What does fish symbolize in the Bible (Symbolism and Meaning)?

My Bible study sessions have made me enjoy the 15 years I have been in ministry. I have been facing tough questions from fellow Christians who need clarity on some issues.

A few weeks ago, a young Christian came across a fish symbol in a Christian magazine and got curious about it. He visited me while free and wanted to know why a fish symbol was used in a Christian magazine.

Furthermore, he wanted to understand, what does fish symbolize in the Bible?

In Matthew 13:47-50, fish has been used to symbolize the different kinds of people found in the kingdom of God. Despite having several people who are receptive to the word of God, we also have those who continue doing evil. Jesus talked about both groups of people and mentioned the good ones as being like good fish. He further used the bad fish to symbolize the wrong people bringing evil to God’s kingdom. Ultimately, he said that the angels would sort out the good fish to enter the kingdom of God while the bad fish would perish in hell.

I welcome you to this article as we delve into the symbolism of fish in the Bible. We will discuss several Bible verses about fish and note where fish first appears in the Bible.

We will further discuss the symbolic meanings of fish as well as the different species of fish mentioned in the Bible. Read this article to the end to learn more about fish and its symbolism in the Bible.

Where does fish first appear in the Bible?

The first appearance of fish in the Bible occurs in Genesis 1 during the creation account. In the verse, God commands the living creatures of the sea, like the fishes, to exist together with the birds of the sky.

This happened on the fifth day of creation and marked the first fish appearing in the Bible. This shows that while God was planning to set the Earth, He had fish in His mind.

Bible verses about fish

What does fish symbolize in the Bible?
Bible verses about fish. Image source: Unsplash

In Genesis 1:20, the Bible discusses fish in the first creation account. “And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.””

The verse talks about the fifth day of creation when God commanded the existence of fish and other sea creatures.

This is assumed to be the first time fish appeared in the world.

Ecclesiastes 9:12 talks about how the end times will be: “For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.”

According to the verse, the end times will be unknown to humankind, and some people will be caught unawares like fish taken in an evil net.

The verse compares humans trapped in these evil end times to fish ensnared in evil fishnets or birds in wicked snares.

In Matthew 13:47-50, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to an enormous fishnet cast out in the sea that traps fishes of all kinds. Some of the fish are considered good, while others are considered harmful.

According to Jesus, the fish were like the people of God and their role in the kingdom. In the end, those who positively impact the kingdom will be sorted by the angels of God like good fish and accepted in heaven.

Those who negatively influence the kingdom of God will be thrown to hell as they are equated to bad fish.

In Matthew 17, Jesus commands Peter to go and fish and says that the mouth of the first fish he catches would contain a coin enough to pay temple taxes for both of them despite having reasons why he was not supposed to pay.

In Ezekiel 47, Prophet Ezekiel gets a vision where he is walking down a blessed river. “Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar.”

In the River, Ezekiel is told that wherever the water would flow, all kinds of fish would be found there.

In John 21, Simon Peter decides to go fishing and is joined by Nathaniel, John and James, and two other disciples at the Sea of Tiberius. On that night, they were unfortunate and did not catch any fish.

However, as the day broke, Jesus Christ appeared at the shore and asked the disciples whether they had caught fish. They told him that they had not been lucky to get any.

Jesus then told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat, and they caught lots of fish. They then realized that Jesus Christ the Lord had enabled them to get that good catch.

In the same verse, Jesus Christ shares a meal of bread and fish with the disciples as he reveals himself to them for the third time since his resurrection.

In Deuteronomy 4:4-18 God gives His commandments and forbids His people from bowing down to idols. He tells them not to make any idols resembling any creatures, including the sea creatures like fish, and bow down to worship them as this could attract His wrath.

In Luke 24, the disciples of Jesus Christ offered him a piece of broiled fish that he ate before preaching to them and helping them understand the scriptures. He had just arisen from the dead and was in the process of revealing himself to them.

In Jonah 1, a servant of God, Jonah, is sent to Nineveh, but he disobeys the call of God and decides to head to Tarshish, away from the presence of God.

He boards a ship attacked by sea waves from God, forcing Jonah to be thrown to the sea, where fish swallow him. He stays in the belly of the fish for three days and nights.

In Deuteronomy 14:9-10 God gives the specific details of the sea creature that humankind was allowed to eat: “These you may eat of all that are in the waters: you may eat all that have fins and scales. And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.”

He mentions that they must possess scales and fins, and with this, He was describing fish while differentiating them from the other kinds of sea creatures that were considered unpalatable.

In Mark 6:30-44, Jesus Christ teaches a multitude until late when he decides to feed them. The disciples tell him they have only five loaves of bread and two fish.

Jesus takes them, prays to God, and the bread and fish get multiplied. They end up feeding over 5000 people and still get leftovers. This becomes one of the greatest miracles that Jesus Christ performs.

In Matthew 7:7-10 Jesus was teaching about the power of persistence in prayers and how God answers our prayers by giving us what we ask for. He gave an example and said that when a child asks his father for fish, he cannot be given a serpent.

In the same way, God cannot provide you with something you have not asked for.

In Matthew 15:29-39 Jesus feels compassionate about the hungry crowd that had followed him for three days without eating and asked the disciples for the seven loaves and a few small fish they had.

