Song of Solomon 2:15
Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Take us the foxes.—Possibly this is a verse of a familiar country song, introduced here from the suggestion of the “sweet voice” in the last verse; but more probably to be compared to the “avaunt” so commonly addressed by poets in Epithalamia and love songs to all mischievous and troublesome creatures. Thus in Spenser’s Epithalamium, owls, storks, ravens, and frogs are warned off.

Foxes.—Comp. Judges 15:4. Whether our fox or the jackal (Heb., shual), it is known to be equally destructive to vineyards. Theocritus (Id. v. 112) is often compared:—

“I hate those brush-tailed foxes, that each night

Spoil Micon’s vineyards with their deadly bite.”

In the allegorising commentators they stand for heretics.

Song of Solomon 2:15. Take us — The bridegroom gives this charge to his bridemen or friends. By whom he understands those magistrates and ministers to whom, under Christ, the custody of the vineyards, of the churches, principally belongs. These he commands to take the foxes, to restrain them from doing this mischief; the foxes — The disturbers of the vineyard, or the church, namely, seducers or false teachers; the little foxes — This he adds for more abundant caution, to teach the church to prevent errors and heresies in the beginnings; that spoil the vines — Which foxes do many ways, by gnawing and breaking the little branches and leaves, by digging holes in the vineyards, and so spoiling the roots; for our vines have tender grapes — Which are easily spoiled, if great care be not used to prevent it.2:14-17 The church is Christ's dove; she returns to him, as her Noah. Christ is the Rock, in whom alone she can think herself safe, and find herself easy, as a dove in the hole of a rock, when struck at by the birds of prey. Christ calls her to come boldly to the throne of grace, having a great High Priest there, to tell what her request is. Speak freely, fear not a slight or a repulse. The voice of prayer is sweet and acceptable to God; those who are sanctified have the best comeliness. The first risings of sinful thoughts and desires, the beginnings of trifling pursuits which waste the time, trifling visits, small departures from truth, whatever would admit some conformity to the world; all these, and many more, are little foxes which must be removed. This is a charge to believers to mortify their sinful appetites and passions, which are as little foxes, that destroy their graces and comforts, and crush good beginnings. Whatever we find a hinderance to us in that which is good, we must put away. He feedeth among the lilies; this shows Christ's gracious presence among believers. He is kind to all his people. It becomes them to believe this, when under desertion and absence, and so to ward off temptations. The shadows of the Jewish dispensation were dispelled by the dawning of the gospel day. And a day of comfort will come after a night of desertion. Come over the mountains of Bether, the mountains that divide, looking forward to that day of light and love. Christ will come over every separating mountain to take us home to himself.The bride answers by singing what appears to be a fragment of a vine-dresser's ballad, insinuating the vineyard duties imposed on her by her brethren Sol 1:6, which prevent her from joining him. The destructive propensities of foxes or jackals in general are referred to, no grapes existing at the season indicated. Allegorical interpretations make these foxes symbolize "false teachers" (compare Ezekiel 13:4).15. Transition to the vineyard, often formed in "stairs" (So 2:14), or terraces, in which, amidst the vine leaves, foxes hid.

foxes—generic term, including jackals. They eat only grapes, not the vine flowers; but they need to be driven out in time before the grape is ripe. She had failed in watchfulness before (So 1:6); now when converted, she is the more jealous of subtle sins (Ps 139:23). In spiritual winter certain evils are frozen up, as well as good; in the spring of revivals these start up unperceived, crafty, false teachers, spiritual pride, uncharitableness, &c. (Ps 19:12; Mt 13:26; Lu 8:14; 2Ti 2:17; Heb 12:15). "Little" sins are parents of the greatest (Ec 10:1; 1Co 5:6). Historically, John the Baptist spared not the fox-like Herod (Lu 13:32), who gave vine-like promise of fruit at first (Mr 6:20), at the cost of his life; nor the viper-Sadducees, &c.; nor the varied subtle forms of sin (Lu 3:7-14).

