And when he had set the brands on fire
Disposed as before related; and foxes being naturally fearful of, and frightened with fire, and especially so near them as at their tails, would run into the first place they could for shelter:
he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines;
which being ripe, as it was now wheat harvest, would soon take fire; and taking fire, this would in course cause the foxes to run still further to other parts of standing corn, and set fire to them also; besides, it is reasonable to suppose that Samson did not let them go all at once on one spot, but disposed of them, some here, and some there, to do the greater and more speedy execution:
and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with
the vineyards and olives;
for as it was in the time of harvest, in some places the corn was standing, and in other places it was cut down, and put into shocks or heaps; and to these the foxes would naturally run to shelter themselves, and so set fire to them, as well as they would make their way to the vineyards or oliveyards, either for shelter also, or for the sake of the grapes and olives, to satisfy their hunger, after having been detained long for this purpose; and thus by one means or another they destroyed the corn, the vines, and olives of the Philistines in those parts. Some would have it, in order to shun the difficulties objected by the enemies of revelation, that the word for "foxes" should be rendered "sheaves" or shocks of corn, set end to end F25, which the word for "tail" is said to signify; and firebrands or torches being set on fire, communicated it to standing corn, shocks of corn, vineyards, and oliveyards; but there is no need to put such a sense upon the words, as already observed; nor is the word translated "foxes" ever used in Scripture in any form for "sheaves" or shocks of corn, but always others; nor in any Jewish writings, nor in the sister dialects, Arabic, Chaldee, or Ethiopic; and in any place of Scripture where it is translated "fox" or "foxes", should the word "sheaves" or "shocks" be put, the sense would appear most ridiculous; nor is the word for "tail" ever used in Scripture, in a literal sense, but for the tail of a living creature; nor is the word for "took" or "caught" ever used of taking anything in common, but either of taking men or cities by force, or of creatures in nets, traps, and snares: and the sense which such a version of the words would give is not only contrary to the Hebrew text, and to the Chaldee paraphrase, but to all the ancient versions, Arabic, Syriac, Septuagint, and Vulgate Latin, and to Josephus. The memory of this great event was kept up, or a custom borrowed from it, as some learned men have observed in the Vulpinaria of the Romans, mentioned by Ovid F26, and others, which bore a great resemblance to this, and which was observed at the same time of the year, about the middle of April, or calends of May; which exactly agrees with the time of wheat harvest in Palestine; when in the Circus they used to send out foxes with burning torches fixed to their backs. Nor need this affair of Samson's seem more strange or incredible than the great number of creatures brought into the Circus at Rome, to be seen there together. Sylla first introduced one hundred lions, after him Pompey the great three hundred, and Julius Caesar, when he was dictator, four hundred, as Pliny F1 relates. Probus F2 sent into the amphitheatre at one time, which he made like a wood full of trees, 1000 ostriches, a like number of harts, does, boars, and other creatures each; and at another time one hundred lions, as many lionesses and leopards each, and three hundred bears; Heliogabalus F3 got together 1000 weasels, 10,000 mice, 10,000 weight of spiders and flies.
F25 Observ. Halens. apud Stockium in voc. (lev) , p. 1126. & Hardtius apud Marck. Dissertat. Philolog. Exercitat. 5. sect. 7. p. 196.
F26 Fasti, l. 4. Vid. Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 5. c. 26.
F1 Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 16.
F2 Vopiscus in Vita Probi.
F3 Ib. in "Vita ejus".