There are in Scripture several words denoting different kinds of nets, and this, with the frequency of images derived from them, shows that nets were much in use among the Hebrews for fishing, hunting, and fowling. Indeed, for the two latter purposes nets were used to an extent of which now, since the invention of fire-arms, a notion can scarcely be formed. The various terms applied by the Hebrews to nets had reference either to the construction of the article or to its use and objects. To the first of these we may assign the following terms:
(1.) מַכמָר, milkmar, or מִכמֹאּ, makmor, which occurs only in Ps 141:10; Isa 52:15, where it denotes a hunter's net, is derived from כָּמִר, kamdr, to plait or interweave; but a longer word, from the same source, מַכמֹרֶת, mnikmoreth (A.V. "drag"), denotes the net of fishermen (Isa 19:8; Hab 1:15-16).
(2.) שׂבָך, sebdk, or (in its fem. form) שׂבָכָה, sebakdh, which is derived from שָׂבִך, sabdk, to twine, and designates an actual hunting-net in Job 18:6 (A.V. "snare"); but elsewhere is applied to network or latticework, especially around the capitals of columns ("network, wreathen-work," etc., 1Ki 7:18,20,41-42; 2Ki 25:17; 2Ch 4:12-13; Jer 52:22-23), and also before a window or balcony ("lattice," 2Ki 1:2). To the second head we may assign the following:
(3.) חֵרֶם ", cherem, which denotes a net for either fishing or fowling. It is derived fromחָרִם chaadm, signifying to shut up; and the idea is. therefore, founded on its shutting in the prey. It occurs (in this sense) in Hab 1:16-17; Eze 26:5,14; Eze 47:10; Zec 14:11, etc. In Ec 7:26 it is applied by an apt metaphor to female entanglements.
(4.) מָצוֹד, matsod, or מָצוּד, matsud (with the corresponding feminine forms, מצוֹדָה , metsodah, and מצוּדָה, metsudah), from the root צוּד tsud, to lie in wait, occurs in the sense of a net for fishes (Ec 9:12) or animals (Job 19:6; Ps 46:11; "snare," Eze 12:13; Eze 17:20; "to be hunted," Eze 13:21); metaphorically of the prey caught (Pr 12:10), or of female blandishments ("snare," Ec 7:26).
(5.) רֶשֶׁת , resheth, the most common term, from יָרִשׁ, yarash, to get possession of, is applied to a corded meshwork of any description, whether for catching birds (Pr 1:17) or other animals (Job 18:8;
Ps 9:15; Ps 10:9; Ps 25:15; Ps 31:4; Ps 35:7-8; Ps 57:6; Ps 140:5; Pr 29:5; La 1:13; Eze 12:13; Eze 19:8; Eze 32:3; Ho 5:1; Ho 7:12), or as a screen for sifting ashes from the fire (Ex 27:4-5; Ex 38:4). What distinction other than these vague intimations there may have been between the various nets described by the Hebrew terms we are unable to decide. In the New Testament no other net than that for fishing is mentioned.
(6.) The most general word which describes it (δίκτυον, from δικεῖν, to throw, occurring in Mt 4:20-21; Mr 1:18-19; Lu 5:2,4-6; Joh 21:6,8,11) is usually confined to fishing-nets by classical writers, although sometimes applied to the nets of hunters.
(7.) Another word to describe a net, ἀυφί βληστρον (from ἀμφιβάλλω, to cast around), occurs in Mt 4:18; Mr 1:16, which, like cherem above, is founded on the idea of enfolding or shutting in the prey.
(8.) A special kind was the σαγήνη (from σάττω, to load), whence our word seine, a large hauling or drawnet; it is the term used in the parable of the draw-net (Mt 13:47).
The metaphorical references to the net are very numerous: it was selected as an appropriate image of the, subtle devices of the enemies of God on the one hand (e.g. Ps 9:15; Ps 25:15; Ps 31:4), and of the unavertable vengeance of God on the other (La 1:13; Eze 12:13; Ho 7:12). SEE SNARE.
