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Judges 15:4 [study!]

American Standard Version (ASV 1901) [2]
— And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between every two tails.
King James Version (KJV 1769)
— 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.
New American Standard Bible (NASB ©1995)
— Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned [the foxes] tail to tail and put one torch in the middle between two tails.
Webster's Revision of the KJB (WEB 1833)
— And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took fire-brands, and turned tail to tail, and put a fire-brand in the midst between two tails.
Darby's Translation (DBY 1890)
— 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.
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (EBR 1902)
— So Samson went, and caught three hundred jackals,—and took torches, and turned tail to tail, and put one torch between the two tails, in the midst.
Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1898)
— 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,
Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision (DR 1750)
— And he went and caught three hundred foxes, and coupled them tail to tail, and fastened torches between the tails:
Original King James Bible (AV 1611) [2]
— And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and tooke firebrands, and turned taile to taile, and put a firebrand in the midst betweene two tailes.
Brenton Greek Septuagint (LXX, Restored Names)
— And Samson{gr.Sampson} went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned tail to tail, and put a torch between two tails, and fastened it.
Full Hebrew Names / Holy Name KJV (2008) [2] [3]
— And Shimshon went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.

Strong's Numbers & Hebrew NamesHebrew Old TestamentColor-Code/Key Word Studies
And Šimšôn שִׁמשׁוֹן 8123
{8123} Prime
שִׁמְשׁוֹן
Shimshown
{shim-shone'}
From H8121; sunlight; Shimshon, an Israelite.
went y3212
[3212] Standard
יָלַך
yalak
{yaw-lak'}
A primitive root (compare H1980); to walk (literally or figuratively); causatively to carry (in various senses).
z8799
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
x1980
(1980) Complement
הָלַךְ
halak
{haw-lak'}
Akin to H3212; a primitive root; to walk (in a great variety of applications, literally and figuratively).
and caught 3920
{3920} Prime
לָכַד
lakad
{law-kad'}
A primitive root; to catch (in a net, trap or pit); generally to capture or occupy; also to choose (by lot); figuratively to cohere.
z8799
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
three 7969
{7969} Prime
שָׁלוֹשׁ
shalowsh
{shaw-loshe'}
The last two forms being masculine; a primitive number; three; occasionally (ordinal) third, or (multiplicative) thrice.
hundred 3967
{3967} Prime
מֵאָה
me'ah
{may-aw'}
Probably a primitive numeral; a hundred; also as a multiplicative and a fraction.
foxes, 7776
{7776} Prime
שׁוּעָל
shuw`al
{shoo-awl'}
From the same as H8168; a jackal (as a burrower).
and took 3947
{3947} Prime
לָקַח
laqach
{law-kakh'}
A primitive root; to take (in the widest variety of applications).
z8799
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
firebrands, 3940
{3940} Prime
לַפִּיד
lappiyd
{lap-peed'}
From an unused root probably meaning to shine; a flambeau, lamp or flame.
and turned 6437
{6437} Prime
פָּנָה
panah
{paw-naw'}
A primitive root; to turn; by implication to face, that is, appear, look, etc.
z8686
<8686> Grammar
Stem - Hiphil (See H8818)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 4046
tail 2180
{2180} Prime
זָנָב
zanab
{zaw-nawb'}
From H2179 (in the original sense of flapping); the tail (literally or figuratively).
to x413
(0413) Complement
אֵל
'el
{ale}
(Used only in the shortened constructive form (the second form)); a primitive particle, properly denoting motion towards, but occasionally used of a quiescent position, that is, near, with or among; often in general, to.
tail, 2180
{2180} Prime
זָנָב
zanab
{zaw-nawb'}
From H2179 (in the original sense of flapping); the tail (literally or figuratively).
and put 7760
{7760} Prime
שׂוּם
suwm
{soom}
A primitive root; to put (used in a great variety of applications, literally, figuratively, inferentially and elliptically).
z8799
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
a 259
{0259} Prime
אֶחָד
'echad
{ekh-awd'}
A numeral from H0258; properly united, that is, one; or (as an ordinal) first.
firebrand 3940
{3940} Prime
לַפִּיד
lappiyd
{lap-peed'}
From an unused root probably meaning to shine; a flambeau, lamp or flame.
in the midst 8432
{8432} Prime
תָּוֶךְ
tavek
{taw'-vek}
From an unused root meaning to sever; a bisection, that is, (by implication) the centre.
between x996
(0996) Complement
בַּיִן
beyn
{bane}
(Sometimes in the plural masculine or feminine); properly the constructively contracted form of an otherwise unused noun from H0995; a distinction; but used only as a preposition, between (repeated before each noun, often with other particles); also as a conjugation, either... or.
two 8147
{8147} Prime
שְׁתַּיִם
sh@nayim
{shen-ah'-yim}
(The first form being dual of H8145; the second form being feminine); two; also (as ordinal) twofold.
tails. 2180
{2180} Prime
זָנָב
zanab
{zaw-nawb'}
From H2179 (in the original sense of flapping); the tail (literally or figuratively).
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary

Judges 15:4-5

_ _ went and caught three hundred foxes — rather, “jackals”; an animal between a wolf and a fox, which, unlike our fox, a solitary creature, prowls in large packs or herds and abounds in the mountains of Palestine. The collection of so great a number would require both time and assistance.

