What is the meaning of the foxes in Song of Solomon 2:15?Question: "What is the meaning of the foxes in Song of Solomon 2:15?"
Answer: In Song of Solomon 2:15 the Shulammite says, “Catch for us the foxes, / the little foxes / that ruin the vineyards, / our vineyards that are in bloom.” It might seem strange that, as the bride-to-be extols her betrothed’s lovely face and sweet voice (verse 14), she would speak of a fox hunt. As with many images in this beautiful poem, the foxes are symbolic.
Solomon’s readers considered foxes to be destructive animals that could destroy valuable vineyards (cf. Judges 15:4; Psalm 63:10; Ezekiel 13:4). As the Shulammite verbalizes her love for King Solomon, she speaks of the need to “catch” the foxes that spoil the vines. If the blossoming vineyard is taken to mean the growing romance between the couple, then the foxes represent potential problems that could damage their relationship prior to the marriage (which takes place in chapter 5). The bride-to-be is saying, in essence, “Let’s take preventative measures to protect our love from anything that could harm it.”
In ancient literature, wild animals were often used to represent problems that could separate lovers. For example, Egyptian love songs used crocodiles to picture a threat to romantic love. In Israel, crocodiles were not common, but foxes were.
In the Old Testament, foxes are mentioned in Judges 15. Samson ties torches to 300 foxes and releases them to destroy the grain fields of the Philistines. In Nehemiah 4:3, the evil Tobiah mocks the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall, saying, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”
In the New Testament, Jesus once uses the word picture of a fox in a negative way. In speaking of Herod, Jesus states, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal’” (Luke 13:32). Jesus calls Herod a “fox” as a rebuke of that monarch’s crafty and worthless nature.
Song of Solomon 2:15 is a wise and beautiful verse. The vineyards are “in bloom”—the romance is alive and growing and preparing to bear fruit. The Beloved desires the “foxes” to be rounded up and destroyed—all potential threats to their relationship must be removed. And she specifies that the foxes are “little”—it’s the little things, the things overlooked, that often spoil things of value. The Beloved wants her lover, Solomon, to address and remove all dangers, obstacles, and threats to their love. As they pay attention to the “little things,” the lovers will continue to pursue marriage and sexual intimacy.
Recommended Resource: Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon: Holman Old Testament Commentary by David Moore and Daniel Akin
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Questions about Song of Solomon
What is the meaning of the foxes in Song of Solomon 2:15?