Contents | Index

shepherds

(from Heb. ro`eh, "one who tends," to "tend"; Gk. poimen).

The routine of the shepherd's duties appears to have been as follows: In the morning he led forth his flock from the fold (Jn 10:4), which he did by going before them and calling them, as is still usual in the East. Arriving at the pasturage, he watched the flock with the assistance of dogs (Job 30:1), and, should any sheep stray, he searched for it until he found it (Ezek 34:12; Lk 15:4). He supplied them with water, either at a running stream or at troughs attached to wells (Gen 29:7; 30:38; Ex 2:16; Ps 23:2). At evening he brought them back to the fold and checked to see that none was missing by passing them "under the rod" as they entered the door of the enclosure (Lev 27:32; Ezek 20:37), checking each sheep as it passed, by a motion of the hand (Jer 33:13). Finally, he watched the entrance of the fold throughout the night, acting as gatekeeper (Jn 10:3). The shepherd's office thus required great watchfulness, particularly by night (Lk 2:8; Nah 3:18). It also required tenderness toward the young and feeble (Is 40:11), particularly in driving them to and from the pasturage (Gen 33:13).

Shepherds in Bible lands were of two varieties: nomadic, and those who resided in towns and tended flocks in nearby meadows.

They didn't wash correctly according to the Jews therefore they were dispised and considered unclean. Shepherds were banned from the temple and synagogue.

- Jesus birth was unrevealed to kings and religious leaders but revealed to the humble Judean shepherds.

- The fields of Bethlehem were the fields where Jacob had kept his flocks, also where Boaz and Ruth had been wedded, and where David had spent his youth.

- The eastern plains of Bethlehem contained the watchtower of Migdal Eder where the Messiah was supposed to be revealed. According to the Mishna, flocks that were pastured there were destined for the temple sacrifices and the shepherds that tended them were the only ones not unclean.