Tag Archives: fishing

Fishing the Sea of Galilee

In previous posts we have looked at the fish of the Sea of Galilee, ports of the Sea of Galilee, and Tabgha (Heptapegon) which has been called the fishermen’s suburb of Capernaum.

In this post we will concentrate on how the fishing was done.

  • Some fishing was done by casting a hook into the sea (Matthew 17:27).
  • The cast-net could be thrown by an individual fisherman (Matthew 4:18).
  • The seine or dragnet required several workers (Matthew 13:47).
  • The trammel net involved tying together several nets (Mark 1:19-20).

The Hook. I suppose fish hooks are common enough not to need a photo but I will include them in this photo made in the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv. it shows a cast-net and some fishing hooks in the lower right corner. Note the lead weights on the bottom of the net. Lead weights such as these have been found at various archaeological excavations.

Cast-Net and fish hooks. Eretz Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Cast-Net and fish hooks. Eretz Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Cast-Net. This photo shows a fisherman casting a net in the warm, shallow water near Tabgha. The cast-net can be thrown from the edge of the water or from a boat.

Fisherman casting a net in the warm water at Tabgha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fisherman casting a net in the warm water at Tabgha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Seine or Dragnet. In the parable of the net in Matthew 13:47-50, the Greek word for net is sagene. I note that the NAU and the NKJ use the term dragnet, while other versions use the generic net. This is clearly the seine which gathers all kinds of fish that must then be sorted by the fishermen.

I understand about the seine. As a youngster I visited an uncle and aunt who lived near New Hope, Alabama. My uncle set a seine on the Flint River. In the morning he would say, “Let’s go down to the river and see if we have caught anything.” But, I have not seen the seine in use on the Sea of Galilee except in older photos. Here is a photo from the American Colony and Eric Matson collection available from Life in the Holy Land.

Fishermen bringing in a seine (or dragnet). Photo: Life in the Holy Land.

Fishermen bringing in a seine (or dragnet). Photo: Life in the Holy Land.

The next photo is one that I have enhanced from the Eric Matson collection at the Library of Congress.

Fishermen using a seine. Photo: Eric Matson Collection, LOC.

Fishermen using a seine. Photo: Eric Matson Collection, LOC.

A modern adaptation of the seine or dragnet is seen in modern times. I learned that it is called the Purse Seine. The first photo, scanned from a 1992 slide, shows the seine is heavy with the catch of the night.

Fishing boat getting ready to unload a purse seine at Tiberias. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1992.

Fishing boat getting ready to unload a purse seine. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows the fishermen getting ready to unload the catch.

Fishing boat using purse-seine on Sea of Galilee - March 1992

Fishing boat using purse-seine on Sea of Galilee – March 1992

The Trammel Net. Nun says that the net being used by the early disciples of Jesus is the trammel net (Mark 1:19-20). This type of net was made by tying together several cast-nets. You can locate many photo illustrations by searching for “trammel nets” in Google. Here is another photo from the Matson collection showing the mending of nets at Ain Geb (En Gev).

Girls of Ain Geb, a Jewish settlement on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. Girls of the settlement mending fishing nets. Photo: Eric Matson collection LOC.

Girls of Ain Geb, a Jewish settlement on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. Girls of the settlement mending fishing nets. Photo: Eric Matson collection LOC.

 

Tabgha (Heptapegon) – a good place for fishing

Mendel Nun describes Tabgha as “The Fishermen’s Suburb of Capernaum.” Tabgha is a corrupted form of the name Heptapegon which means “seven springs.” Why would someone who lived at Capernaum, like Simon Peter and Andrew (Matthew 4:13-20), think of going west 1½ miles to fish?

Nun explains the importance of Tabgha for fishing.

The springs of Tabgha have great economic importance. In the winter, the warm water draws schools of warmth-loving musht, tropical in origin, to the vicinity. The waters of the springs were once used to operate several flour mills. The Capernaum fishermen stayed in this area during winter and early spring, making Tabgha an important industrial suburb of Capernaum. A small harbour which served the millers and fishermen was found in the nineteen seventies. (The Sea of Galilee and Its Fishermen in the New Testament, 14).

Just a few yards west of the Church of the Primacy, which we showed in the previous post, one of the seven warm springs was flowing freely during our 1992 visit to the site. When the water is high one would not notice this spring.

One of the seven springs at Heptapegon (Tabgha). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

One of the seven springs at Heptapegon (Tabgha). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

We are not told where Peter and Andrew were fishing when Jesus called them, but Tabgha certainly would be a good place.

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon (called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen). (Matthew 4:18 NET)

As he went along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen). (Mark 1:16 NET)

And this would be a good place for the events of John 21, or the earlier account recorded in Luke 5:1-11. Rousseau and Arav (Jesus and His World, 97) conflate these two accounts into one and conclude that John “was written by a different author or editor.” A reading of both texts shows that the one in Luke is at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus when He calls the disciples, and the one is John is at the close of His earthly ministry after His resurrection (21:14).