1. Fishing-nets. — We have no direct information concerning the fish-nets of the Hebrews, but suppose that they were not materially different from those of the ancient Egyptians, concerning which we now possess very good information, and which are more than once mentioned in Scripture (Isa 19:8). The Egyptians constructed their nets of flax-string: the netting-needle was made of wood, and in shape closely resembled our own (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 2:95), SEE NEEDLE. The usual fishing-net among this people was of a long form, like the common drag-net, with wooden floats on the upper and leads on the lower side. The leads were occasionally of an elongated shape, hanging from the outer cord or border of the net; but they were most usually flat, and, being folded round the cord, the opposite sides were beaten together; and this method continues to be adopted by the modern Egyptians. The net was sometimes let down from a boat, but those who pulled it usually stood on the shore, and landed the fish on a shelving bank. This mode, however, was more adapted to river than to lake fishing; and hence in all the detailed examples of fishing in the New Testament the net is cast from and drawn into boats, excepting in one case where, the draught being too great to take into the boat, the fishers dragged the net after their boats to the shore (Joh 21:6,8). Sometimes in shallow water a smaller net was used furnished with a pole on either side, to which it was attached; and the fisherman, holding one of the poles in each hand, thrust it below the surface of the water, and awaited the moment when a shoal of fish passed over it.
This, or a smaller landing-net, likewise secured the large fish, which had been wounded with the spear or entangled with the hook. In the large cut given on page 978 the fishermen in the boat, excepting the master, are almost naked, as are also those who have occasion to wade in the water in hauling the net to the shore. Such seems also to have been the practice among the Hebrew fishermen; for Peter, when he left the boat to hasten on shore to his risen Lord " girt his fisher's coat unto him, for he was naked" (Joh 21:7); although, in this case, the word "naked" (q.v.) must be understood with some latitude. For modern fishing-nets in Palestine, see Thomson, Land and Book, 2:79 sq. SEE FISHING.
2. Fowling-nets. — These were also in common use among the Hebrews, and the references to them in the Bible receive striking illustration from the representations on the Egyptian monuments. The ancient Egyptians either caught the birds in large clap-nets or in traps; and they sometimes shot them with arrows, or felled them with a throw-stick, as they flew in the thickets. The trap was generally made of network, strained over a frame. It consisted of two semicircular sides or flaps, of equal size, one or both moving on the common bar, or axis, upon which they rested. When the trap was set, the two flaps were kept open by means of strings, probably of catgut, which, the moment the bait that stood in the center of the bar was touched, slipped aside, and allowed the two flaps to collapse, and thus secured the bird. Another kind, which was square appears to have closed in the same manner; but its construction was different, the framework running across the centre, and not, as in others, round the edges of the trap. So skillful were they in making traps that they were strong enough to hold the hyena; and in the one which caught the robber in the treasury of Rhampsinitus the power of the spring or the mechanism of the catch was so perfect that his brother was unable to open it or release him. Similar in ingenuity, though not in strength, were the nets made by the convicts banished to Rhinocolura by Actisanes, which, though made of split straws, were yet capable of catching many of the numerous quails that frequented that desert region at a particular period of the year. The clap-net was of different forms, though on the same general principle as the traps. The larger ones consisted, like the smaller ones above, of two sides or frames, over which the network was strained (see next page); at one end was a short rope, which they fastened to a bush or a cluster of reeds, and at the other was one of considerable length, which, as soon as the birds were seen feeding in the area within the net, was pulled by the fowlers, causing the two sides to collapse. As soon as they had selected a convenient spot for laying down the net, in a field or on the surface of a pond, the known resort of numerous wild fowl, they spread open the two sides or flaps, and secured them in such a manner that they remained flat upon the ground until pulled by the rope. A man, crouched behind some reeds growing at a convenient distance from the spot, from which he could observe the birds as they came down, watched the net, and, enjoining silence by placing his hand over his mouth, beckoned to those holding the rope to keep themselves in readiness till he saw them assembled in sufficient numbers, when a wave of his hand gave the signal for closing the net (Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians, 2:181 sq.).
"Birds formed an article of food among the Hebrews (Le 17:13), and much skill was exercised in catching them. The following were the most approved methods:
(1.) The trap (פִּח), which consisted of two parts — a net, strained over a frame, and a stick to support it, but so placed that it should give way at the slightest touch; the stick or spring was termed מוֹקֵשׁ (Am 3:5, 'gin;' Ps 69:22, 'trap'); this was the most usual method (Job 18:9; Ec 9:12; Pr 8:23).
(2.) The snare (צִמַּים , from צָמִם to braid; Job 18:9, A.V. 'robber'), consisting of a cord (חֶבֶל, Job 18:10; comp. Ps 18:5; Ps 116:3; Ps 140:5) so set as to catch the bird by the leg.
(3.) The net, as above.
(4.) The decoy, to which reference is made in Jer 5:26-27 — a cage of peculiar construction (כּלוּב) — was filled with birds, which acted as decoys; the door of the cage was kept open by a piece of stick acting as a springe (מִשׁחַית.), and closed suddenly with a clap (whence perhaps the term keltib) on the entrance of a bird. The partridge appears to have been used as a decoy (Ecclus. 11:30)." SEE FOWLING.