_ _ took firebrands — torches or matches which would burn slowly, retaining the fire, and blaze fiercely when blown by the wind. He put two jackals together, tail by tail, and fastened tightly a fire match between them. At nightfall he lighted the firebrand and sent each pair successively down from the hills, into the “Shefala,” or plain of Philistia, lying on the borders of Dan and Judah, a rich and extensive corn district. The pain caused by the fire would make the animals toss about to a wide extent, kindling one great conflagration. But no one could render assistance to his neighbor: the devastation was so general, the panic would be so great.

Matthew Henry's Commentary

See commentary on Judges 15:1-8.

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Judges 15:4

Foxes — Of which there were great numbers in Canaan. But it is not said that Samson caught them all, either at one time, or by his own hands; for being so eminent a person, and the judge of Israel, he might require assistance of as many persons as he pleased. And it must be allowed, that the God who made the world, and by his singular providence watched over Israel, and intended them deliverance at this time, could easily dispose things so that they might be taken. He chose to do this not by his brethren, whom he would preserve from the hatred and mischief which it might have occasioned them, but by brute creatures, thereby to add scorn to their calamity, and particularly by foxes; partly, because they were fittest for the purpose, being creatures very fearful of fire; and having such tails as the fire — brands might most conveniently be tied to; and not going directly forward, but crookedly, whereby the fire would be dispersed in more places. Fire — brands — Made of such matter as would quickly take fire, and keep it for a long time; which was easy to procure. And put, &c. — That the foxes might not make too much haste, nor run into their holes, but one of them might delay another, and so continue longer in the places where they were to do execution.

Geneva Bible Translation Notes

[[no comment]]

Cross-Reference Topical ResearchStrong's Concordance
caught three:
Dr. Kennicott and others contend, that for shualim, "foxes," we should read shoalim, "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 manuscripts, 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 (
1 Kings 20:10 And Benhadad sent unto him, and said, The gods do so unto me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me.
Isaiah 40:12 Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
Ezekiel 13:9 And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I [am] the Lord GOD.
): 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 note on
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: ... And let fall also [some] of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave [them], that she may glean [them], and rebuke 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.
Psalms 63:10 They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes.
Song of 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 upon it.

firebrands:
or, torches
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Ru 2:15. 1K 20:10. Ps 63:10. So 2:15. Is 40:12. Lm 5:18. Ezk 13:9.

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It is easier to believe in some ways that Jesus walked on water than to believe what Samuel did, especially if we do not give this careful thought.

Wesley’s commentary says this:

Of which there were great numbers in Canaan. But it is not said that Samson caught them all, either at one time, or by his own hands; for being so eminent a person, and the judge of Israel, he might require assistance of as many persons as he pleased. And it must be allowed, that the God who made the world, and by his singular providence watched over Israel, and intended them deliverance at this time, could easily dispose things so that they might be taken. He chose to do this not by his brethren, whom he would preserve from the hatred and mischief which it might have occasioned them, but by brute creatures, thereby to add scorn to their calamity, and particularly by foxes; partly, because they were fittest for the purpose, being creatures very fearful of fire; and having such tails as the fire — brands might most conveniently be tied to; and not going directly forward, but crookedly, whereby the fire would be dispersed in more places. Fire — brands — Made of such matter as would quickly take fire, and keep it for a long time; which was easy to procure. And put, &c. — That the foxes might not make too much haste, nor run into their holes, but one of them might delay another, and so continue longer in the places where they were to do execution.

1. Let us not assume that foxes are rare in our parts today that the same population density of foxes existed where Sampson was.
These are translated as foxes but are actually jackals. 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. Perhaps they travel in large packs to scare up animals and in some cases they will attack animals much larger than themselves if they are in a large troop.

2. It is unlikely that Sampson caught them all – Being a judge of Israel he had at his command the assistance of others. Some commentaters think that Noah was a King in his day. To imagine Noah spending 120 years by himself buiding an large boat is foolishness. Anyone who dismisses such feats of human ability so quickly show how intellectually backward they are. Noah of course employed others to do the work and Sampson probably had others join him as well.

We note that the writer of Judges portrays Sampson differently from any of the other judges in that Sampson acts, it apears, alone. It is doubtful that this was really the case and that is not the writers intent that we assume this act of burning the Phillistine’s fields, was something that Sampson did “all by himself” but the focus is kept on Sampson alone by not mentioning those others who helped him.

3. Sampson did not have them all at one time
4. The Bible is condensed. Sometimes a hundred years is condensed into one verse and the writers of the Bible did not include all the details. The entire lifetime of some people in the Bible is a single sentence (verse) that may tell of an extrodoininary exploit that they did. Try summing up your life into one verse and see how difficult or unbelievable it could seem to others.

The Bible doesn’t say that Sampson necessarily did this in one season, although it does appear that way. It probably wasn’t in one day. Could you believe he did 50 in one week with the help of others over a large territory of the Philistines from Gaza to Sidon? If so, could he not have done 300 over a season or several years?

5. He tied two together, for if there was only one it would go into a hole.
6. Foxes are used because they symbolize how clever Sampson is.


The saying goes that “Truth is stranger than fiction”. Study the amazing things that have indeed happened and I think you can accept that somehow this account is very possible.

- Ken (2/18/2012 10:30:59 AM)
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