Spring is the time of year when everything bursts into bloom – including love. The cold, bitter winds and bare branches of winter disappear. The warm breezes and colorful blossoms arrive. Budding life and love are everywhere. It’s a great time to be alive! How welcome is that walk in the park or through the woods – especially when you’re walking with that special person. Hey, wait a minute! What does all this love-in-springtime talk have to do with the Bible? And what about the title of this article? It doesn’t sound too biblical! Well, the Bible does have a lot to say about love between the sexes, including “budding romances.” In fact, The Song of Solomon is about love and romance. As for this article’s title, the verse above tells us it’s from the Bible. The idea of “catching foxes” is a figurative expression for something important about a love relationship. Incidentally, the phrase doesn’t have anything to do with chasing the opposite sex! But before we get down to catching foxes, let’s look briefly into the Song of Solomon in general.
A Brief Overview
Some Christians have never read the Song of Solomon, let alone studied it. And those who have done so know that Bible scholars and commentators do not agree on exactly how the Song should be interpreted. While there are other interpretations, in the traditional and most popular one, we have the historical account of King Solomon’s true love for a Shulamite peasant girl.
Solomon observed this beautiful woman while on a trip in the northern territories of his kingdom – maybe to visit certain royal vineyards. The Shulamite woman was working nearby in her own family’s vineyard (Song 1:6) when Solomon first saw her. She had no idea that she was soon to become a “Cinderella” – a rags-to-riches storybook character.
Rather than use his powers as king to abduct the maiden for his harem, Solomon decided to disguise himself as a shepherd and win her heart by slowly building a love relationship with her. And his plan worked! Soon Solomon revealed his identity to her and shortly thereafter they were married.
King Solomon, of course, spared no expense for the wedding. The marriage procession with all its splendor is described at the end of chapter 3; the wedding takes place in chapter 4; the marriage is consummated at the beginning of chapter 5. In the context of the royal palace and in the public eye, the love relationship between Solomon and his bride continues to deepen and mature throughout the rest of this Old Testament book. This does not mean, however, that the story closes with a few “they lived happily ever after” lines. No, this is not a fairy tale, but a real life story – even though written as poetry.
In chapter 5, for example, there is a little misunderstanding between the lovers. And at the end of chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8, the Shulamite woman appears to be a little uptight with all the demands of public life in the royal palace. She would much rather have had Solomon all to herself back in the simple village where she had been raised. Oh, to be free from all the social proprieties and taboos against the public display of affection, and be able to kiss her husband in public (8:1).
But in spite of these ripples and snags, the love between husband and wife continued to grow. Their love triumphed over misunderstandings. They did not let the little frustrations gnaw away at their relationship. If only we worked on our love relationships in the same way – our love for the Lord, our love for that special person God has given us, our love for one another! This is precisely where the work of “catching the little foxes” becomes important.
The Little Foxes
This statement about foxes comes near the end of what appears to be a spring walk in the hills with all the beauty of nature bursting out everywhere (2:10- 13). The lovers resolved to work at their relationship and not let anything come in to spoil its beauty. They likened potential problem areas in their blossoming romance to little foxes. As little foxes can ruin the vineyards by gnawing at the tender shoots of the new vines, so the little problems that inevitably show up in a growing love relationship can also ruin that relationship. These little foxes must be caught and stopped before they do further damage.
Little foxes always seem to come around just when we’re getting things all together in our love relationships – when the “vineyards are in blossom” (2:15). Take our love relationship with the Lord, for example. Just when everything seems to be going well, the little fox of neglect shows up – neglect of daily communion with the lover of our souls, through Bible reading and prayer.
And what about our relationship with that particular person of the opposite sex that the Lord has picked out for us? How often the little foxes of cutting words cause needless breakdowns in relationships that could otherwise be so beautiful. And then there are the little foxes of petty jealousies and misunderstandings that tear down our love for one another. How sad! Without some definite “catching” action on our part, these little foxes will continue to eat away until they are big foxes!
Even if the phrase “catch the foxes” is interpreted differently – one interpretation holds that these are the words of the Shulamite brothers who are telling their sister to stop her day-dreaming and literally get back to the family vineyard to protect the vines from the foxes – the story is still loaded with lessons for us. This is because it is a love story. In any love relationship presented in the Bible there are many valuable lessons which are applicable to our own love relationships.
Probably the greatest lesson that we can learn from the Song of Solomon is that marital sex is much more than merely a necessary means to propagate the human race. Physical love between husband and wife is a wonderful God-given gift. As long as it is within the bounds that God has set up – and the Bible clearly presents boundary markers – sex is beautiful. Some of the ancient rabbis would not permit a Hebrew male to read the Song until he was 30 years old, so that his thoughtlife would be guarded from possible “unhealthy tangents.” But in reality, the Song of Solomon presents a healthy view of sex and teaches the sanctity of love and marriage.
Because the Song portrays the deep and wonderful love between a man and a woman, it obviously becomes a beautiful illustration of the love relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church, as seen in Ephesians 5:31-32.
A Christian marriage will be a tremendous testimony for the Lord if the partners determine from the start that it is going to reflect that wonderful mystery of our Lord’s love for us! This will involve a lot of hard work because a lot of “little foxes’ will have to be caught. don’t let them spoil the message God wants to convey through your marriage.
Sly little foxes are not always easy to catch, but catching them is not impossible. The problems that come into every growing love relationship are not always easy to deal with, but with diligent effort and divine assistance the task is achievable.
By David R. Reid
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org