It would be common for fishermen to stand on the shore or in the edge of the water and cast a net into the warm water where the fish gathered.

Our final photo this time is an aerial view showing the north shore of the Sea of Galilee from Tabgha on the right (west) to the entrance to Capernaum on the left (east). The traditional Mount of Beatitudes is on the hill above. The distance from the entry to Capernaum to Tabgha is 1.25 mile on a straight line. Add another .4 mile to reach the archaeological site of Capernaum.

North shore of the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum to Tabgha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

North shore of the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum to Tabgha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

 

Fish of the Sea of Galilee

In 1993 Mendel Nun published an article in Biblical Archaeology Review entitled “Cast Your Net Upon the Waters: Fish and Fishermen in Jesus’ Time.” Nun, now deceased, explains the meaning of his name:

For more than 50 years, I have lived at Kibbutz Ein Gev on the shore of the Kinileret [Kinneret], the Sea of Galilee. For much of that time, I have been a fisherman. The Hebrew letter nun (N) means fish in Aramaic. My former name—I was born in Latvia—began with an N. When I became a fisherman, I simply took that first letter as my new surname. (BAR 19:06 (Nov/Dec 1993)

Nun explains that he was continually surprised “at how accurately the New Testament writers reflect natural phenomena on the lake.”

A more detailed source of information by Nun is his 1989 The Sea of Galilee and Its Fishermen in the New Testament.

Nun says there are 18 species of indigenous fish in the Sea of Galilee, and that 10 of those are important commercially. The edible fish are classified as follows:

  • Musht. This group includes the popular Tilapia Galilea, commonly called Saint Peter’s fish.
  • Biny (Barbels). “This group consists of three species of the Carp family.” The two most common species are the Barbus longiceps and the Barbus Canis. Both are used by Jews for Sabbath meals and feasts.
  • Kinneret Sardine. “At the height of the fishing season, tens of tons of sardines are caught every night.” In New Testament times these fish were preserved by pickling. Magdala was known as the center of this industry.

Our first photo shows fishermen unloading their catch of Musht early in the morning. This photo was made where the Jordan River exits from the south end of the Sea of Galilee.

Fishermen coming in from a night of fishing. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fishermen coming in from a night of fishing. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fish are unloaded to be taken to restaurants and markets in the area. I have seen this fish for sale in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Fishermen unloading their catch at the outlet of the Jordan River from the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fishermen unloading their catch at the outlet of the Jordan River from the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Here is a closeup of one of the containers of Saint Peter’s fish. You can see that these fish would be ideal of pan frying.

Musht (Saint Peter's fish) from the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Musht (Saint Peter’s fish) from the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tourists may have eaten these fish at lunch during their tour of the Galilee region. It makes a good meal, but some tourists use a napkin to cover the eyes while they enjoy eating the fish.

Saint Peter's fish is a common meal at restaurants around the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Saint Peter’s fish is a popular meal at restaurants around the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo, also early in the morning, shows the catch of Biny, a much larger fish than the Musht. The Biny reaches a weight of 6 or 7 kilo (13-15 pounds).

Fisherman at Tiberias Port unloading the catch of Biny. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fisherman at Tiberias Port unloading the catch of Biny. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In 2010 Israel announced a two year ban on fishing in the Sea of Galilee (see here). I don’t know how vigorously this ban was enforced. I know that in previous years I would see numerous boats heading to port after a night of fishing, but in the past few years this has not been so. Today’s Haaretz reports that the two-year fishing ban has been cut to a four-month annual break.

Instead of a blanket moratorium on fishing in the lake for two years, fishing will be barred only from April 15 to August 15, the spawning season of the lake’s tilapia populations.

The full article may be read here.

Hopefully we will return with some more information about fishing at the time of Jesus and a brief look at some of the New Testament episodes that involve fishing.

Fishing ban on the Sea of Galilee

Arutz Sheva reports a two year ban on fishing in the Sea of Galilee and its tributaries.

Minister of Agriculture Shalom Simchon has announced a ban on all fishing in the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) for two years. The ban also extends to the part of the Jordan River that empties into the Sea of Galilee, and to all the other rivers that empty into the famous lake.

The authority to ban fishing is within the Minister of Agriculture’s authority according to the official Fishing Order, and the ban is set to take effect on March 1, 2010, extending until February 28, 2012. Minister Simchon has asked the Finance Ministry to allot NIS 15 million for enforcing the ban and compensating the fishermen who will be hurt by it.