The Bridegroom gives this charge to his bridemen or friends, whose office it is to attend upon him, and to observe his commands; by whom he understands those magistrates and ministers to whom, under Christ, the custody of the vineyards, to wit, the churches, principally belong. These he commands to take the

foxes, i.e. to restrain them from doing this mischief.

Us, Heb. for us, i.e. at our instance, and for our common good, as this spoiling of the vines was injurious and grievous to them both.

The foxes; the disturbers of the vineyard, or the church; seducers or false teachers, who are fitly compared to foxes here, and Ezekiel 13:4, partly to distinguish them from great tyrants and persecutors, who are compared to wild boars, or other wild beasts, Psalm 80:13, as to lions, 2 Timothy 4:17; and partly for their fox-like qualities and actions, because they are very crafty and deceitful, 2 Corinthians 11:13,14 Eph 4:14, and very mischievous also, Ezekiel 34:2,3 2 Timothy 4:17 Titus 1:10,11 2 Peter 2:2. He mentions foxes, because these abounded in that country, as is manifest from Judges 15:4 Psalm 63:10 Lamentations 5:18, &c., but under them he comprehends all noxious creatures, upon the same reason.

The little foxes: this he adds, not as if the great foxes were excused or exempted, but for more abundant caution, to teach the church to prevent errors and heresies in the beginnings of them, before they spread and grow strong and incurable.

That spoil the vines, which foxes do many ways, as those who write of them have observed, by gnawing and breaking the little branches and leaves, and the bark, by digging holes in the vineyards, and so spoiling the roots, by eating the grapes, and other ways.

Have tender grapes; which gives us hopes of a good vintage, and which are easily spoiled, if great care be not used to prevent it. Take us the foxes,.... Of which there were great numbers in Judea; see Judges 15:4; these words are directed not to angels, nor to civil magistrates, but to ministers of the word; but whether the words of Christ, or the church, is not easy to determine; some think they are the words of the church, who had hitherto been relating what Christ said to her, and who, having neglected her vineyard, Sol 1:6; and now stirred up by Christ to a greater care of it, expresses her concern for its flourishing; and therefore calls upon her attendants and companions, to assist in taking and destroying those which were harmful to it: but rather they seem to be the words of Christ continued; since they not only show the care of his vines, the churches; but express power and authority over those they are spoken to: and perhaps they may be the words of them both jointly; since the church, with Christ, and under him, has a right to stir up her officers to do their work, and fulfil their ministry, they have received of Christ for her service. By foxes may be meant false teachers, to whom the false prophets of old were compared, Ezekiel 13:3; foxes are crafty and subtle creatures, malignant and mischievous, hungry and voracious, full of deceit and dissimulation, are of an ill smell, and abominably filthy; so false teachers walk in craftiness, use good words and fair speeches, and thereby deceive the hearts of the simple; their doctrines are pernicious, their heresies damnable, and they bring destruction on themselves and others; they are hungry after worldly substance, are greedy of it, and can never have enough; devour widows' houses, and make merchandise of men, to enrich themselves; they put on sheep's clothing, transform themselves into angels of light, mimic the voice of Gospel ministers, use their phrases and expressions, that they may not be easily discovered; and are abominable in their principles and practices, and to be shunned by all good men. Now ministers of the Gospel are ordered to take these, to detect them, and refute their errors, and reprove them sharply for them; and, after proper steps taken, to reject them, to cast them out of the vineyards, the churches, and keep them out. Even

the little foxes; heresies and heretics are to be nipped in the bud, before they increase to more ungodliness; otherwise errors, which may seem small at first, soon grow larger and spread themselves, and become fatal to the churches:

that spoil the vines; as foxes do, by gnawing the branches, biting the bark, making bare the roots, devouring the ripe grapes, and infecting all with their noxious teeth and vicious breath (x): so false teachers make divisions and schisms in churches; disturb their peace; unsettle some, and subvert others; sap the foundation of religion, and corrupt the word of God; and therefore by all means to be taken, and the sooner the better;

