How Did Samson Catch 300 Foxes?
I was reading through Judges 15 and came to verse 4
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.
How did he catch so many?
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Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
(4) Caught three hundred foxes.--Rather, three hundred jackals. The word Shualim is used for both; but it would be difficult to catch three hundred foxes, whereas the jackals are still heard howling in herds about these very regions at night. They must have been still more common in Palestine in ancient days, and hence we find such names as "the land of Shual" (1Samuel 13:17), Hazar-shual ("jackal's enclosure," Joshua 15:28), Shalim (1Samuel 11:4), Shaalabbin ("place of foxes or jackals," Joshua 19:42). There would be no difficulty in trapping them; nor is it said that they were all let loose at once.
Turned tail to tail.--This implies that he tied the tails together (LXX., suned?sen; Vulag.,junxit).
Put a firebrand in the midst.--The firebrands were pieces of resinous wood, like Gideon's torches (Judges 7:20), which were loosely trailed between the tails of the jackals. The object of tying two together was to impede their motion a little, so that they might not dart away so violently as to extinguish the torch.
Verse 4. - Foxes. The word here rendered fox (shu'al, in Persian shagal, which is etymologically the same word as jackal) includes the jackal, which is as common in Palestine as the fox. Here, and in Psalm 63:10, the gregarious jackals, the canis aureus, are undoubtedly meant. Caught. The Hebrew word means especially caught in nets or snares. See Amos 3:5 (have taken nothing at all); Psalm 35:8 (let his net catch himself); Jeremiah 18:22; Isaiah 8:14 (taken), etc. And it is in this sense that the A.V. uses the word caught. A clever sportsman, as no doubt Samson was, would have no difficulty whatever in netting or snaring 300 jackals, which always move in packs, and would be attracted by the vineyards of Thimnathah, for which their partiality is well known (see Judges 14:5, note). The writer of the additional article Fox in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' states that he had tried the experiment of throwing grapes to the foxes, jackals, and wolves in the Zoological Gardens. The wolves would not touch them, the others ate them with avidity. Took firebrands, etc. Many cavils have been directed against the truth of this account, but without the slightest reason. The terrified animals, with the burning torches and the blazing straw behind them, would necessarily run forwards. Samson would, of course, start the couples at numerous different points, and no doubt have a number of Hebrews to assist him. To the present day the corn-fields in that part of the Shephelahextend continuously for twenty or thirty miles.
Judges 15:4-5 Then Samson went and caught three hundred foxes; and he took torches, turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails. When he had set the torches on fire, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines, and burned up both the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves.
What he decided to do, as we might see in today's newspapers, was to go on a multimillion-dollar arson spree.
The word, "foxes," would be better-translated "jackals." The Hebrews used the same word for both animals. If you know the difference between a fox, and a jackal, you can understand why most commentators feel that jackals is the better translation. Foxes are solitary animals. They avoid human habitations, usually. We know them as sneaky, and hard to catch, and cunning.
Do you remember seeing at one time or another an old movie with an English foxhunt? Typically, they might have 30 dogs, and 30 men on horseback chasing one little fox. And foxes often get away.
Jackals, on the other hand, are pack running dog-like animals. They run in packs, they tend to be braver around human habitations—safer in numbers, I suppose. Since they are in groups nearer to human habitation, they would be easier to catch in greater numbers than foxes.
Animals have to sleep sometime. I know people who have talked about going cow tipping and there are movies about that.
If you were to feed squirrels, it wouldn't take long before they climb up on you. I remember people feeding racoons at the Valley Green Inn in Fairmount park Philadelphia.