Questions From Readers
◼ Is it appropriate for a Christian to go hunting or fishing?
The varied reactions to hunting often involve deep feelings. So it is best for Christians to strive to understand and apply Jehovah God’s thinking on the matter as found in the Bible.
God gave mankind dominion over both “wild” and “domestic” animals. At first, humans did not have the Creator’s permission, nor perhaps any physical need, to kill animals for food. (Genesis 1:24, 29, 30) Only after the Flood did God give mankind the right to eat animal flesh that was properly drained of “its soul—its blood.” (Genesis 9:3, 4) That could be meat from either domestic or wild animals.
The Israelites raised animals, such as sheep and cattle, that could be slaughtered for food when they craved meat. They also hunted and fished to obtain food. (Deuteronomy 12:20-24; 14:4-20) This harmonizes with God’s figurative saying that he would ‘send many fishers to fish for his people and many hunters to hunt for them.’ (Jeremiah 16:16) Later, Jesus included fishermen among his apostles and directed actual fishing operations.—Matthew 4:18-22; 17:27; Luke 5:2-6; John 21:4-7.
When the aged patriarch Isaac asked for a tasty meat dish, his son Jacob was willing to kill two young goats to make a dish for him. Esau, though, hunted a wild animal to get venison for his father. Note that although meat from domestic animals was available, Isaac asked for meat from a game animal. Note, too, that both sons killed animals that would be food, not for themselves, but for someone else.—Genesis 27:1-19.
Animals might be killed for reasons other than their meat. Their skins could be made into clothing. (2 Kings 1:8; Mark 1:6; Hebrews 11:37) Protective coverings and utensils were also made from animal hides, even of animals dietarily unclean and that Israelites did not eat.—Exodus 39:33, 34; Numbers 24:7; Judges 4:19; Psalm 56:8.
God’s requirement that the blood of slain animals be poured out should remind hunters that animal life is from him and so ought to be treated respectfully, not wantonly. (Leviticus 17:13) Nimrod evidently slaughtered animals and probably boasted about his hunting skill, the size or number of his kills, or the trophies that might have been made from them. He was “a mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.”—Genesis 10:9.
Such a thrill over hunting or killing animals, or over reeling in fish, could develop in a Christian. Many a hunter or fisherman who has scrutinized his heart has discovered that he was infected with the ‘joy of the kill.’ Such excitement goes hand in hand with wanton disregard for animal life. So while it is not wrong to hunt or fish (when the kill or catch will be used by someone for food or another fitting purpose), it would be improper to do so if a Christian had a spirit reminiscent of Nimrod. But there are dangers besides getting a thrill out of the chase, the kill, or a trophy.
The Watchtower of July 15, 1983, discussed why true Christians do not carry or keep guns for use against humans or protection from them. (Pages 23-6) Meditating on that counsel has led some Witnesses to reevaluate having even hunting guns. Not a few have chosen to get rid of their guns altogether or to avoid having them on display and readily accessible. These Christians thus would not give the impression of taking pride in weapons or trusting in them. Furthermore, not even having hunting guns, or not having them easily accessible, can avert tragedy. The deadly weapons could not then come into the hands of children who might accidentally hurt or kill someone, nor would guns be at hand if someone was extremely frightened or depressed.—Compare Proverbs 22:3.
Some Christians may like the flavor of certain game or fish, and the most practical way to obtain such food is by hunting or fishing. Others enjoy the air and exercise linked with hunting in the woods, or find that quiet hours of fishing are relaxing. The Bible does not speak against this, so there is no need to judge others as to whether they enjoy such things or not. And the example of Isaac and his sons shows that there is no need to make an issue of who will eat the game or fish.—Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 14:4.
The apostle Peter was evidently quite attached to fishing. With some fish lying nearby, the resurrected Jesus helped him to analyze his own feelings about fish or the fishing business. Jesus asked: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”—John 21:1-3, 9-15; see The Watchtower, November 1, 1988, page 31.
Similarly, a Christian who in good conscience chooses to go hunting or fishing should have his priorities in order. For example, if a hunting or fishing season was to open at a time when congregation meetings were scheduled, what would he do? Or does his conversation show that he takes pride in his prowess at hunting or fishing? How fine it is if a mature Christian who, on occasion, chooses to hunt or fish can say with conviction: “Yes, Lord, you know I have affection for you [more than for these pursuits].”—John 21:16.