Many biblical characters had flocks and worked as shepherds for at least part of their lives, including Abraham, Lot, Rachel, Jacob, Moses, and David. Two examples must suffice. Upon journeying to Haran, Jacob spoke with some shepherds. Sheep figure in a number of other biblical passages. The commonness of shepherding in the ancient Near East, including ancient Israel, helps explain why shepherds and sheep became such regular and productive metaphors in scripture.
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Human rulers and God are referred to as shepherds, and people are referred to as sheep. This metaphor is productive because people have needs and challenges similar to sheep. The following sampling of the many pertinent scripture passages demonstrates the use of this imagery. Human leaders as shepherds. Joshua was the shepherd-leader Jehovah chose to succeed Moses.
The Lord as shepherd.
Jesus, The Shepherd King
Several biblical psalms contain passages praising Jehovah as a shepherd. People as sheep in scripture. The authors of the New Testament Gospel accounts report that Jesus often employed sheep imagery in reference to people.
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But it is equally clear that there are multiple flocks of people in the world. All do not choose to be part of the same flock. Thus, the relationship between the true Shepherd and His flock represents a covenant relationship between Jesus and those who follow His lead. John Jesus is the door to the sheepfold and the Good Shepherd.
During the last autumn of His life, six months before His crucifixion, Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles John — The events narrated at the end of John 9, in which Jesus spoke with some Jewish leaders following His healing of a man born blind —41 continue on into John This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not. Then said Jesus unto them. I am the door of the sheep [ probaton ].
And other sheep [ probaton ] I have, which are not of this fold. The inherent implication that as the good Shepherd He was Jehovah, their God, has already been explicated. Many ancient Near Eastern personal names, including those of Israelites, were compounds that included a divine name.
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As earthly representatives of their deities, ancient Near Eastern kings were often described as shepherds of the people they ruled. Examples of royal claims employing shepherd and sheep imagery are cited here in chronological order. In 2 Samuel, further, reference is made to the king being shepherd over Israel 2 Sam , In the historical books, the same metaphor is used in 1 Kg ; 1 Chr.
Hence Ezekiel is appealing to a metaphor that already has currency in the imagination of his listeners, particularly as a prophet who appeals to their sense that they have been led 'astray. The ideal of the good "shepherd king" is a very ancient Near Eastern concept, dating back to even before biblical times. As Jack W.
Shepherd King: The Story of the Bible
Vancil writes, "Throughout Mesopotamian history, the shepherd image was commonly used to designated gods and kings; and as a title for kings this use is attested from practically every period The king as a shepherd and as a representative of the gods was expected to rule with justice and to show kindness in counseling, protecting, and guiding the people through every difficulty" Anchor Bible Dictionary , s.
This image was picked up by the biblical writers and applied to God in the Old Testament and Christ in the New Testament as the true "shepherd king" of his people, and also to kings as an ideal to which they should measure up but all too often--as in Ezechiel did not. The durability of this image is shown by the title of W.
Obviously, the image emerges from agricultural life and the knowledge of the relationship between sheep and shepherd. The image of a king as shepherd is older than the Bible and Hebrew tradition itself. The shepherd image is the ancient way that monarchs communicated, "I feel your pain. Ancient monarchs were no different than contemporary political leaders: however self-serving their motives, they wanted their constituents and subjects to imagine that they personally cared for them.
The Shepherd King
The metaphor of shepherd was applied to both gods and kings in the ancient near east and Egypt before Israel emerged on the scene. Given that the occupation of shepherd was not prestigious and usually left to teenagers, the poor or the elderly, it is indeed a puzzling one to apply to rulers. Male shepherds were usually on their own, away from other human beings. A powerful incentive to thankfulness, hopefulness , and fresh consecration to the service of God and his people. Had David, instead of maintaining the crown, which circumstances pointed out to him as his, seized violently that which was not his, he would not have perceived that the Lord had made him King of Israel; he would have felt that he had made himself so, and would have acted upon that persuasion.
The government which a man wins for himself he uses for himself; that which he inwardly and practically acknowledges as conferred upon him by a righteous Being cannot be intended for himself. And thus it is that the early and mysterious teaching of David while he was in the sheepfold bore so mightily upon his life after he became king.. The deepest lesson which he had learnt was that he himself was under government; that his heart and will was the inmost circle of that authority which the winds and the sea, the moon and the stars, obeyed" Maurice.
The lowliest occupation is often a preparation for the highest; and he who shows fidelity in the least is rewarded with opportunity for its exercise in the greatest.
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The possession of authority and power severely tests men's characters, and sometimes proves their destruction. It is a good sign when one who is exalted shows more concern about performing the duties than enjoying the honours of his position. God sends good rulers out of his regard for the welfare of the people.
The best rulers are those who sympathize most with the Divine purposes, and most humbly and faithfully "serve their generation.
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