little fish; diminutive from dag = a fish, the fish-god; the
national god of the Philistines (Judg. 16:23). This idol had the
body of a fish with the head and hands of a man. It was an
Assyrio-Babylonian deity, the worship of which was introduced
among the Philistines through Chaldea. The most famous of the
temples of Dagon were at Gaza (Judg. 16:23-30) and Ashdod (1
Sam. 5:1-7). (See FISH T0001343.)
called "dag" by the Hebrews, a word denoting great fecundity
(Gen. 9:2; Num. 11:22; Jonah 2:1, 10). No fish is mentioned by
name either in the Old or in the New Testament. Fish abounded in
the Mediterranean and in the lakes of the Jordan, so that the
Hebrews were no doubt acquainted with many species. Two of the
villages on the shores of the Sea of Galilee derived their names
from their fisheries, Bethsaida (the "house of fish") on the
east and on the west. There is probably no other sheet of water
in the world of equal dimensions that contains such a variety
and profusion of fish. About thirty-seven different kinds have
been found. Some of the fishes are of a European type, such as
the roach, the barbel, and the blenny; others are markedly
African and tropical, such as the eel-like silurus. There was a
regular fish-market apparently in Jerusalem (2 Chr. 33:14; Neh.
3:3; 12:39; Zeph. 1:10), as there was a fish-gate which was
probably contiguous to it.
Sidon is the oldest fishing establishment known in history.
were used for catching fish (Amos 4:2; compare Isa. 37:29; Jer.
16:16; Ezek. 29:4; Job. 41:1, 2; Matt. 17:27).
(Cant. 7:4) should be simply "pools," as in the Revised Version.
The reservoirs near Heshbon (q.v.) were probably stocked with
fish (2 Sam. 2:13; 4:12; Isa. 7:3; 22:9, 11).
Fishing, the art of
was prosecuted with great industry in the waters of Israel.
It was from the fishing-nets that Jesus called his disciples
(Mark 1:16-20), and it was in a fishing-boat he rebuked the
winds and the waves (Matt. 8:26) and delivered that remarkable
series of prophecies recorded in Matt. 13. He twice miraculously
fed multitudes with fish and bread (Matt. 14:19; 15:36). It was
in the mouth of a fish that the tribute-money was found (Matt.
17:27). And he "ate a piece of broiled fish" with his disciples
after his resurrection (Luke 24:42, 43; compare Acts 1:3). At the
Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-14), in obedience to his direction,
the disciples cast their net "on the right side of the ship,"
and enclosed so many that "they were not able to draw it for the
multitude of fishes."
Two kinds of fishing-nets are mentioned in the New Testament:
(1.) The casting-net (Matt. 4:18; Mark 1:16).
(2.) The drag-net or seine (Matt. 13:48).
Fish were also caught by the fishing-hook (Matt. 17:27). (See
Mail, Coat of
"a corselet of scales," a cuirass formed of pieces of metal
overlapping each other, like fish-scales (1 Sam. 17:5); also
(38) a corselet or garment thus encased.
a nail; claw; hoof, (Heb. sheheleth; Ex. 30:34), a Latin word
applied to the operculum, i.e., the claw or nail of the strombus
or wing-shell, a univalve common in the Red Sea. The opercula of
these shell-fish when burned emit a strong odour "like
castoreum." This was an ingredient in the sacred incense.
Heb. 'ozniyyah, an unclean bird according to the Mosaic law
(Lev. 11:13; Deut. 14:12); the fish-eating eagle (Pandion
haliaetus); one of the lesser eagles. But the Hebrew word may be
taken to denote the short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus of
Southern Europe), one of the most abundant of the eagle tribe
found in Israel.
the destroyer, subduer, or fish-god, the god of the Moabites
(Num. 21:29; Jer. 48:7, 13, 46). The worship of this god, "the
abomination of Moab," was introduced at Jerusalem by Solomon (1
Kings 11:7), but was abolished by Josiah (2 Kings 23:13). On the
"Moabite Stone" (q.v.), Mesha (2 Kings 3:5) ascribes his
victories over the king of Israel to this god, "And Chemosh
drove him before my sight."
