Parable of Drawing in the Net

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Jan Luyken etching of the parable, Bowyer Bible.

This is a parable of Jesus which appears in Matthew 13:47–52 and refers to the final judgment.[1] This parable is the seventh and last in Matthew 13, which began with the parable of the Sower.[2] It directly follows the Parable of the Pearl, which is about the Kingdom of God. Thus, it links the Kingdom of God with the final judgement—the separation for hell and heaven. Jesus told the parable to his disciples.[3]

The parable is also found in three non-canonical gospels: by Clement of Alexandria, in the Heliand and the Gospel of Thomas. In the Gospel of Thomas, it is referred to as the Parable of the Fisherman.[4]


The parable is as follows:

"Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet, that was cast into the sea, and gathered some fish of every kind, which, when it was filled, they drew up on the beach. They sat down, and gathered the good into containers, but the bad they threw away. So will it be in the end of the world. The angels will come forth, and separate the wicked from among the righteous, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth."

Jesus said to them, "Have you understood all these things?"

They answered him, "Yes, Lord."

He said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has been made a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a householder, who brings out of his treasure new and old things."

— Matthew 13:47–52, World English Bible


"The Kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind."

Like the parable of the Tares, earlier in Matthew 13, this parable refers to the final judgment.[1] Here, the imagery is drawn from the separation of edible from inedible fish caught by a net, probably a seine net.[2][5] One end of the dragnet is held on the shore, the other end is dragged into the sea and returned to the shore. Alternatively, the two ends are held on two boats and then they sweep the sea together.[6] The passage says that "the angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous" in a similar way to the separation of the tares from the wheat in the parable of the Tares.

Arthur Pink explained that "The 'good' fish represent believers; their being 'gathered' speaks of association together—fellowship; while the 'vessels' tell of separation from the world."[3] First, the fishermen will separate believers (the good fish), and finally angels will take away non-believers to hell.[7]

According to J Duncan M Derrett, Professor of Oriental Laws in the University of London, the parable is about the technique of a mission. He explains:

Just as one may find a darnel in the wheat (Mat. xiii 29), so one will, if one fishes not with an angle but with a dragnet, trawl up many an unsuitable items. Selective preaching, one-to-one sessions, such as Jesus himself occasionally had, should not be the normal method of proceeding. Gentiles too would hear his message. The human fish, spread along the beach, would indeed be of every species.[8]

Jack Dean Kingsbury, Aubrey Lee Brooks professor of theology at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, asserted that the parable is about the harvest. He explained that the present age is different from the future age, but both stand under divine ordinance. The church should not attempt to establish a holy community. The association of the evil with the righteous is only temporary. At the end, the separation will occur and therefore each Christian must examine himself to avoid being declared evil.[9]

John Chrysostom described this as a "terrible parable,"[10] noting that:

And wherein does this differ from the parable of the tares? For there too the one are saved, the other perish; but there, for choosing of wicked doctrines; and those before this again, for not giving heed to His sayings, but these for wickedness of life; who are the most wretched of all, having attained to His knowledge, and being caught, but not even so capable of being saved.[11]

Jesus' final comments indicate that "true teachers of the kingdom display the kingdom's treasure for all to see."[5]

Reformer John Calvin interpreted the parable to mean:

Christ informs us, that a mixture of the good and the bad must be patiently endured till the end of the word; because, till that time, a true and perfect restoration of the Church will not take place. Again, he warns us, that it is not enough, and—what is more—that it is of little consequence to us, to be gathered into the fold, unless we are his true and chosen sheep...[and] that [disciples] might communicate to others what they had received. In this way [Christ] whets and excites their minds more and more to desire instruction. He says that teachers are like householders, who are not only careful about their own food, but have a store laid up for the nourishment of others; and who do not live at ease as to the passing day, but make provision for a future and distant period. The meaning, therefore, is, that the teachers of the Church ought to be prepared by long study for giving to the people, as out of a storehouse, a variety of instruction concerning the word of God, as the necessity of the case may require.[12]

William Barclay elaborated that "[The parable] lays it down that there must be no selectiveness in the preaching of the gospel. To us that is something of a commonplace... But to the ancient world this saw an amazing thing. The ancient world everywhere was a world of barriers and of comtempts."[13]

The Parable of the Scribes at the end is generally regarded as part of the parable. But some scholars consider it at separate, hence, making up eight—not seven—parables in Matthew 13.[14]

Non-canonical version[edit]

The Parable of the Dragnet is also found in the writings of Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215 CE), in the Heliand (9th-century CE poem) and the Gospel of Thomas. The story lines are similar but with slight variations. Clement of Alexandria wrote as: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who cast his net int the sea." In the Heliand it is written: "Also its [the kingdom of heaven] works is like that a man casts a net into the sea, a fishing net into the flood."[4] According to the Gospel of Thomas (Saying 8): "And he said: Man is like a wise fisherman who cast his net into the sea; he drew it up from the sea full of small fish; among them he found a large good fish, the wise fisherman; he threw all the small fish into the sea, he chose the large fish without difficulty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b R. T. France, The Gospel According to Matthew: An introduction and commentary, Eerdmans, 1985, ISBN 0-8028-0063-7, p. 230.
  2. ^ a b Catholic Encyclopedia: Parables.
  3. ^ a b Pink, A.W. "The Parable of the Dragnet". Providence Baptist Ministries. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b Morrice, W.G. (2016). "The Parable of the Dragnet and the Gospel of Thomas". The Expository Times. 95 (9): 269–273. doi:10.1177/001452468409500904.
  5. ^ a b Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Eerdmans, 1999, ISBN 0-8028-3821-9, pp. 392-394.
  6. ^ Collins, Martin G. (2006). "The Parables of Matthew 13 (Part Eight): The Parable of the Dragnet". Church of the Great God. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  7. ^ Scholtz, Jacob J. (2015). "Reading Matthew 13 as a prophetic discourse: The four parables presented in private". In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi. 49 (1): Online. doi:10.4102/ids.v49i1.1887.
  8. ^ Derrett, J. Duncan M. (1990). "Ἦσαν γὰρ ἁλιεῖς (Mk. I 16): Jesus's Fishermen and the Parable of the Net". Novum Testamentum. 22 (2): 108–137. doi:10.2307/1560785. JSTOR 1560785.
  9. ^ Kingsbury, Jack Dean (1969). The parables of Jesus in Matthew 13: a study in redaction-criticism. Virginia: John Knox Press. p. 177.
  10. ^ Patrick J. O'Reilly, Light Divine in Parable and Allegory, Kessinger Publishing, 2003 (originally 1930), ISBN 0-7661-3135-1, p. 116.
  11. ^ John Chrysostom, Homily 47 on Matthew.
  12. ^ "John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke - Volume 2". 2005-06-01. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
  13. ^ Barclay, William (1999). The Parables of Jesus. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 45–46. ISBN 978-0-6642-5828-3.
  14. ^ Wenham, David (2009). "The Structure of Matthew XIII". New Testament Studies. 25 (04): 516–522. doi:10.1017/S0028688500005221.
  15. ^ "Gospel of Thomas Saying 8 -". Retrieved 8 January 2018.