The Bible calls Nimrod (Gen. 9:9) a mighty hunter, and later in the patriarchal period it cites Esau (Gen. 25:27) as an ideal outdoorsman. Although the cultural period of hunting had disappeared before the Hebrews settled in the Promised Land, there were still numerous references to the activity. A wide variety of game animals, beast of prey, and game birds were available in Palestine. Although “quiet” hunting was sanctioned for the clergy by the church for centuries, there are many today who would condemn it altogether on moral and humanitarian grounds. There is little direct guidance available in the biblical material concerning the modern-day ethics of hunting. It is made clear in Genesis 1:28 that man is to have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and animals. It is also clear that the killing of animals was not forbidden. Cruelty to animals, however, appears to be contrary to the nature of God's creation. It seems consistent to add here that when hunting threatens the existence of a species, this could be termed exploitation of God's creation and in direct disregard for the God-given laws of nature. Theologians agree that conservation laws directed toward the preservation of the species of game are binding in conscience, for they promote the common good.

Weapons for hunting included the bow and arrow (Gen 27:3), nets for birds and fish (Prov 1:17; Eccl 9:12), traps (Amos 3:5), and pits into which animals would fall (Ps 35:17; Ezek 19:1-4). These terms are frequently used metaphorically.

The Israelites were a settled pastoral people rather than nomads who lived by hunting and plundering; consequently the language that they used reflected only the occasional use of weapons. Allusions to the phenomena of hunting are largely figurative.

Among other nations of the time, such as the Egyptians and Assyrians, hunting was regarded as a pastime, and was prob. a favorite royal sport. The monuments bear ample witness to the practice of hunting in these countries.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The hunting of wild animals for sport, or for the defense of men and flocks, or for food, was common in Western Asia and Egypt, especially in early times. Some of the Egyptian and Assyrian kings were great hunters in the first sense, for example Amenhotep III (1411-1375 BC "a lion-hunting and bull-baiting Pharaoh," who boasted of having slain 76 bulls in the course of one expedition, and of having killed at one time or other 102 lions; and the Assyrian conqueror, Tiglath-pileser I (circa 1100 BC), who claimed 4 wild bulls, 14 elephants and 920 lions as the trophies of his skill and courage.

1. Nimrod and His Like:

The Biblical prototype of these heroes of war and the chase is Nimrod, "a mighty hunter before Yahweh" (Ge 10:9), that is perhaps "a hunter who had no equal," a figure not yet clearly identifiable with any historical or mythical character in the Assyro-Bab monuments, but possibly the Gilgamesh of the great epic, who may be the hero represented on seals and reliefs as victorious over the lion (Skinner, "Gen," ICC, 208). We are reminded also of Samson’s exploit at Timnah (Jud 14:5 f), but this, like David’s encounter with the lion and the bear (1Sa 17:34 f) and Benaiah’s struggle with a lion in a pit on a snowy day (2Sa 23:20), was an occasional incident and scarcely comes under the category of hunting. There is no evidence that hunting for sport was ever practiced by the kings of Judah and Israel. Not until the time of Herod the Great, who had a hunting establishment and was a great hunter of boars, stags, and wild asses (Josephus, BJ, I, xxi, 13), mastering as many as 40 beasts in one day, do we find a ruler of Palestine indulging in this pastime.

2. Hunting in the Old Testament:

3. Methods of Hunters:

4. Fowlers and Their Snares:

See Fowler.

5. Allusions in the New Testament:


In addition to the works cited in the course of the article, the article "Hunting" in DB2, HDB large and small, EB, Jewish Encyclopedia;and "Jagd" in German Bible Diets. of Guthe, Riehm2, and Wiener, and in RE3.