FISH.--1. In the Old Testament: In the Old Testament fish are not named by species. The large aquatic animals, including the crocodile, are designated as tannin (see DRAGON). The food-law (Lev. xi. 9-12), aiming ostensibly at a classification of fish, divides all things that move in the water into those that have scales and fins and those that have not, the former being clean, the latter unclean. Almost all fish belong to the first class. In Palestine fish abound in the Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, and in perennial brooks. The Sea of Galilee has a few varieties not found elsewhere, except in tropical waters like the Nile.
There is seldom mention of fish as food in early Biblical times. After the Exile, and with the advance of the art of cooking, fish became a more important article of diet. The Tyrians marketed their fish, dried and salted, in Jerusalem (Neh. xiii. 16), where a city-gate near the fish-market was called the "fish-gate" (Neh. iii. 3, and elsewhere). Salt fish (Gk. tariché) was imported from Egypt. The name of the town Taricheæ on the Sea of Galilee and the frequent mention of brine in the Mishnah show that the custom of pickling fish obtained in Palestine. In the time of Jesus fish was a common article of food (Matt. vii. 10, xiv. 17, xv. 34; Luke xxiv. 42).
No account of the catching of fish has come down from the older Biblical period; but figures of speech employed by the prophets show that fishing was generally known (Amos iv. 2; Jer. xvi. 16; Ezek. xxix. 4; and elsewhere). In the New Testament professional fishers lived near the Sea of Galilee (Luke v. 1-2, and elsewhere). As regards fishing tackle, various nets are mentioned in the New Testament; the large drag-net (sagēnē, Matt. xiii. 47), as well as the casting-net (diktyon the small, amphiblēstron-the large casting-net, Matt. iv. 18-20) were certainly in use in the older period (Is. xix. 8; Hab. i. 15). Fishing-hooks (Job xli. 1; Amos iv. 2; Matt. xvii. 27) and spears or harpoons are also mentioned (Job xli. 7). Fishing was carried on chiefly by night.
2. As a Symbol and in Christian Art. See SYMBOLISM