Foxes and Vineyards

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On the 1st of September, 2008 the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water published the following on its website:

“The Red Fox was introduced into Australia in the 1870’s for recreational hunting. Their subsequent spread was rapid and they are now responsible for environmental and agricultural impacts valued at over $200 million per annum.

“Horticultural enterprises, such as vineyards and orchards, may experience losses of fruit to foxes, either from fruit eaten directly, or through damage to, for example, grape bunches, which are then unsaleable. Foxes also have an unusual habit of chewing on irrigation emitters such as plastic drippers, and can destroy thousands of dollars of irrigation infrastructure in this manner.”

Spoiling the vines

Foxes haven’t changed much since Bible times. There’s an interesting verse found in Song of Solomon 2:15, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

It seems these little foxes were creating havoc in King Solomon’s vineyard. If you were a journalist living in that time, you might think this could be news worthy. Perhaps your story would read something like this:


The king and his bride are not leaving anything to chance today after it was discovered that their world-renowned vineyard was under threat.

The royal vineyard, famous for its quality of fruit around the world, is not under threat for lack of water or sunshine, but from a pesky little fox known to cause injury to crops wherever it is introduced.

The little foxes are nocturnal which means they sleep during the day.  They dig holes for themselves under the earth, often around a place abounding with its favourite food. Hence, they have made themselves right at home at the royal vineyard this spring.

With these little foxes prying around, the vineyard’s tender grapes are in danger of being eaten—thus destroying the whole crop this season.

Experts believe the whole vineyard is in danger from these foxes, pointing out that the foxes’ burrows under the root system of the vine are making the whole vine weak—the tender grapes failing to get the required nourishment at the most critical stage of growth.

These dangers have caused Solomon’s bride to declare, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.” Song of Solomon 2:15

Biblical foxes

Search the Bible everywhere and you won’t find a single favourable reference to foxes. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word shual (a name derived from its digging or burrowing under-ground) rendered fox in our King James Version undoubtedly includes the jackal.

There’s the story of Samson capturing 300 foxes (jackals) and letting them loose in the crops and vineyards of the Philistines with fire brands tied to their tails. I doubt that Samson was too concerned about the fate of these foxes though, as they were detested pests.

Today, some people admire their fur and bushy tails, but these animals can still become pests and have some rather nasty habits.

Some of their characteristics include:

  • Jackals hunt in packs whereas foxes are more solitary and shy
  • Both are well known carrion eaters: “they [the wicked] shall be a portion for foxes” Psalms 63:10
  • They tend to live in graves and ruins: “Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it.” Lamentations 5:18
  • They are known to be crafty, shrewd and sly creatures: “Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” Luke 13:32. In the New Testament, the Greek word for fox is alopex and means cunning – a fitting depiction of the shifty and deceptive person that Herod was.
  • They are opportunistic omnivores: meaning they survive by eating what is available.
  • They are also very fond of tender grapes and today, as in Bible times, are a pest around vineyards.
God’s vineyard

Isaiah tells us, “the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant…” Isaiah 5:7.

He goes on describing how God cared for His vineyard – “He fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein.” Isaiah 5:2. Then God asks the question, “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?”  Isaiah 5:4

When Christ came to earth, He also used the familiar vineyard as an illustration of the vital connection we are to have with Him, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit” John 15:5. He also said, “Herein is my    Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” John 15:8

The genuineness of our commitment to Christ is determined by the character and quality of the fruit we bear. Isn’t it vital then that we carefully watch out for little foxes that destroy the tender Christian fruit?


The other day, I was driving next to a train along the highway. While the train tracks were parallel to the highway we were both doing 100kph and I enjoyed seeing how long a distance we could keep next to each other. Soon we reached a section where the train tracks deviated just a little to the right and 10km down the road, that train was nowhere to be seen.

The same thing happens in our lives. It is always little things that make up larger ones. Little departures from truth and honesty may seem little today but the harvest is sure to be reaped. They are doing their silent work on the character and the longer they are allowed to exist, the longer they have to erode, undermine and enfeeble your Christian vine.

Watch out for the little foxes, the little mistakes, the little sins. You may not be guilty of tremendous sins, but are you allowing numerous little inconsistencies to ruin the stability of your character?