Samson stars in an epic “tail”

samson_15_19Judges 15:3-5

3 Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.” 4 So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, 5 lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves.

Christians who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and therefore that almost every account is a true historical record end up in a straitjacket of silliness. Recently I had an encounter with an inerrantist and decided to press the point of how silly taking mythology as historical record can be.

The discussion I had was over the story of Samson tying 300 foxes’ tails together with a torch between each pair of tails. I asked the inerrantist if he believed that this story was a true historical account and really happened. He said yes. I asked what would be the logistics of such a venture? How were the foxes caught? Where were they housed prior to the tail tying adventure? What’s involved in holding the foxes to hold still during the tying procedure? And then how long would it take to attach the 150 torches between the tails and light them? Was the first still burning with the 150th was lit? And then how did he direct them to the “standing grain of the Philistines?” The inerrantist said he didn’t know the details but had no doubt it happened.

For a modern person in today’s high-tech society to believe this story as literal history seems to me to be incomprehensible. The lengths that believers will go to to maintain their beliefs can be truly astounding. As Robert M Price likes to say on The Bible Geek podcast, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to believe.”

UPDATE: darkmatter2525 just happened to release a cartoon of this fox tail-tying episode on youtube.



  1. You may think you have it all figured out. You say we dumb Christians believe in “fairytales”. Hmmm let’s see. The Bible doesn’t say Sampson accomplished this in one day. It could have been done over weeks or longer. The Bible doesn’t even say they were released at one time. It could have been over weeks. The Bible doesn’t say he did this alone. He was a Judge at that time and had access to those under him and those in awe of his renown. He could had help. There has been some question whether the Hebrew word means fox (foxes are solitary creatures) or jackals, jackals being more gregarious and running in packs could easily and quickly captured. The Bible doesn’t say he caught them all with his bare hands though if he could tear a lion apart, a fox or jackals would have been easy. But the common method of trapping in that time was snares and large nets capable of trapping large packs of jackals at one time. This method of burning a field using the tail of a fox has been used in other times in ancient history, i.e. during Roman times. See Cerelian festival ancient Rome. The Bible doesn’t say how Sampson tied the tails together. He could have tied them with twine or rope and connected the torch to the rope. (I like to think that would be more humane but I doubt that the ancients were concerned with being humane. Foxes and jackals were pest to be destroyed) . Foxes and jackals were abundant and a nuisance to farmers of the middle east. Yet I also believe that Sampson could have walked through the forest and fields chased after them and caught them bared handed, threw them in a sack and when ready to use them, took them out and tied a few together set fire with a simple straw torch and moved on caught more and repeated this scenario again. So what is lacking in your case is research, intelligence (the ability to think a matter through logically) and faith. Yes only a believer can believe the Bible is accurate and true. God does not have to give us all the details of how these seemingly impossible things are accomplished. But if we Know HIM we can trust Him. I do
    Do you?


    1. Thanks for your input. I don’t think Christians are dumb. I used to be a Christian and I don’t think my IQ changed. It’s just that when I was a Christian I didn’t really read the Bible fully or investigate the claims. But upon investigation, it became clear to me that the Bible is full of mythology and very little can be historically proven. You can see a small list I compiled of the stories that read to me more as myth than history:


  2. But if you say one or all the events or miracles in the Bible are mythology you are basically saying it’s full of lies. I will contend there could be copying errors on the occasion of numbering or the exact location of an event. But that is not the same as mythological tales which you might as well say are lies. But if God is God the creator of men and animal, the earth and stars and galaxies and the visible and invisible who are we to question whether he could use mere fallen men to tell His story. The earth and all that is in it is so complex, so Awesome, (and I could go on and on about that)that I have complete and utter confidence in the book called the Bible and the fact that it has survived almost intact and unchanged for since its inception 3500 years ago and still the most read and published book is truly amazing. That cannot be said of any other historical book actively used and studied today.


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