Several methods of securing fish are resorted to at the present day along the seashores of Palestine. Two of these, dynamiting and poisoning with the juice of cyclamen bulbs or other poisonous plants, can be passed over as havi ng no bearing on ancient methods.
(1) With Hooks:
Some fishing is done with hooks and lines, either on poles when fishing from shore, or on trawls in deep-sea fishing. The fishhooks now used are of European origin, but bronze fishhooks of a very early date have been discovered. That fishing with hooks was known in Jesus' time is indicated by the Master's command to Peter (Matthew 17:27).
(2) With Spears:
Job 41:7 probably refers to an instrument much like the barbed spear still used along the Syrian coast. It is used at night by torchlight.
(3) With Nets:
In the most familiar Bible stories of fisherman life a net was used. Today most of the fishing is done in the same way. These nets are homemade. Frequently one sees the fishermen or members of their families making nets or repairing old ones during the stormy days when fishing is impossible.
Nets are used in three ways:
(a) A circular net, with small meshes and leaded around the edge, is cast from the shore into the shallow water in such a manner that the leaded edge forms the base of a cone, the apex being formed by the fisherman holding the center of the net in his hand. The cone thus formed encloses such fish as cannot escape the quick throw of the fisher.
(b) A long net or seine of one or two fathoms depth, leaded on one edge and provided with floats on the other, is payed out from boats in such a way as to surround a school of fish. Long ropes fastened to the two ends are carried ashore many yards apart, and from five to ten men on each rope gradually draw in the net. The fish are then landed from the shallow water with small nets or by hand. This method is commonly practiced on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
(c) In deeper waters a net similar to that described above, but four or five fathoms deep, is cast from boats and the ends slowly brought together so as to form a circle. Men then dive down and bring one portion of the weighted edge over under the rest, so as to form a bottom. The compass of the net is then narrowed, and the fish are emptied from the net into the boat. Sometimes the net with the fish enclosed is towed into shallow water before drawing. The above method is probably the one the disciples used (Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16; Luke 5:2-10; John 21:3-11). Portions of nets with leads and floats, of early Egyptian origin, may be seen in the British Museum.
The fishermen today usually work with their garments girdled up about their waists. Frequently they wear only a loose outer garment which is wet much of the time. This garment can be quickly removed by pulling it over the head, When occasion requires the fisherman to jump into the sea. If methods have not changed, Peter had probably just climbed back into the boat after adjusting the net for drawing when he learned that it was Jesus who stood on the shore. He was literally naked and pulled on his coat before he went ashore (John 21:7).
James A. Patch
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