Fishers and Hunters: A Fishy Reading of Jeremiah 16:16

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Based on on a "fishy" interpretation of Jeremiah 16:16, some Christians see it as their duty to warn Diaspora Jews of a coming persecution.

Revised: 16-Jun-2013

Among the more creative scriptural interpretations related to the fulfillment of prophecy in our day is one centering on Jeremiah 16:16. According to it, the “hunters” in this verse are the brutal pursuers of the Jewish people, such as the Nazis who systematically murdered millions of Jews. The “fishers,” on the other hand, are the quiet and gentle persons who assist the Jewish people, for instance, the Christians who presently are engaged in rescuing Jews from the republics of the former Soviet Union. The proclamation of these Christians carries a tone of urgency: “Flee the Diaspora and save yourselves by returning to the land of your fathers!”

Based on this interpretation of Jeremiah 16:16, some contemporary Christians see it as their duty to seek out Jews in the Diaspora and inform them of coming persecution. According to this prophetic paradigm, the Jewish exiles must choose one of two options: 1) to heed the warning, or 2) to remain outside of Israel and suffer the consequences.

Not only is this interpretation an example of shallow exegesis, acceptance of it may lead to calamity. If we internalize fanciful scenarios about the Jewish people—who serve as the object of our prophetic fascination—and expect them to respond in a particular way to our kind efforts, our unrealized expectations could surface decades later in the form of, what might seem, theologically justified ill-will toward this “stiff-necked” people.[1]

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First-century C.E. mosaic depicting fish, which are to be served up for a tasty meal. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

  • [1] For other potentially negative results of this Christian fascination with the Jewish people, the reborn nation of Israel and the land of Israel, see Joseph Frankovic, “Esteeming the Jewish People,” Jerusalem Perspective 51 (Apr.-Jun. 1996): 36-37.

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  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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