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But it is mostly in contexts of hunting and fishing that nets are found in the OT. Both hunting and fishing were pursued, not so much for sport as for livelihood. The gazelle, hart, roebuck and wild goat were best for food among the surface creatures, and the partridge among the birds. Nets were particularly needed in fishing, because sufficient quantities for commercial purposes could not be caught in any other way. Fishing was limited to the inland bodies of water in Bible history, since the Mediterranean did not offer convenient opportunities.

The NT terminology for nets is limited to fishing and is descriptive of three types: (1) The casting net (Matt 4:18) when thrown out over the water, assumed a circular shape as it fell upon the surface of the water. Immediately the weighted perimeter would sink rapidly to the bottom, causing the net to assume a shape variously described as conical, bell-like or pear-shaped. Thus would be trapped all the fish below the net. This method found particular usefulness in shallower water. The use of this type of net required an unusual amount of skill, and it is, therefore, particularly appropriate in conjunction with Christ’s invitation to become “fishers of men” (Matt 4:19), a task requiring the utmost in spiritual skill.

(2) The dragnet (seine, sweep-net) was supported on one side at the water’s surface by floats, while the other side was kept at the lake’s bottom by weights. Thus was formed a vertical wall of netting between its two ends. If one end of the net were secured at the shore, a boat would carry the other in a great semicircular arc and drag along all underwater life in its path, until all was swept ashore. On the other hand, if both ends were secured to boats, the boats would be maneuvered so as to form a circular shape with the net, which would then be dragged ashore with the catch. Dragnets often were immense in size and could be used fig. of vastness and all-inclusiveness. They retrieved all types of fish, large and small, choice and worthless, living and dead. How appropriate that the Lord should choose this method to describe a gathering for judgment in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 13:47).

(3) The general word for net is used in Luke 5:2-6 and John 21:6-11. This word, which could include either of the above nets, prob. has in view the dragnet in these two chapters. But in Matthew 4:20, 21 and Mark 1:18, 19 casting nets are depicted by this general term.


Trench (1880), 235-237; W. K. Eddy, “Fishing,” HDB, II (1901), 12, 13; A. E. Ross, “Nets,” HDCG (1908), 241, 242; W. S. McCullough, “Net,” IDB, III (1962), 539, 540.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

floo(King James Version, margin Hab 1:15).

See Fish; Fishing.

See Fishing; Fowler.