for our vines have tender grapes: or "flowers"; See Gill on Sol 2:13. The "vines" are the churches; the "tender grapes", or "flowers", young converts, which Christ has a particular regard unto, Isaiah 40:11; and these, having but a small degree of knowledge, are more easily imposed upon and seduced by false teachers; and therefore, for their sakes, should be carefully watched, and vigorously opposed, since otherwise a promising vintage is in danger of being spoiled. Christ, in this address, intimates, that not only he and the church, but, he ministers also, had an interest in the vines and tender grapes, as they have; see Sol 8:11; and therefore should be the more concerned for their welfare; hence he calls them "ours"; interest carries a powerful argument in it.

(x) Vid. Theocrit. Idyll. 1. v. 48, 49. & Idyll. 5. v. 112, 113. So soldiers are compared to foxes, because they eat the grapes in the countries they come into, Aristoph. Equites, Acts 3. Sc. 1. p. 350.

Take for us the foxes, the {i} little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

(i) Suppress the heretics while they are young, that is, when they begin to show their malice, and destroy the vine of the Lord.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. In answer to her lover’s request that she should let him hear her voice the bride sings a fragment of a vineyard-watcher’s song. Probably, as Oettli suggests, he had heard her sing it before, and would recognise her by it, for she had not as yet revealed herself to him. He had been watching for her at the windows, and peering in at the lattices, and now she assures him of her presence. The word shû‘âl denotes an animal which digs into and dwells in the earth, for it means ‘the burrower,’ and is derived from the root which gives us also shô‘al, the hollow of the hand. It is the common fox here probably, though jackals are also called by this name, e.g. Psalm 63:10, where those slain by the sword are said to be a portion for shû‘âlîm.

that spoil the vines] Rather, the vineyards. This includes the vines, for though foxes are carnivorous animals in the main, they also devour plants, so that besides digging their holes in the vineyards, and making tracks among the vines and gaps in the fences, they actually bite the young shoots of the vines and eat the grapes. (Cp. Theocritus, Id. v. 112, where vines are said to be spoiled by their deadly bite.) In vine-growing countries, as for instance in Australia, foxes when killed have been found with nothing in their stomachs but grapes. Perhaps there may be a side reference here to the Shulammite’s danger in the royal hareem. She speaks of her person as her vineyard, and there may be here a call to her lover to deliver her from those who wish to profane it.

for our vines have tender grapes] for our vineyards are in blossom. Heb. semâdhâr (cp. Song of Solomon 2:13). The use by the bride of this peculiar word which her lover has just used may be meant to inform him that she has heard all he has just said.Verse 15. - Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vineyards; for our vineyards are in blossom. There is some difficulty in deciding to which of the persons this speech is to be attributed. It is most naturally, however, assigned to the bride, and this is the view of the majority of critics. Hence she refers to the vineyards as "our vineyards," which the bridegroom could scarcely say. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that the words are abrupt regarded as a response to the beautiful appeal of the lover. The following are the remarks of Delitzsch on the subject: "This is a vine dresser's ditty, in accord with Shulamith's experience as the keeper of a vineyard, which, in a figure, aims at her love relation. The vineyards, beautiful with fragrant blossoms, point to her covenant of love, and the foxes, the little foxes, which might destroy those united vineyards, point to all the great and little enemies and adverse circumstances which threaten to gnaw and destroy love in the blossom ere it has reached the ripeness of full enjoyment." Some think that Shulamith is giving the reason why she cannot immediately join her beloved, referring to the duties enjoined upon her by her brethren. But there is an awkwardness in this explanation. The simplest and most straightforward is that which connects the words immediately with the invitation of the lover to come forth into the lovely vineyards. Is it not an allusion to the playful pleasure which the young people would find among the vineyards in chasing the little foxes? and may not the lover take up some well known country ditty, and sing it outside the window as a playful repetition of the invitation to appear? The words do seem to be arranged in somewhat of a lyrical form -