He then prayed to God, who multiplied the bread and fish to feed the crowd.

These Bible verses have mentioned fish in the Bible and how differently they have been portrayed.

8 symbolic meanings of fish in the Bible

What does fish symbolize in the Bible
Symbolic meanings of fish in the Bible. Image source: Pinterest

Fish as a symbol of our prayers

In Matthew 7:7-10, fish has been used as the symbol of the needs that we present before God in our prayers. As Christians, we tend to have several requirements that we present to God daily.

We usually ask Him for these good things, like perfect health, daily food, and prosperity, among other needs. In the verse, Jesus says that if you ask God for these things, He will bless you with those needs.

If you ask for perfect health, believe that God will make you perfectly healthy in accordance with your prayers.

Fish as a symbol of God’s wrath

In Exodus 7:21, the death of fish has been used as a symbol of God’s wrath when provoked: “And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.”

In the verse, God had decided to punish the Egyptians because of the Pharaoh’s disobedience by turning the water in their rivers to blood, resulting in the death of all the fish.

This was to show the Egyptians that once provoked, God became wrathful and could cause destruction.

Fish as a symbol of clean food

In Deuteronomy 14:9-10, fish has been used as a symbol of clean food that God made for humankind and allowed them to eat.

In the verse, God was giving instructions on the clean and unclean animals the Israelites were allowed to eat. He described the kind of fish that He had allowed for consumption as a symbol of part of the clean food He allowed us to eat.

Fish is a symbol of God’s power over His creation

In Jonah 2:1-10, fish has been used as a symbol of God’s power over His creation. God had sent Jonah to Nineveh, but his disobedience led him to run away from God.

While traveling on a ship, he experienced God’s wrath and had to be thrown into the sea, where a big fish swallowed him. He stayed in the belly of the fish for three days until God commanded it to vomit him on dry land.

God showed His power over creation by controlling the fish to swallow Jonah and keep him in the belly for three days before spitting him out.

Fish is a symbol of the great miracles that Jesus performed

In John 21, fish is used as a symbol of the great miracles that Jesus performed. Jesus appeared to his weary disciples one morning after catching no fish the whole night.

After finding out from them that they had failed to catch any fish the entire night, he told them to cast their net on the right side of their boat and behold, they caught many fish. This was a great symbol of the extraordinary miracles that Jesus performed on Earth.

Fish is a symbol of God’s abundance of blessings

In Ezekiel 47, fish has been used as a symbol of God’s abundance of blessings. The verse talks about the river of life that flows from the temple of God.

The river is said to be full of life, and many fish and other water animals flourish. The massive number of fish thriving in the waters symbolizes the abundance of God’s blessings from His house.

Fish is a symbol of the different people in the kingdom of God

In Matthew 13:47-50, fish has been used to symbolize the different types of people found in the kingdom of God. In this verse, Jesus was talking about the excellent fish that represent the people who listen to the word of God and follow His commandments while preparing for his second coming.

The bad fish symbolizes the sinners who do not listen to God’s word and commandments and are destined for hellfire.

Fish is a symbol of men caught in an evil time

In Ecclesiastes 9:12, fish symbolizes men caught in an evil time. The men are said to have been unknowingly trapped in the current evil world without their knowledge.

The world has become sinful, with people sinning against God daily. The fishnet has been used to symbolize the sinful world that the men are trapped in.

How many species of fish are mentioned in the Bible?

Although the Bible has mentioned fish at least forty times, there has been no specific mention of the species of the said fish in the Bible.

We are only told about fish being created and used in different ways, such as food, but something about their species has yet to be mentioned.

How does the fish symbol relate to Christianity?

An era of Christian persecution arose in ancient Rome and other places where Christianity was developing. The Old Christians were reportedly persecuted for showing their belief in Christ.

Some were put to death publicly, so they were scared of worshipping in public places.

They planned their worship sessions in private houses and decided to mark their houses with the symbol of fish to show that one was welcome for a Christianity session.

Whenever a Christian passed by a place marked with a fish symbol, they would bulge in for a worship or prayer session.

Some Roman catacombs built by the old Christians as private places of worship are said to have symbols of fish that persecuted Christians drew.

How Did a Fish Come to Symbolize Christ?

What does fish symbolize in the Bible?
How Did a Fish Come to Symbolize Christ? Image source: Pinterest

Not much is known about how a fish came to symbolize Jesus Christ. However, an explanation has been given as to how it could have happened.

The fish symbol, also referred to as the Icthus, is said to have originated from the acronym of the phrase Jesus Christ God’s Son Saviour in Greek when the phrase is written in Greek, Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ.

The first letters of each word combined form the name ΙΧΘΥΣ which translates to fish in Greek. By coining this acronym and agreeing to use it, fish became a symbol of Jesus Christ.

Is the fish symbol still used today?

The fish symbol is still widely used today worldwide by Christians. One of the most common places you can spot the symbol is on a Bible.

Some companies that make Bibles use the symbol on top of the Holy Book to show that it is the word of God.

Some Christians have the symbol engraved on their doors and houses as a symbol of being followers of Jesus Christ. Others have the symbol in their cars representing Jesus Christ, while others have even tattooed themselves with the symbol.

Most people who use these symbols are Christians who believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God.

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