(1.) Heb. hah, a "ring" inserted in the nostrils of animals to
which a cord was fastened for the purpose of restraining them (2
Kings 19:28; Isa. 37:28, 29; Ezek. 29:4; 38:4). "The Orientals
make use of this contrivance for curbing their
work-beasts...When a beast becomes unruly they have only to draw
the cord on one side, which, by stopping his breath, punishes
him so effectually that after a few repetitions he fails not to
become quite tractable whenever he begins to feel it"
(Michaelis). So God's agents are never beyond his control.
(2.) Hakkah, a fish "hook" (Job 41:2, Heb. Text, 40:25; Isa.
19:8; Hab. 1:15).
(3.) Vav, a "peg" on which the curtains of the tabernacle were
hung (Ex. 26:32).
(4.) Tsinnah, a fish-hooks (Amos 4:2).
(5.) Mazleg, flesh-hooks (1 Sam. 2:13, 14), a kind of fork
with three teeth for turning the sacrifices on the fire, etc.
(6.) Mazmeroth, pruning-hooks (Isa. 2:4; Joel 3:10).
(7.) 'Agmon (Job 41:2, Heb. Text 40:26), incorrectly rendered
in the Authorized Version. Properly a rush-rope for binding
animals, as in Revised Version margin.
in use among the Hebrews for fishing, hunting, and fowling. The
fishing-net was probably constructed after the form of that used
by the Egyptians (Isa. 19:8). There were three kinds of nets.
(1.) The drag-net or hauling-net (Gr. sagene), of great size,
and requiring many men to work it. It was usually let down from
the fishing-boat, and then drawn to the shore or into the boat,
as circumstances might require (Matt. 13:47, 48). (2.) The
hand-net or casting-net (Gr. amphiblestron), which was thrown
from a rock or a boat at any fish that might be seen (Matt.
4:18; Mark 1:16). It was called by the Latins funda. It was of
circular form, "like the top of a tent." (3.) The bag-net (Gr.
diktyon), used for enclosing fish in deep water (Luke 5:4-9).
The fowling-nets were (1) the trap, consisting of a net spread
over a frame, and supported by a stick in such a way that it
fell with the slightest touch (Amos 3:5, "gin;" Ps. 69:22; Job
18:9; Eccl. 9:12). (2) The snare, consisting of a cord to catch
birds by the leg (Job 18:10; Ps. 18:5; 116:3; 140:5). (3.) The
decoy, a cage filled with birds as decoys (Jer. 5:26, 27).
Hunting-nets were much in use among the Hebrews.
Jezreel, Fountain of
where Saul encamped before the battle of Gilboa (1 Sam. 29:1).
In the valley under Zerin there are two considerable springs,
one of which, perhaps that here referred to, "flows from under a
sort of cavern in the wall of conglomerate rock which here forms
the base of Gilboa. The water is excellent; and issuing from
crevices in the rocks, it spreads out at once into a fine limpid
pool forty or fifty feet in diameter, full of fish" (Robinson).
This may be identical with the "well of Harod" (Judg. 7:1; compare
2 Sam. 23:25), probably the 'Ain Jalud, i.e., the "spring of
Galilee, Sea of
(Matt. 4:18; 15:29), is mentioned in the Bible under three other
names. (1.) In the Old Testament it is called the "sea of
Chinnereth" (Num. 34:11; Josh. 12:3; 13:27), as is supposed from
its harp-like shape. (2). The "lake of Gennesareth" once by Luke
(5:1), from the flat district lying on its west coast. (3.) John
(6:1; 21:1) calls it the "sea of Tiberias" (q.v.). The modern
Arabs retain this name, Bahr Tabariyeh.
This lake is 12 1/2 miles long, and from 4 to 7 1/2 broad. Its
surface is 682 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. Its
depth is from 80 to 160 feet. The Jordan enters it 10 1/2 miles
below the southern extremity of the Huleh Lake, or about 26 1/2
miles from its source. In this distance of 26 1/2 miles there is
a fall in the river of 1,682 feet, or of more than 60 feet to
the mile. It is 27 miles east of the Mediterranean, and about 60
miles NE of Jerusalem. It is of an oval shape, and
abounds in fish.
