Question: "What is the meaning of the foxes in Song of Solomon 2:15?"
Answer: In Song of Solomon 2:15 the speaker says, “Catch for us the foxes, / the little foxes / that ruin the vineyards, / our vineyards that are in bloom.” It might seem strange that, in the middle of a romantic, tender conversation, the matter of a fox hunt should arise. As with much of the imagery in this beautiful poem, the foxes are symbolic.
Solomon’s readers considered foxes to be destructive animals that could destroy valuable vineyards (cf. Judges 15:4; Psalm 63:10; Ezekiel 13:4). As the Shulammite and her beloved verbalize their love for each other, we are suddenly confronted with the need to catch the foxes that spoil the vines. If the blossoming vineyard spreading its fragrance (Song of Solomon 2:13) refers to the growing romance between the couple, then the foxes of verse 15 represent potential problems that could damage the relationship prior to the marriage (which takes place in chapter 5). The command, in essence, is “Take preventative measures to protect this love from anything that could harm it.”
In ancient literature, wild animals were often used to represent problems that could separate lovers. For example, Egyptian love songs used crocodiles to picture a threat to romantic love. In Israel, crocodiles were not common, but foxes were.
In the Old Testament, foxes are mentioned in Judges 15. Samson ties torches to 300 foxes and releases them to destroy the grain fields of the Philistines. In Nehemiah 4:3, the evil Tobiah mocks the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall, saying, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”
Jesus once used the word picture of a fox in a negative way. In speaking of Herod, Jesus said, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal’” (Luke 13:32). Jesus calls Herod a “fox” as a rebuke of that monarch’s crafty and worthless nature.
Song of Solomon 2:15 is a wise and beautiful verse. The vineyards are “in bloom”—the romance is alive and growing and preparing to bear fruit. But there is a need to round up the “foxes”—all potential threats to the relationship must be removed. The foxes are “little”—it’s the little things, the things overlooked, that often spoil things of value. Maintaining a good relationship takes work. The lovers must address potential dangers to their relationship and remove all threats to their love. As they pay attention to the “little things,” the lovers will be free to continue to pursue marriage and sexual intimacy.