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" in Word Study
(Heb. shu'al, a name derived from its digging or burrowing under ground), the Vulpes thaleb, or Syrian fox, the only species of this animal indigenous to Palestine. It burrows, is silent and solitary in its habits, is destructive to vineyards, being a plunderer of ripe grapes (Cant. 2:15). The Vulpes Niloticus, or Egyptian dog-fox, and the Vulpes vulgaris, or common fox, are also found in Palestine.
The proverbial cunning of the fox is alluded to in Ezek. 13:4, and in Luke 13:32, where our Lord calls Herod "that fox." In Judg. 15:4, 5, the reference is in all probability to the jackal. The Hebrew word shu'al_ through the Persian _schagal becomes our jackal (Canis aureus), so that the word may bear that signification here. The reasons for preferring the rendering "jackal" are (1) that it is more easily caught than the fox; (2) that the fox is shy and suspicious, and flies mankind, while the jackal does not; and (3) that foxes are difficult, jackals comparatively easy, to treat in the way here described. Jackals hunt in large numbers, and are still very numerous in Southern Palestine.
). Probably the jackal is the animal signified in almost all the passages in the Old Testament where the Hebrew term occurs. Though both foxes and jackals abound in Palestine, the shu?alim
(foxes) of (Judges 15:4
) are evidently jackals and not foxes, for the former animal is gregarious, whereas the latter is solitary in its habits; and Samson could not, for that reason, have easily caught three hundred foxes, but it was easy to catch that number of jackals, which are concealed by hundreds in caves and ruins of Syria. It is not probable, however, that Samson sent out the whole three hundred at once. With respect to the jackals and foxes of Palestine, there is no doubt that the common jackal of the country is the Canis aureus
, which may be heard every night in the villages. It is like a medium-sized dog, with a head like a wolf, and is of a bright-yellow color. These beasts devour the bodies of the dead, and even dig them up from their graves.
- (shu`al; compare Arabic tha`lab (Jdg 15:4
; Neh 4:3
; Ps 63:10
; Song 2:15
; Lam 5:18
; Ezek 13:4
); alopex (Mt 8:20
; Lk 9:58
)): The foxes of different parts of Europe and Western Asia differ more or less from each other, and some authors have given the local tyes distinct specific names. Tristram, for instance, distinguishes the Egyptian fox, Vulpes nilotica, of Southern Palestine, and the tawny fox, Vulpes flavescens, of the North and East It is possible that the range of the desert fox, Vulpes leucopus, of Southwestern Asia may also reach Syria. We have, however, the authority of the Royal Natural History for considering all these as merely local races of one species, the common fox, Vulpes alopex or Canis vulpes. The natives of Syria and Palestine do not always distinguish the fox and jackal although the two animals are markedly different. The jackal and wolf also are frequently confounded.
See DRAGON; JACKAL.
In Ps 63:9 f we have, "Those that seek my soul, to destroy it, .... shall be given over to the power of the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes" (shu`alim). It has been thought that the jackal is meant here (Revised Version margin), and that may well be, though it is also true that the fox does not refuse carrion. In the Revised Version, margin, "jackal" is suggested in two other passages, though why is not clear, since the rendering "fox" seems quite appropriate in both. They are Neh 4:3, ".... if a fox go up, he shall break down their stone wall," and Lam 5:17 f, ".... our eyes are dim; for the mountain of Zion which is desolate: the foxes walk upon it." the Revised Version, margin also has "jackals" in Jdg 15:4 f, where Samson "caught three hundred foxes .... and put a firebrand in the midst between every two tails .... and let them go into the standing grain of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks and the standing grain, and also the oliveyards." Jackals are probably more numerous than foxes, but the substitution does not appreciably diminish the difficulties in the way of any natural explanation of the story. In Song 2:15 we have a reference to the fondness of the fox for grapes. In Mt 8:20 and Lk 9:58 Jesus says in warning to a would-be follower, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." Foxes differ from most of the Canidae in burrowing holes for their lairs, unless indeed they take possession of the burrow of another animal, such as the badger. In Lk 13:32 Jesus compares Herod to a fox.
Alfred Ely Day.
Also see definition of "Fox
" in Word Study