Its present appearance is thus described: "The utter
loneliness and absolute stillness of the scene are exceedingly
impressive. It seems as if all nature had gone to rest,
languishing under the scorching heat. How different it was in
the days of our Lord! Then all was life and bustle along the
shores; the cities and villages that thickly studded them
resounded with the hum of a busy population; while from
hill-side and corn-field came the cheerful cry of shepherd and
ploughman. The lake, too, was dotted with dark fishing-boats and
spangled with white sails. Now a mournful, solitary silence
reigns over sea and shore. The cities are in ruins!"
This sea is chiefly of interest as associated with the public
ministry of our Lord. Capernaum, "his own city" (Matt. 9:1),
stood on its shores. From among the fishermen who plied their
calling on its waters he chose Peter and his brother Andrew, and
James and John, to be disciples, and sent them forth to be
"fishers of men" (Matt. 4:18,22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5: 1-11). He
stilled its tempest, saying to the storm that swept over it,
"Peace, be still" (Matt. 8:23-27; Mark 7:31-35); and here also
he showed himself after his resurrection to his disciples (John
"The Sea of Galilee is indeed the cradle of the gospel. The
subterranean fires of nature prepared a lake basin, through
which a river afterwards ran, keeping its waters always fresh.
In this basin a vast quantity of shell-fish swarmed, and
multiplied to such an extent that they formed the food of an
extraordinary profusion of fish. The great variety and abundance
of the fish in the lake attracted to its shores a larger and
more varied population than existed elsewhere in Israel,
whereby this secluded district was brought into contact with all
parts of the world. And this large and varied population, with
access to all nations and countries, attracted the Lord Jesus,
and induced him to make this spot the centre of his public
are frequently met with at the waters of Merom and the Sea of
Galilee. The pelican is ranked among unclean birds (Lev. 11:18;
Deut. 14:17). It is of an enormous size, being about 6 feet
long, with wings stretching out over 12 feet. The Hebrew name
(kaath, i.e., "vomiter") of this bird is incorrectly rendered
"cormorant" in the Authorized Version of Isa. 34:11 and Zeph.
2:14, but correctly in the Revised Version. It receives its
Hebrew name from its habit of storing in its pouch large
quantities of fish, which it disgorges when it feeds its young.
Two species are found on the Syrian coast, the Pelicanus
onocrotalus, or white pelican, and the Pelicanus crispus, or
The Hebrew word "tan" (plural, tannin) is so rendered in Job
7:12 (A.V.; but R.V., "sea-monster"). It is rendered by
"dragons" in Deut. 32:33; Ps. 91:13; Jer. 51:34; Ps. 74:13
(marg., "whales;" and marg. of R.V., "sea-monsters"); Isa. 27:1;
and "serpent" in Ex. 7:9 (R.V. marg., "any large reptile," and
so in ver. 10, 12). The words of Job (7:12), uttered in bitter
irony, where he asks, "Am I a sea or a whale?" simply mean,
"Have I a wild, untamable nature, like the waves of the sea,
which must be confined and held within bounds, that they cannot
pass?" "The serpent of the sea, which was but the wild, stormy
sea itself, wound itself around the land, and threatened to
swallow it up...Job inquires if he must be watched and plagued
like this monster, lest he throw the world into disorder"
The whale tribe are included under the general Hebrew name
"tannin" (Gen. 1:21; Lam. 4:3). "Even the sea-monsters
[tanninim] draw out the breast." The whale brings forth its
young alive, and suckles them.
It is to be noticed of the story of Jonah's being "three days
and three nights in the whale's belly," as recorded in Matt.
12:40, that here the Gr. ketos means properly any kind of
sea-monster of the shark or the whale tribe, and that in the
book of Jonah (1:17) it is only said that "a great fish" was
prepared to swallow Jonah. This fish may have been, therefore,
some great shark. The white shark is known to frequent the
Mediterranean Sea, and is sometimes found 30 feet in length.