3. Hunting-nets. — These, as has already been seen, were of universal use among the Hebrews. "The objects for which hunting is practiced indicate the various conditions of society and the progress of civilization. Hunting, as a matter of necessity, whether for the extermination of dangerous beasts or for procuring sustenance, betokens a rude and semicivilized state; as an amusement, it betokens an advanced state. In the former, personal prowess and physical strength are the qualities which elevate a man above his fellows and fit him for dominion, and hence one of the greatest heroes of antiquity is described as a 'mighty hunter before the Lord' (Ge 10:9), while Ishmael, the progenitor of a wild race, was famed as an archer (Ge 21:20), and Esau, holding a similar position, was 'a cunning hunter, a man of the field' (Ge 25:27). The latter state may be exemplified, not indeed from Scripture itself, but from contemporary records. Among the accomplishments of Herod, his skill in the chase is particularly noticed; he kept a regular stud and a huntsman (Josephus, Ant. 16:10, 3), followed up the sport in a wild country (Ant. 15:7, 7) which abounded with stags, wild asses, and bears, and is said to have killed as many as forty head in a day (War, 1:21, 113). The wealthy in Egypt and Assyria followed the sports of the field with great zest; they had their preserves for the express purpose of keeping and hunting game (Wilkinson's Anc. Egyptians, 1:215; Xen. Cyrop. 1:4, 5, 14), and drew from hunting scenes subjects for decorating the walls of their buildings. and even the robes they wore on state occasions. The Hebrews, as a pastoral and agricultural people, were not given to the sports of the field; the density of the population, the earnestness of their character, and the tendency of their ritual regulations, particularly those affecting food, all combined to discourage the practice of hunting; and perhaps the examples of Ishmael and Esau were recorded with the same object. There was no lack of game in Palestine; on their entrance into the land the wild beasts were so numerous as to be dangerous (Ex 23:29); the utter destruction of them was guarded against by the provisions of the Mosaic law (Ex 23:11; Le 25:7). Some of the fiercer animals survived to a late period, as lions (Jg 14:5; 1Sa 17:34; 2Sa 23:20; 1Ki 13:24; 1Ki 20:36) and bears (1Sa 17:34; 2Ki 2:24); jackals (Jg 15:4) and foxes (Song 2:15) were also numerous; hart, roebuck, and fallow deer (De 12:15; 1Ki 4:23) formed a regular source of sustenance, and were possibly preserved in enclosures. The manner of catching these animals was either by digging a pitfall (שִׁחִת), which was the usual manner with the larger animals, as the lion (2Sa 23:20; Eze 19:4,8); or, secondly, by a trap (פִּח), which was set under ground (Job 18:10), in the run of the animal (Pr 22:5), and caught it by the leg (Job 18:9); or, lastly, by the use of the net, of which there were various kinds, as for the gazelle (?) (Isa 51:20, A.V. 'wild bull'), and other animals of that class. The game selected was generally such as was adapted for food (Pr 12:27), and care was taken to pour out the blood of these as well as of tame animals (Le 17:13)." All this is admirably and fully illustrated on the Egyptian monuments. Among the ancient Egyptians, in hunting, a space of considerable size was sometimes enclosed with nets, into which the animals were driven. The spots thus enclosed were usually in the vicinity of the water brooks to which they were in the habit of repairing in the morning and evening; and having awaited the time when they went to drink, the hunters disposed their nets, occupied proper positions for observing them unseen, and gradually closed in upon them. The usages of the Egyptians, and, so far as can be ascertained, of other Oriental nations, in this respect, correspond with the intimations of Julius Pollux (Onomast. 5:4), who states that two kinds of nets were employed in this mode of hunting. One, a long net, called by the Greeks δίκτυον, was furnished with several ropes, and was supported on forked poles, varying in length to correspond with the inequalities of the ground over which it extended. The others were smaller nets, called ἐνδδια (a, for stopping gaps. These practices are obviously alluded to in such passages as Job 19:6; Ps 140:5; Isa 51:20. The method in which the net was applied is familiar to us from the descriptions in Virgil (AEn. 4:121, 151 sq.; 10:707 sq.); it was placed across a ravine or narrow valley, frequented by the animals for the sake of water, and the game was driven in by the hunters, and then despatched either with bow and. arrow or spears (comp. Wilkinson, 1:214). The Assyrian monuments likewise confirm this method of taking game. SEE HUNTING.