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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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דג , ιχθυς , Matthew 7:10; Matthew 17:27; Luke 5:6; John 21:6; John 21:8; John 21:11 , occurs very frequently. This appears to be the general name in Scripture of aquatic animals. Boothroyd, in the note upon Numbers 11:4 , says, "I am inclined to think that the word בשד , here rendered flesh, denotes only the flesh of fish, as it certainly does in Leviticus 11:11; and indeed the next verse seems to support this explication: ‘We remember how freely we ate fish.' It was then, particularly, the flesh of fish, for which they longed, which was more relishing than either the beef or mutton of those regions, which, unless when young, is dry and unpalatable. Of the great abundance and deliciousness of the fish of Egypt, all authors, ancient and modern, are agreed." We have few Hebrew names, if any, for particular fishes. Moses says in general, Leviticus 11:9-12 , that all sorts of river, lake, and sea fish, might be eaten, if they had scales and fins; others were unclean. St. Barnabas, in his epistle, cites, as from ancient authority, "You shall not eat of the lamprey, the many-feet, [polypes,] nor the cuttle fish." Though fish was the common food of the Egyptians, yet we learn from Herodotus and Chaeremon, as quoted by Porphyry, that their priests abstained from fish of all sorts. Hence we may see how distressing to the Egyptians was the infliction which turned the waters of the river into blood, and occasioned the death of the fish, Exodus 7:18-21 . Their sacred stream became so polluted as to be unfit for drink, for bathing, and for other uses of water to which they were superstitiously devoted, and themselves obliged to nauseate what was the usual food of the common people, and held sacred by the priests, Exodus 2:5; Exodus 7:15; Exodus 8:20 .

In Ezekiel 29:4 , the king of Egypt is compared to the crocodile; "I am against thee, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers in Egypt. I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick to thy scales, and I will bring thee out of the midst of thy rivers, and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick to thy scales." If the remora is as troublesome to the crocodile as it is to some other tenants of the water, it may here be referred to. Forskal mentions the echeneis neucrates [remora] at Gidda, there called kaml el kersh, "the louse of the shark," because it often adheres very strongly to this fish; and Hasselquist says that it is found at Alexandria. The term, ιχθυς , a fish, was, at an early period of the Christian era, adopted as a symbolical word. It was formed from the initial letters of the Greek words, ‘Ιησους , Ξριστος , Θεου Υ ιος , Σωτηρ , "Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Saviour." From the use of symbolical terms, the transition was easy to the adoption of symbolical representations, and it therefore soon became common for the Christians to have the letters of the word ιχθυς , or the figures of fishes, sculptured on their monuments for the dead, struck on their medals, engraved on their rings and seals, and even formed on the articles of domestic use.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Fish'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​f/fish.html. 1831-2.
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