This dye was obtained by the Egyptians from the shell-fish
Carthamus tinctorius; and by the Hebrews from the Coccus ilicis,
an insect which infests oak trees, called kermes by the
This colour was early known (Gen. 38:28). It was one of the
colours of the ephod (Ex. 28:6), the girdle (8), and the
breastplate (15) of the high priest. It is also mentioned in
various other connections (Josh. 2:18; 2 Sam. 1:24; Lam. 4:5;
Nahum 2:3). A scarlet robe was in mockery placed on our Lord
(Matt. 27:28; Luke 23:11). "Sins as scarlet" (Isa. 1:18), i.e.,
as scarlet robes "glaring and habitual." Scarlet and crimson
were the firmest of dyes, and thus not easily washed out.
house of fish. (1.) A town in Galilee, on the west side of the
sea of Tiberias, in the "land of Gennesaret." It was the native
place of Peter, Andrew, and Philip, and was frequently resorted
to by Jesus (Mark 6:45; John 1:44; 12:21). It is supposed to
have been at the modern 'Ain Tabighah, a bay to the north of
(2.) A city near which Christ fed 5,000 (Luke 9:10; compare John
6:17; Matt. 14:15-21), and where the blind man had his sight
restored (Mark 8:22), on the east side of the lake, two miles up
the Jordan. It stood within the region of Gaulonitis, and was
enlarged by Philip the tetrarch, who called it "Julias," after
the emperor's daughter. Or, as some have supposed, there may
have been but one Bethsaida built on both sides of the lake,
near where the Jordan enters it. Now the ruins et-Tel.
the name given by Greek writers of the second century to that
inland sea called in Scripture the "salt sea" (Gen. 14:3; Num.
34:12), the "sea of the plain" (Deut. 3:17), the "east sea"
(Ezek. 47:18; Joel 2:20), and simply "the sea" (Ezek. 47:8). The
Arabs call it Bahr Lut, i.e., the Sea of Lot. It lies about 16
miles in a straight line to the east of Jerusalem. Its surface
is 1,292 feet below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea. It
covers an area of about 300 square miles. Its depth varies from
1,310 to 11 feet. From various phenomena that have been
observed, its bottom appears to be still subsiding. It is about
53 miles long, and of an average breadth of 10 miles. It has no
outlet, the great heat of that region causing such rapid
evaporation that its average depth, notwithstanding the rivers
that run into it (see JORDAN T0002112), is maintained with
little variation. The Jordan alone discharges into it no less
than six million tons of water every twenty-four hours.
The waters of the Dead Sea contain 24.6 per cent. of mineral
salts, about seven times as much as in ordinary sea-water; thus
they are unusually buoyant. Chloride of magnesium is most
abundant; next to that chloride of sodium (common salt). But
terraces of alluvial deposits in the deep valley of the Jordan
show that formerly one great lake extended from the Waters of
Merom to the foot of the watershed in the Arabah. The waters
were then about 1,400 feet above the present level of the Dead
Sea, or slightly above that of the Mediterranean, and at that
time were much less salt.
Nothing living can exist in this sea. "The fish carried down
by the Jordan at once die, nor can even mussels or corals live
in it; but it is a fable that no bird can fly over it, or that
there are no living creatures on its banks. Dr. Tristram found
on the shores three kinds of kingfishers, gulls, ducks, and
grebes, which he says live on the fish which enter the sea in
shoals, and presently die. He collected one hundred and eighteen
species of birds, some new to science, on the shores, or
swimming or flying over the waters. The cane-brakes which fringe
it at some parts are the homes of about forty species of
mammalia, several of them animals unknown in England; and
innumerable tropical or semi-tropical plants perfume the
atmosphere wherever fresh water can reach. The climate is
perfect and most delicious, and indeed there is perhaps no place
in the world where a sanatorium could be established with so
much prospect of benefit as at Ain Jidi (Engedi).", Geikie's
The subject of colours holds an important place in the
White occurs as the translation of various Hebrew words. It is
applied to milk (Gen. 49:12), manna (Ex. 16:31), snow (Isa.
1:18), horses (Zech. 1:8), raiment (Eccl. 9:8). Another Hebrew
word so rendered is applied to marble (Esther 1:6), and a
cognate word to the lily (Cant. 2:16). A different term, meaning
"dazzling," is applied to the countenance (Cant. 5:10).
This colour was an emblem of purity and innocence (Mark 16:5;
John 20:12; Rev. 19:8, 14), of joy (Eccl. 9:8), and also of
victory (Zech. 6:3; Rev. 6:2). The hangings of the tabernacle
court (Ex. 27:9; 38:9), the coats, mitres, bonnets, and breeches
of the priests (Ex. 39:27,28), and the dress of the high priest
on the day of Atonement (Lev. 16:4,32), were white.
Black, applied to the hair (Lev. 13:31; Cant. 5:11), the
complexion (Cant. 1:5), and to horses (Zech. 6:2,6). The word
rendered "brown" in Gen. 30:32 (R.V., "black") means properly
"scorched", i.e., the colour produced by the influence of the
sun's rays. "Black" in Job 30:30 means dirty, blackened by
sorrow and disease. The word is applied to a mourner's robes
(Jer. 8:21; 14:2), to a clouded sky (1 Kings 18:45), to night
(Micah 3:6; Jer. 4:28), and to a brook rendered turbid by melted
snow (Job 6:16). It is used as symbolical of evil in Zech. 6:2,
6 and Rev. 6:5. It was the emblem of mourning, affliction,
calamity (Jer. 14:2; Lam. 4:8; 5:10).
Red, applied to blood (2 Kings 3;22), a heifer (Num. 19:2),
pottage of lentils (Gen. 25:30), a horse (Zech. 1:8), wine
(Prov. 23:31), the complexion (Gen. 25:25; Cant. 5:10). This
colour is symbolical of bloodshed (Zech. 6:2; Rev. 6:4; 12:3).
Purple, a colour obtained from the secretion of a species of
shell-fish (the Murex trunculus) which was found in the
Mediterranean, and particularly on the coasts of Phoenicia and
Asia Minor. The colouring matter in each separate shell-fish
amounted to only a single drop, and hence the great value of
this dye. Robes of this colour were worn by kings (Judg. 8:26)
and high officers (Esther 8:15). They were also worn by the
wealthy and luxurious (Jer. 10:9; Ezek. 27:7; Luke 16:19; Rev.
17:4). With this colour was associated the idea of royalty and
majesty (Judg. 8:26; Cant. 3:10; 7:5; Dan. 5:7, 16,29).
Blue. This colour was also procured from a species of
shell-fish, the chelzon of the Hebrews, and the Helix ianthina
of modern naturalists. The tint was emblematic of the sky, the
deep dark hue of the Eastern sky. This colour was used in the
same way as purple. The ribbon and fringe of the Hebrew dress
were of this colour (Num. 15:38). The loops of the curtains (Ex.
26:4), the lace of the high priest's breastplate, the robe of
the ephod, and the lace on his mitre, were blue (Ex. 28:28, 31,
Scarlet, or Crimson. In Isa. 1:18 a Hebrew word is used which
denotes the worm or grub whence this dye was procured. In Gen.
38:28,30, the word so rendered means "to shine," and expresses
the brilliancy of the colour. The small parasitic insects from
which this dye was obtained somewhat resembled the cochineal
which is found in Eastern countries. It is called by naturalists
Coccus ilics. The dye was procured from the female grub alone.
The only natural object to which this colour is applied in
Scripture is the lips, which are likened to a scarlet thread
(Cant. 4:3). Scarlet robes were worn by the rich and luxurious
(2 Sam. 1:24; Prov. 31:21; Jer. 4:30. Rev. 17:4). It was also
the hue of the warrior's dress (Nah. 2:3; Isa. 9:5). The
Phoenicians excelled in the art of dyeing this colour (2 Chr.
These four colours--white, purple, blue, and scarlet--were
used in the textures of the tabernacle curtains (Ex. 26:1, 31,
36), and also in the high priest's ephod, girdle, and
breastplate (Ex. 28:5, 6, 8, 15). Scarlet thread is mentioned in
connection with the rites of cleansing the leper (Lev. 14:4, 6,
51) and of burning the red heifer (Num. 19:6). It was a crimson
thread that Rahab was to bind on her window as a sign that she
was to be saved alive (Josh. 2:18; 6:25) when the city of
Jericho was taken.
Vermilion, the red sulphuret of mercury, or cinnabar; a colour
used for drawing the figures of idols on the walls of temples
(Ezek. 23:14), or for decorating the walls and beams of houses
the graves of the longing or of lust, one of the stations of the
Israelites in the wilderness. It was probably in the Wady
Murrah, and has been identified with the Erweis el-Ebeirig,
where the remains of an ancient encampment have been found,
about 30 miles NE of Sinai, and exactly a day's journey
from 'Ain Hudherah.
"Here began the troubles of the journey. First, complaints
broke out among the people, probably at the heat, the toil, and
the privations of the march; and then God at once punished them
by lightning, which fell on the hinder part of the camp, and
killed many persons, but ceased at the intercession of Moses
(Num. 11:1, 2). Then a disgust fell on the multitude at having
nothing to eat but the manna day after day, no change, no flesh,
no fish, no high-flavoured vegetables, no luscious fruits...The
people loathed the 'light food,' and cried out to Moses, 'Give
us flesh, give us flesh, that we may eat.'" In this emergency
Moses, in despair, cried unto God. An answer came. God sent "a
prodigious flight of quails, on which the people satiated their
gluttonous appetite for a full month. Then punishment fell on
them: they loathed the food which they had desired; it bred
disease in them; the divine anger aggravated the disease into a
plague, and a heavy mortality was the consequence. The dead were
buried without the camp; and in memory of man's sin and of the
divine wrath this name, Kibroth-hattaavah, the Graves of Lust,
was given to the place of their sepulchre" (Num. 11:34, 35;
33:16, 17; Deut. 9:22; compare Ps. 78:30, 31)., Rawlinson's Moses,
p. 175. From this encampment they journeyed in a NEern
direction to Hazeroth.
a "stroke" of affliction, or disease. Sent as a divine
chastisement (Num. 11:33; 14:37; 16:46-49; 2 Sam. 24:21).
Painful afflictions or diseases, (Lev. 13:3, 5, 30; 1 Kings
8:37), or severe calamity (Mark 5:29; Luke 7:21), or the
judgment of God, so called (Ex. 9:14). Plagues of Egypt were ten
(1.) The river Nile was turned into blood, and the fish died,
and the river stank, so that the Egyptians loathed to drink of
the river (Ex. 7:14-25).
(2.) The plague of frogs (Ex. 8:1-15).
(3.) The plague of lice (Heb. kinnim, properly gnats or
mosquitoes; compare Ps. 78:45; 105:31), "out of the dust of the
land" (Ex. 8:16-19).
(4.) The plague of flies (Heb. arob, rendered by the LXX.
dog-fly), Ex. 8:21-24.
(5.) The murrain (Ex.9:1-7), or epidemic pestilence which
carried off vast numbers of cattle in the field. Warning was
given of its coming.
(6.) The sixth plague, of "boils and blains," like the third,
was sent without warning (Ex.9:8-12). It is called (Deut. 28:27)
"the botch of Egypt," A.V.; but in R.V., "the boil of Egypt."
"The magicians could not stand before Moses" because of it.
(7.) The plague of hail, with fire and thunder (Ex. 9:13-33).
Warning was given of its coming. (Compare Ps. 18:13; 105:32, 33).
(8.) The plague of locusts, which covered the whole face of
the earth, so that the land was darkened with them (Ex.
10:12-15). The Hebrew name of this insect, "arbeh", points to
the "multitudinous" character of this visitation. Warning was
given before this plague came.
(9.) After a short interval the plague of darkness succeeded
that of the locusts; and it came without any special warning
(Ex. 10:21-29). The darkness covered "all the land of Egypt" to
such an extent that "they saw not one another." It did not,
however, extend to the land of Goshen.
(10.) The last and most fearful of these plagues was the death
of the first-born of man and of beast (Ex. 11:4, 5; 12:29,30).
The exact time of the visitation was announced, "about
midnight", which would add to the horror of the infliction. Its
extent also is specified, from the first-born of the king to the
first-born of the humblest slave, and all the first-born of
beasts. But from this plague the Hebrews were completely
exempted. The Lord "put a difference" between them and the
Egyptians. (See PASSOVER T0002864.)
originally called Simon (=Simeon ,i.e., "hearing"), a very
common Jewish name in the New Testament. He was the son of Jona
(Matt. 16:17). His mother is nowhere named in Scripture. He had
a younger brother called Andrew, who first brought him to Jesus
(John 1:40-42). His native town was Bethsaida, on the western
coast of the Sea of Galilee, to which also Philip belonged. Here
he was brought up by the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and was
trained to the occupation of a fisher. His father had probably
died while he was still young, and he and his brother were
brought up under the care of Zebedee and his wife Salome (Matt.
27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1). There the four youths, Simon, Andrew,
James, and John, spent their boyhood and early manhood in
constant fellowship. Simon and his brother doubtless enjoyed all
the advantages of a religious training, and were early
instructed in an acquaintance with the Scriptures and with the
great prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah. They did
not probably enjoy, however, any special training in the study
of the law under any of the rabbis. When Peter appeared before
the Sanhedrin, he looked like an "unlearned man" (Acts 4:13).
"Simon was a Galilean, and he was that out and out...The
Galileans had a marked character of their own. They had a
reputation for an independence and energy which often ran out
into turbulence. They were at the same time of a franker and
more transparent disposition than their brethren in the south.
In all these respects, in bluntness, impetuosity, headiness, and
simplicity, Simon was a genuine Galilean. They spoke a peculiar
dialect. They had a difficulty with the guttural sounds and some
others, and their pronunciation was reckoned harsh in Judea. The
Galilean accent stuck to Simon all through his career. It
betrayed him as a follower of Christ when he stood within the
judgment-hall (Mark 14:70). It betrayed his own nationality and
that of those conjoined with him on the day of Pentecost (Acts
2:7)." It would seem that Simon was married before he became an
apostle. His wife's mother is referred to (Matt. 8:14; Mark
1:30; Luke 4:38). He was in all probability accompanied by his
wife on his missionary journeys (1 Cor. 9:5; compare 1 Pet. 5:13).
He appears to have been settled at Capernaum when Christ
entered on his public ministry, and may have reached beyond the
age of thirty. His house was large enough to give a home to his
brother Andrew, his wife's mother, and also to Christ, who seems
to have lived with him (Mark 1:29, 36; 2:1), as well as to his
own family. It was apparently two stories high (2:4).
At Bethabara (R.V., John 1:28, "Bethany"), beyond Jordan, John
the Baptist had borne testimony concerning Jesus as the "Lamb of
God" (John 1:29-36). Andrew and John hearing it, followed Jesus,
and abode with him where he was. They were convinced, by his
gracious words and by the authority with which he spoke, that he
was the Messiah (Luke 4:22; Matt. 7:29); and Andrew went forth
and found Simon and brought him to Jesus (John 1:41).
Jesus at once recognized Simon, and declared that hereafter he
would be called Cephas, an Aramaic name corresponding to the
Greek Petros, which means "a mass of rock detached from the
living rock." The Aramaic name does not occur again, but the
name Peter gradually displaces the old name Simon, though our
Lord himself always uses the name Simon when addressing him
(Matt. 17:25; Mark 14:37; Luke 22:31, compare 21:15-17). We are
not told what impression the first interview with Jesus produced
on the mind of Simon. When we next meet him it is by the Sea of
Galilee (Matt. 4:18-22). There the four (Simon and Andrew, James
and John) had had an unsuccessful night's fishing. Jesus
appeared suddenly, and entering into Simon's boat, bade him
launch forth and let down the nets. He did so, and enclosed a
great multitude of fishes. This was plainly a miracle wrought
before Simon's eyes. The awe-stricken disciple cast himself at
the feet of Jesus, crying, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful
man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8). Jesus addressed him with the assuring
words, "Fear not," and announced to him his life's work. Simon
responded at once to the call to become a disciple, and after
this we find him in constant attendance on our Lord.
He is next called into the rank of the apostleship, and
becomes a "fisher of men" (Matt. 4:19) in the stormy seas of the
world of human life (Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:13-16),
and takes a more and more prominent part in all the leading
events of our Lord's life. It is he who utters that notable
profession of faith at Capernaum (John 6:66-69), and again at
Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-20).
This profession at Caesarea was one of supreme importance, and
our Lord in response used these memorable words: "Thou art
Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church."
"From that time forth" Jesus began to speak of his sufferings.
For this Peter rebuked him. But our Lord in return rebuked
Peter, speaking to him in sterner words than he ever used to any
other of his disciples (Matt. 16:21-23; Mark 8:31-33). At the
close of his brief sojourn at Caesarea our Lord took Peter and
James and John with him into "an high mountain apart," and was
transfigured before them. Peter on that occasion, under the
impression the scene produced on his mind, exclaimed, "Lord, it
is good for us to be here: let us make three tabernacles" (Matt.
On his return to Capernaum the collectors of the temple tax (a
didrachma, half a sacred shekel), which every Israelite of
twenty years old and upwards had to pay (Ex. 30:15), came to
Peter and reminded him that Jesus had not paid it (Matt.
17:24-27). Our Lord instructed Peter to go and catch a fish in
the lake and take from its mouth the exact amount needed for the
tax, viz., a stater, or two half-shekels. "That take," said our
Lord, "and give unto them for me and thee."
As the end was drawing nigh, our Lord sent Peter and John
(Luke 22:7-13) into the city to prepare a place where he should
keep the feast with his disciples. There he was forewarned of
the fearful sin into which he afterwards fell (22:31-34). He
accompanied our Lord from the guest-chamber to the garden of
Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46), which he and the other two who had
been witnesses of the transfiguration were permitted to enter
with our Lord, while the rest were left without. Here he passed
through a strange experience. Under a sudden impulse he cut off
the ear of Malchus (47-51), one of the band that had come forth
to take Jesus. Then follow the scenes of the judgment-hall
(54-61) and his bitter grief (62).
He is found in John's company early on the morning of the
resurrection. He boldly entered into the empty grave (John
20:1-10), and saw the "linen clothes laid by themselves" (Luke
24:9-12). To him, the first of the apostles, our risen Lord
revealed himself, thus conferring on him a signal honour, and
showing how fully he was restored to his favour (Luke 24:34; 1
Cor. 15:5). We next read of our Lord's singular interview with
Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where he thrice asked
him, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" (John 21:1-19). (See
After this scene at the lake we hear nothing of Peter till he
again appears with the others at the ascension (Acts 1:15-26).
It was he who proposed that the vacancy caused by the apostasy
of Judas should be filled up. He is prominent on the day of
Pentecost (2:14-40). The events of that day "completed the
change in Peter himself which the painful discipline of his fall
and all the lengthened process of previous training had been
slowly making. He is now no more the unreliable, changeful,
self-confident man, ever swaying between rash courage and weak
timidity, but the stead-fast, trusted guide and director of the
fellowship of believers, the intrepid preacher of Christ in
Jerusalem and abroad. And now that he is become Cephas indeed,
we hear almost nothing of the name Simon (only in Acts 10:5, 32;
15:14), and he is known to us finally as Peter."
After the miracle at the temple gate (Acts 3) persecution
arose against the Christians, and Peter was cast into prison. He
boldly defended himself and his companions at the bar of the
council (4:19, 20). A fresh outburst of violence against the
Christians (5:17-21) led to the whole body of the apostles being
cast into prison; but during the night they were wonderfully
delivered, and were found in the morning teaching in the temple.
A second time Peter defended them before the council (Acts
5:29-32), who, "when they had called the apostles and beaten
them, let them go."
The time had come for Peter to leave Jerusalem. After
labouring for some time in Samaria, he returned to Jerusalem,
and reported to the church there the results of his work (Acts
8:14-25). Here he remained for a period, during which he met
Paul for the first time since his conversion (9:26-30; Gal.
1:18). Leaving Jerusalem again, he went forth on a missionary
journey to Lydda and Joppa (Acts 9:32-43). He is next called on
to open the door of the Christian church to the Gentiles by the
admission of Cornelius of Caesarea (ch. 10).
After remaining for some time at Caesarea, he returned to
Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-18), where he defended his conduct with
reference to the Gentiles. Next we hear of his being cast into
prison by Herod Agrippa (12:1-19); but in the night an angel of
the Lord opened the prison gates, and he went forth and found
refuge in the house of Mary.
He took part in the deliberations of the council in Jerusalem
(Acts 15:1-31; Gal. 2:1-10) regarding the relation of the
Gentiles to the church. This subject had awakened new interest
at Antioch, and for its settlement was referred to the council
of the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. Here Paul and Peter met
We have no further mention of Peter in the Acts of the
Apostles. He seems to have gone down to Antioch after the
council at Jerusalem, and there to have been guilty of
dissembling, for which he was severely reprimanded by Paul (Gal.
2:11-16), who "rebuked him to his face."
After this he appears to have carried the gospel to the east,
and to have laboured for a while at Babylon, on the Euphrates (1
Pet. 5:13). There is no satisfactory evidence that he was ever
at Rome. Where or when he died is not certainly known. Probably
he died between A.D. 64 and 67.