceres, the goddess of corn, to whom they offered animals injurious to cornfields, were accustomed to turn into the circus foxes with torches so fastened to them as to burn them to death, in retaliation of the injuries done to the corn by foxes so furnished. Again, in the fable of Apthonius, quoted by Merrick, but not, as is alleged, by the brick with a bas-relief representing a man driving two foxes with fire fastened to their tails, which was found twenty- eight feet below the present surface of London (Leland, Collectanea); because tiles of similar character and execution have been dug up in other parts of England, some representing the history of Susanna and the elders, and others the four Evangelists, and therefore all derived from Biblical, not pagan sources. Commentators, following the rendering of the Sept. (κέρκος, cauda), have, with common consent, adopted the interpretation that two foxes were tied together by their tails with a firebrand between them. Now this does not appear to have been the practice of the Romans, nor does it occur in the fable of Apthonius. Hence some have understood the text to mean that each fox had a separate brand; for it may be questioned whether two united would run in the same direction. They would be apt to pull counter to each other, and perhaps fight most fiercely; whereas there can be no doubt that every canine would run, with fire attached to its tail, not from choice, but necessity, through standing corn, if the field lay in the direction of the animal's burrow; for foxes and jackals, when chased, run direct to their holes, and sportsmen well know the necessity of stopping up those of the fox while the animal is abroad, or there is no chance of a chase. But this explanation requires that by the words rendered "tail to tail" we should understand the end of the firebrand attached to the extremity of the tail, i.e., one apiece; this would be using the word in a double sense in the same passage, an equivoque not in accordance with the direct style of the narrative. It is also probable that after a few fruitless efforts at trying to pursue each his own course, the animals would soon agree sufficiently to give the firebrand its fullest effect. Again, we know nothing as to the length of the cord which attached the animals, a consideration which is obviously of much importance in the question at issue, for, as jackals are gregarious, the couples would naturally run together if we allow a length of cord of two or three yards, especially when we reflect that the terrified animals would endeavor to escape as far as possible out of the reach of their captor, and make the best of their way out of his sight. Finally, as the operation of tying 150 brands to so many fierce and irascible animals could not be effected in one day by a single man, nor produce the result intended if done in one place, it seems more probable that the name of Samson, as the chief director of the act, is employed to represent the whole party who effected his intentions in different places at the same time, and thereby insured that general conflagration of the harvest which was the signal of open resistance on the part of Israel to the long-endured oppression of the Philistine people. (See Clarke's Comment. ad loc.; Kitto's Daily Bible Illustrations, ad loc.; Thomson, Land and Book, 2:341). SEE SAMSON.

 
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