John 21:3

3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.

John 21:3 Meaning and Commentary

John 21:3

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing
Which was his business before his conversion; and now having nothing to do, and his Lord and master having, as yet, no service for him in the ministry of the word, until the Spirit was poured down in an extraordinary manner, which was given to be expected, in the mean while he was inclined to, and resolved upon taking up his former employment; partly that he might not live an idle life, and partly to obtain a livelihood, which was now to be sought after in another manner, since the death of Christ; and these inclinations and resolutions of his he signifies to the rest of the disciples, who agreed with him:

they say unto him, we also go with thee;
that is, a fishing; for it seems to have been the business and employment of them all formerly: the place they went to was the sea of Tiberias, as appears from ( John 21:1 ) a place free for any to fish at. This is said to be one of the ten traditions which Joshua delivered to the children of Israel, when he divided the land among them F26:

``that any man should be free to catch fish in the waters (or sea) of Tiberias; and he might fish with an hook only; but he might not spread a net, or place a ship there, except the children of the tribe to whom that sea belonged in their division.''

But now these disciples, or the greater part of them at least, belonging to the tribe and division in which the sea was, had a right to carry a ship or boat thither, and make use of a net, as they did. Besides, there was another reason for fishing here, because there were no unclean fish; for the Jews say F1, that

``in a place of running water no clean fish goes along with unclean fish, and lo, the sea of Tiberias is (Nh Nyklhm) (Mymh Nwgk) , "as running waters".''

They went forth:
from the house, town, or city where they were, whether Capernaum, or Bethsaida, or Tiberias itself:

and entered into a ship immediately;
which was either one of their own, that belonged to some one of them before their call; which though they had left, had reserved their right and claim unto; see ( Luke 5:3 ) or which they hired for their present purpose: the word immediately is not in the Vulgate Latin, nor in the Syriac, Arabic, Persic, and Ethiopic versions, nor in Beza's ancient copy:

and that night they caught nothing.
They went out in the evening of the day, and fished all night, that being a proper time for such business, and the most likely to succeed in, but caught no fish, or very little: and so it is sometimes with Gospel ministers, who are fishers of men, though they take every opportunity, and the most proper methods to gain souls to Christ, yet sometimes do not succeed; which makes things look dark and gloomy in their apprehensions.


F26 Maimon. Hilch. Nezike Maramon, c. 5. sect. 3. Vid. T. Bab. Bava Kama, fol. 81. 1.
F1 T. Hieros. Avoda Zara, fol. 42. 1.

John 21:3 In-Context

1 Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened.
2 Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.
3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.
4 At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was.
5 He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied.