HUNTING (Heb. צוד, "hunt"; צַיִד, "hunting, game"; צַיָּד, "hunter"; מְצוֹדָה ,מָצוֹד, "hunting implement, net").
In the earliest periods of human history, hunting was an essential means of procuring food, clothing, and tools. In biblical times hunting continued on a smaller scale. Lev. 17:13 takes for granted the hunting of birds and beasts permitted for Israelite consumption (see below). For aristocrats and royalty who did not lack for food, hunting was a sport, as is attested in works of art from Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, and Egypt (cf. Pritchard, Pictures, 56–60). There are numerous portrayals of Assyrian kings hunting the lion as a means of expressing their manly prowess and demonstrating their right to the title "mighty man." Several Ugaritic texts portray the goddess Anat as a hunter. In the Ugaritic myth of Aqhat, Anat has Aqhat murdered in order to obtain the hunting bow made for him by the craftsman god Kothar-wa-Hasis.
Two great hunters are named in the Bible: *Nimrod (Gen. 10:9) and *Esau (Gen. 25:27).
Bows, spears, traps, lassoes, nets, and deadfalls were usual hunting weapons. Shepherds carried clubs and slings to protect their flocks (I Sam. 17:34–37, 40). The Egyptian "Tale of Sinuhe," from the 20th century B.C.E., mentions hunting with hounds (Pritchard, Texts, 20).
Hunting on horseback was well known in the Near East and served as an artistic theme. The earliest depictions are of the royal hunt in Assyrian reliefs whence it spread to Iran. There are no certain references in the Bible but Job 39:18 has been suggested.
Two bird traps are frequently mentioned in the Bible: מוֹקֵשׁ(mokesh) and פַּח (paḥ). Both terms are often used side by side (Josh. 23:13; Isa. 8:14, et al.). Mokesh is derived from the root יקש; it is also a fowling term (Ps. 124:7). The Syriac form (negash) is used of "clapping of hands and knocking of the teeth." Mokesh is probably a trapping device similar to an Egyptian bird trap, known from graphic representations (see Gerleman, in bibl.), composed of two frames covered with a net. The frames close together and capture the prey when the fowler pulls a cord at the right moment (cf. Jer. 5:26). The etymology of paḥ is obscure. This term is used with the verb יקש, and it seems to be an automatic device (Amos. 3:5; cf. Ps. 69:23; Hos. 9:8).
As for big game, pictures show that in Egypt and Mesopotamia a method of hunting similar to the battue (driving of game by hounds or beaters to closed places, pits, or traps, set in advance) was common. Expressions and comparisons frequent in the Bible attest the fact that this method was known in Israel as well (Jer. 16:16; Ezek. 19:8; cf. Ps. 140:6; Isa. 24:17–18). Mention is often made, especially in metaphorical expressions, of traps consisting of camouflaged pits (shuḥah, shaḥat, and bor, e.g., Ps. 7:16; 35:7; Prov. 22:14; 26:77).
Among game animals listed in the Bible, the daman, the hare, and the wild pig are unclean, i.e., may not be eaten (Lev. 11:5–6), while the deer, gazelle, roebuck, wild goat, ibex, antelope, and mountain sheep are clean, i.e., may be eaten (Deut. 14:4–5). Leviticus 17:13 provides that "if any Israelite or any stranger who resides among them hunts down an animal or a bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth." If he does not comply with this ruling and eats from this game, he incurs the penalty of *karet (17:14b).
[Laurentino José Alfonso /
S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]
The rabbis looked askance at hunting as a sport and strongly disapproved of it. Their objection to hunting on moral grounds is all the more significant in that the only legal prohibition is on hunting on the Sabbath (Shab. 13:2; TB, Shab. 106b, 107a; cf. Isserles OH 316:2) and Festivals (Beẓ. 3:1, 2). Without exception, all the references in the Mishnah to the ẓeid of animals, birds, and fish (e.g., Beẓ. 3:2, 3; Shev. 7:4) refer not to hunting for sport but to trapping with nets for the utilitarian purposes of food, as is clear from Beẓah 3:2 and Shabbat 1:6; or for commercial purposes (Shev. 7:4); or for the destruction of animal pests (MK 1:4; Eduy. 2:5); or for domestication (Shab. 13:8). Even a reference to catching a lion on the Sabbath states that the huntsman is not culpable "unless he entices it into a cage" (Shab. 107a).
The only reference to hunting during the period of the Second Temple is to Herod, who was greatly addicted to it (Jos., Wars, 1:429; Ant., 15:244) and followed the chase on horseback, spearing the animals (Ant., 16:315). The two famous hunters in the Bible, Nimrod and Esau, were regarded in a derogatory light, as "rebels against God" and as the very antithesis of the spirit of Judaism respectively. In one passage the Talmud asks ironically, "Was Moses then a hunter?" (Ḥul. 60b) and Simeon b. Pazzi interpreted the first verse of Psalms, "Happy is the man that hath not… stood in the way of sinners" to apply to those who do not attend gladiatorial contests between wild beasts, or, as Rashi interprets it, "Hunting with dogs for sport and entertainment." Rashi, of course, reflects the hunting of his days and all references to it in medieval Jewish literature are condemnatory. R. Meir of Rothenberg (Resp. 27) points out that according to Rashi (Shab. 51b) the statement of Mishnah Shabbat 5:1 permitting "chain-wearing animals to go out with their chains or be led by their chains" on the Sabbath refers to hunting dogs, which would appear to permit hunting (cf. also Yad, Hilkhot Shabbat 10:22), and he adds, "But I, the author, declare that whosoever hunts animals with dogs, as do the gentiles, will not be vouchsafed to partake of the feast of the *leviathan [in the world to come]." The passage is supplemented by Isaac of Vienna (Or Zaru'a, II 17 p. 37b) by a quotation from Leviticus Rabbah 13:3 "*Behemoth and the Leviathan are the kenigin ['hunt' so the Or Zaru'a; the printed text and Meir of Rothenberg read kinyanin, 'the possessions'] of the righteous, and he who does not witness the kenigin of the idolators in this world will be vouchsafed to see it in the world to come" (cf. BB 75a).
There is a story of the Jews in Colchester in England participating in the hunt of a doe, but it was a spontaneous participation when the doe, startled by the dogs of the knights,
Isaac Lampronti (Paḥad Yiẓḥak, S.V. ẓeidah) has a responsa on the subject of the permissibility of hunting "animals or birds with weapons for the sole purpose of sport and entertainment, thus rendering the dead animal nevelah." He forbids it completely as prohibited wanton destruction, though the killing of animals other than for food, i.e., to use their blood or hides, is permitted, and he applies to it the verse, "As a madman who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death… and sayeth 'Am I not a sport'" (Prov. 26:18). It is clear from Maimonides (Yad, Melakhim 6:10) that "He who hunts birds transgresses the law: 'thou shall not destroy'" and he concludes "Moreover, since the gentiles and idolators are accustomed to indulge in hunting animals and birds with weapons for mere sport, the prohibition of 'ye shall not walk in their statutes' [Lev. 18:3] applies. Thus a person who indulges in this sport is unworthy of the name of Jew." A query was addressed to R. Ezekiel *Landau by a man who had acquired a large estate which included forests and fields as to whether he could indulge in hunting with firearms. In his reply, Landau pointed out that from the strictly legal point of view there was no prohibition, but "the only hunters we find are Nimrod and Esau, and this is not the way of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob"; unless one is forced to do it for one's livelihood "it is an unworthy practice, i.e., it partakes of cruelty, it is strictly forbidden" (YD Second Series 10). For further details of the rabbinic attitude see Darkhei Teshuvah to YD 28:6 (131). The German Jewish statesman Walter Rathenau is reported to have said "When a Jew says that he is going hunting to amuse himself, he lies" (Albert Einstein, The World as I See It (1935), 95).
[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]
BIBLE: F. von Oppenheim, Der Tell Halaf (1931), 133–8; G. Gerleman, in: Bulletin de la Société Royale des Lettres de Lund (1945–46), 79–90. POST-BIBLICAL VIEWS: I. Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (19322), 399–40; Paḥad Yiẓḥak, S.V. ẓeidah. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: P. Day, in: DDD, 39–40; B. Marshak and V. Raspopova, in: Bulletin of the Asia Institute, N.S. 4 (1990), 77.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.