Simchon explained that according to Agriculture Ministry statistics, the quantity of fish in the Sea of Galilee has plummeted in the past decade, and especially in the last two years, by tens of percentage points annually. It has now reached  a critical level, he said, and these statistics mean that the sea may be facing an ecological disaster in which all its fish would die out.

Simchon added that the ban on fishing is necessary, because it is both in the public’s interest and that of the fishermen that the Sea of Galilee be kept from turning into a fishless sea. However, the Ministry of Agriculture said that it realized that the fishermen would be bound to protest the move.

Read the full account here.

A fisherman readies to cast his net into an area near Taghba where warm water springs flow into the Sea of Galilee. For a photo of the net in the air click here. Commercial fishermen use large draw nets.

Fisherman readies to cast his net into the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fisherman readies to cast his net into the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. (Matthew 4:18 ESV)

We wrote about the water level of the lake with photos to illustrate the low level here.

HT: Bible Places Blog.

Fisherman in Egypt

A fisherman brings in a large catch of fish in a lake on the outskirts of Alexandria, Egypt.

Fisherman Near Alexandria, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fisherman Near Alexandria, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The wise writer of Ecclesiastes likened the unfortunate things that happen in life to fish being caught in a net.

Surely, no one knows his appointed time! Like fish that are caught in a deadly net, and like birds that are caught in a snare– just like them, all people are ensnared at an unfortunate time that falls upon them suddenly. (Ecclesiastes 9:12 NET)

This photo was made in the street fish market along the pier in Alexandria.

The Fish Market at Alexandria, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Fish Market at Alexandria, Egypt. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The prophet Isaiah (about 725 B.C.) spoke of a time that was coming upon Egypt in these words.

The fishermen will mourn and lament, all those who cast a fishhook into the river, and those who spread out a net on the water’s surface will grieve. (Isaiah 19:8 NET)

Breakfast with Jesus

Jesus told the disciples that after His resurrection He would go ahead of them to Galilee (Matthew 26:32). His third appearance to the disciples was on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias (Galilee/Gennesaret).

Tradition locates the place of His meeting with the disciples at (or near) Tabgha on the northwest shore of the Sea of Tiberias. The events are recorded in John 21. The disciples had fished during the night and caught nothing. At day break Jesus invited them to “Come and have breakfast.”

The small church, made of the local basalt stone, is called the Church of the Primacy of Peter. Roman Catholics believe Christ promised and conferred the primacy of jurisdiction over the entire church on the Apostle Peter at this time and place (John 21:14-17). Need I say that many do not agree with this interpretation?

The traditional site where Jesus prepared breakfast for the disciples. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The traditional site where Jesus prepared breakfast for the disciples. The building covers what Catholics call the Mensa Christi (the Table of Christ). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Observe in the photo that the shoreline is far from the building. This is because the water level has been extremely low in the past few years. Remnants of a small harbor can be seen beside the building. Mendel Nun, in his well-known article about the 15 man-made harbors around the Sea of Galilee, writes about Tabgha:

In the winter, fishermen from Capernaum worked at Tabgha, where several warm mineral springs attracted musht, popularly called St. Peter’s Fish. (The name Tabgha is a corruption of the Greek for “Seven Springs.”) Today the remains of this small harbor’s breakwater can be seen when the water level is low. Christian tradition ascribes the meeting place of Jesus with his disciples to a prominent rock at the warm springs. From a fisherman’s viewpoint, this is the correct choice. This is the area where musht schools formerly concentrated in the winter and spring. Here Jesus met his disciples for the first—and also the last—time (Luke 5:1–7; John 21:1–8). On this rock, now known as the rock of the primacy of Peter, stands a small modern Franciscan chapel, the Church of the Primacy of Peter. It was built on the foundations of earlier churches, the oldest of which dates from the first half of the fourth century. The altar is built around a stone outcropping known to pilgrims as the Lord’s Table (Mensa Domini), on which Jesus served the disciples after the miraculous draught of fishes (John 21:13). (Nun, Mendel. “Ports of Galilee.” Biblical Archaeology Review. July/August 1999).

The Nile canals

The prophet Ezekiel  foretold the fall of Egypt at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Ezekiel 30:10). Nebuchadnezzar defeated Pharaoh Neco at the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C.

The prophet said,

“Moreover, I will make the Nile canals dry And sell the land into the hands of evil men. And I will make the land desolate And all that is in it, By the hand of strangers; I the LORD have spoken.” (Ezekiel 30:12 NAS)

Over a period of time the branches of the Nile in Lower Egypt (the Nile Delta) dried up. The course of the Pelusiac branch is known, but much of it is replaced by a canal running northeast from the area of Cairo to the Suez Canal.

This photo shows a man fishing with a net in the Pelusiac branch which runs through the biblical land of Goshen (Genesis 45:10).

Fishing in the Pelusiac Branch of the Nile. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Fishing in the Pelusiac Branch of the Nile. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.