"Catch us the foxes,
Foxes the little ones,
Wasting our vineyards,
When our vineyards are blossoming."
The foxes (shualim), or little jackals, were very numerous in Palestine (see Judges 15:4; Lamentations 5:18; Psalm 63:11; Nehemiah 4:3; 1 Samuel 13:17). The little jackals were seldom more than fifteen inches high. There would be nothing unsuitable in the address to a maiden to help to catch such small animals. The idea of the song is - Let us all join in taking them. Some think that Shulamith is inviting the king to call his attendants to the work. But when two lovers thus approach one another, it is not likely that others would be thought cf. However the words be viewed, the typical meaning can scarcely be missed. The idea of clearing the vineyards of depredators well suits the general import of the poem. Let the blossoming love of the soul be without injury and restraint. Let the rising faith and affection be carefully guarded. Both individuals and communities do well to think of the little foxes that spoil the vines. 9 My beloved is like a gazelle,

   Or a young one of the harts.

   Lo, there he stands behind our wall!

   He looks through the windows,

   Glances through the lattices.

The figure used in Sol 2:8 is continued in Sol 2:9. צבי is the gazelle, which is thus designated after its Arab. name ghazāl, which has reached us probably through the Moorish-Spanish gazela (distinct from "ghasele," after the Pers. ghazal, love-poem). עפר is the young hart, like the Arab. ghufar (ghafar), the young chamois, probably from the covering of young hair; whence also the young lion may be called כּפיר. Regarding the effect of או passing from one figure to another, vid., under Sol 2:7. The meaning would be plainer were Sol 2:9 joined to Sol 2:8, for the figures illustrate quick-footed speed (2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 12:8; cf. Psalm 18:34 with Habakkuk 3:19 and Isaiah 35:6). In Sol 2:9 he comes with the speed of the gazelle, and his eyes seek for the unforgotten one. כּתל (from כּתל, compingere, condensare; whence, e.g., Arab. mukattal, pressed together, rounded, ramass; vid., regarding R. כת at Psalm 87:6), Aram. כּוּתל (Joshua 2:15; Targ. word for קיר), is meant of the wall of the house itself, not of the wall surrounding it. Shulamith is within, in the house: her beloved, standing behind the wall, stands without, before the house (Tympe: ad latus aversum parietis, viz., out from it), and looks through the windows, - at one time through this one, at another through that one, - that he might see her and feast his eyes on her. We have here two verbs from the fulness of Heb. synon. for one idea of seeing. השׁגּיח, from שׁגח, occurring only three times in the O.T., refers, in respect of the roots ש, שך, שק, to the idea of piercing or splitting (whence also שׁגּע, to be furious, properly pierced, percitum esse; cf. oestrus, sting of a gadfly equals madness, Arab. transferred to hardiness equals madness), and means fixing by reflexion and meditation; wherefore השׁגּחח in post-bibl. Heb. is the name for Divine Providence. הציץ, elsewhere to twinkle and to bloom, appears only here in the sense of seeing, and that of the quick darting forward of the glance of the eye, as blick glance and blitz lightning (blic) are one word; "he saw," says Goethe in Werther, "the glance of the powder" (Weigand).

(Note: In this sense: to look sharply toward, is הציץ (Talm.) - for Grtz alone a proof that the Song is of very recent date; but this word belongs, like סמדר, to the old Heb. still preserved in the Talm.)

The plurs. fenestrae and transennae are to be understood also as synechdoche totius pro parte, which is the same as the plur. of categ.; but with equal correctness we conceive of him as changing his standing place. חלּון is the window, as an opening in the wall, from חלל, perforare. חרכּים we combine most certainly (vid., Proverbs 12:27) with (Arab.) khark, fissura, so that the idea presents itself of the window broken through the wall, or as itself broken through; for the window in the country there consists for the most part of a pierced wooden frame of a transparent nature, - not (as one would erroneously conclude, from the most significant name of a window שׂבכה, now schubbâke, from שׂבך, to twist, to lattice, to close after the manner of our Venetian blinds) of rods or boards laid crosswise. הציץ accords with the looking out through the pierced places of such a window, for the glances of his eye are like the penetrating rays of light.

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