Only after the Flood was man authorized to hunt and fish for food. (Ge 9:3, 4) But even in pre-Flood times men may have engaged in hunting to procure animal skins for making clothing and other items.—Compare Ge 3:21.
After the Deluge, Nimrod was the first man to distinguish himself as “a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah” (Ge 10:8, 9), undoubtedly one who hunted for sport, as did later kings of Assyria, Egypt, and other lands. There is no indication that the Israelites ever hunted for sport, although they did hunt animals such as gazelles and stags for food (1Ki 4:22, 23) and killed wild beasts in self-defense (Jg 14:5, 6) or in defense of domestic animals or of crops.—1Sa 17:34-36; Ca 2:15.
With reference to hunting, the Mosaic Law restated the post-Flood prohibition on eating blood. (Ge 9:4; Le 17:12-14; see BLOOD.) Additionally, certain wild animals were designated as unclean for food. (Le 11:2-20; De 14:3-20) Another law made it wrong for the Israelites to take both the mother bird and her offspring or eggs. In many cases, her attachment to her young would have made the mother bird easy game; however, she was to be sent away, likely allowing her to have more offspring.—De 22:6, 7.
Various implements and devices were employed for hunting, including bows and arrows (Ge 21:20; 27:3), slings (1Sa 17:34, 40; Job 41:1, 28), traps, nets, pits, and hooks (Ps 140:5; Eze 17:20; 19:4, 9). Swords, spears, darts, clubs, and javelins no doubt were also used.—Job 41:1, 26-29.
To capture animals, nets were often set up. Then a group of hunters would frighten the animals, commonly by making noise, so that these ran against the nets, which were so constructed that they would fall upon the animals. Also, pits were dug and then camouflaged with a thin cover of sticks and earth. Animals were trapped by being made to flee over the covering. In addition, snares that entangled the animals’ feet were used, and a combination of pits and nets may also have been employed.—Compare Job 18:8-11; Jer 18:22; 48:42-44; see BIRDCATCHER; TRAP.
Fishing. Among the Hebrews fishing was an occupation; it is not mentioned as being done merely for sport. Fishermen used nets, harpoons, and spears, as well as hook and line. (Job 41:1, 7; Eze 26:5, 14; Hab 1:15, 17; Mt 17:27) Frequently fishing was done at night. Dragnets were let down from boats; then either they were hauled ashore or the catch of fish was emptied into the boats. Afterward the fish were sorted. Those fit for food according to the terms of the Law were kept; the unsuitable kinds were thrown away. (Mt 13:47, 48; Lu 5:5-7; Joh 21:6, 8, 11) A net much smaller than the dragnet may have been cast by fishermen wading in the water or standing on the shore.—See DRAGNET.
Fishing was strenuous work. It called for physical exertion, especially when the men had to draw in the nets filled with fish (Joh 21:6, 11) or row the boats against the wind. (Mr 6:47, 48) At times fishermen toiled all night without catching anything. (Lu 5:5; Joh 21:3) Afterward nets had to be dried and repaired.—Eze 47:10; Mt 4:21.
The fishermen Peter, Andrew, James, and John worked together as partners. (Mt 4:18, 21; Lu 5:3, 7, 10) On at least one occasion seven of Jesus’ disciples, including Nathanael and Thomas, fished together. (Joh 21:2, 3) One of the two fishermen mentioned but not identified at John 21:2 may have been Peter’s brother Andrew; the other perhaps was Philip, as suggested by the fact that his home was in Bethsaida (meaning “House of the Hunter (or, Fisherman)”).—Joh 1:43, 44.
Figurative. Fishing may represent military conquest. (Am 4:2; Hab 1:14, 15) On the other hand, Jesus likened the work of making disciples to fishing for men. (Mt 4:19) Jeremiah 16:16, where the reference is to Jehovah’s ‘sending for many fishers and hunters,’ may be understood either in a favorable or an unfavorable sense. If this text is directly related to verse 15, which speaks about the restoration of the Israelites to their land, then the allusion is to the searching out of the repentant Jewish remnant. Otherwise, the fishers and hunters are enemy forces sent out to find the unfaithful Israelites, thus allowing none of them to escape Jehovah’s judgment.—Compare Eze 9:2-7.