Ancient Sheep Fold

Ancient Sheep Fold
Illustration of an Ancient Sheep Fold

This sketch contains a colored illustration of a sheepfold in ancient Israel. The sheepfold was a rock wall enclosure of loosely stacked stones, and this provided protection against "thieves and robbers" (John 10).
 

The enclosure also provided protection from wolves and other animals of prey. The enclosure also contained the door of the sheepfold, an opening for the sheep to come in and go out. It was at this opening at the Shepherd would lie, in order for a thief or Wolf to come in he would have to climb over the Shepherd at the door. The Shepherd would also inspect each of a sheep as it passed under the rod at the door of the sheepfold. In the morning the shepherd would call his sheep and they would exit the fold because they knew his voice.

John 10:1 - Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber

In this beautiful figure reference is made to the place of shelter for the sheep where they might repose at night, and be safe from the attacks of wild beasts. The modern sheep-folds of Syria, which no doubt resemble those of ancient times, are low, flat opening into a court, which is surrounded by a stone wall, protected on the top by a layer of thorns. A door way carefully guarded forms the entrance. Sheep- folds are referred to in a number of passages. See Num, xxxii, 16, 24, 36; 1 Sam, xxiv, 3; 2 Chron. xxxii, 28; Psa. Ixxviii, 70. [Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible]

A simple improvised sheepfold. Such is sometimes made by the shepherd when he is a distance from his home, or especially when he may be in the territory of mountains. It is a temporary affair that can be taken down easily when it comes time to move on to another location. A fence is built of tangled thorn bushes or rude bowers. This is all the protection that is needed, as the shepherds often sleep with their flocks when the weather permits. Ezekiel mentions such a sheepfold when he predicts the future of Israel: "I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be" (Ezekiel 34:14). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

More permanent sheepfolds. Such shelters are usually built by the shepherd in a valley, or else on the sunny side of a hill where there is protection from cold winds. This fold is a low building with arches in front of it, and a wall forming an outdoor enclosure, joining the building. When the weather is mild, the sheep and goats are allowed to be in the enclosure during the night, but if the weather is stormy, or the evenings are cold, then the flock is shut up in the interior part of the fold, with its protection of roof and walls. The walls of the enclosure are about three feet wide at the bottom, and become narrower at the top. They are from four to six feet high. Large stones are used in constructing the outsides of the wall, and they are also placed on the top, and then the center is filled with smaller pieces of stone, of which there is much in the land. Sharp, thorn bushes are put on the top of this wall to protect the sheep from wild animals or robbers. There is a gate guarded by a watchman. JESUS made reference to the familiar sheepfold of Israel when He spoke those memorable words of His: "He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter [watchman] openeth. (John 10:1-3). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

LARGE NUMBER OF SHEEP IN PALESTINE From the days of Abraham down to modern times, sheep have abounded in the Holy Land. The Arabs of Bible lands have largely been dependent through the centuries upon sheep for their living. The Jews of Bible times were first shepherds and then farmers, but they never abandoned entirely their shepherd life. The large number of sheep in the land can be understood when it is realized that Job had fourteen thousand sheep (Job 42:12), and that King Solomon at the Temple's dedication, sacrificed one hundred and twenty thousand sheep (I Kings 8:63). Fat-tailed sheep the variety mostly in use. The fat tail provides reserve strength for the sheep, much like the hump does on a camel. There is energy in the tail. When the sheep is butchered, this fatty tail is quite valuable. People will buy the tail, or part of it, and use it for frying. That this variety of sheep was in use in ancient times is seen by references in the Pentateuch to the fat tail of the sheep. "Also thou shalt take of the ram the fat and the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards" (Exodus 29:22). "And the fat that covereth the inwards, and all the fat that is upon the inwards" (Leviticus 3:9). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Intimate knowledge of the sheep. The shepherd is deeply interested in every single one of his flock. Some of them may be given pet names because of incidents connected with them. They are usually counted each evening as they enter the fold, but sometimes the shepherd dispenses with the counting, for he is able to feel the absence of anyone of his sheep. With one sheep gone, something is felt to be missing from the appearance of the entire flock. One shepherd in the Lebanon district was asked if he always counted his sheep each evening. He replied in the negative, and then was asked how then he knew if all his sheep were present. This was his reply: "Master, if you were to put a cloth over my eyes, and bring me any sheep and only let me put hands on its face, I could tell in a moment if it was mine or not." When H. R. P. Dickson visited the desert Arabs, he witnessed an event that revealed the amazing knowledge which some of them have of their sheep. One evening, shortly after dark, an Arab shepherd began to call out one by one the names of his fifty-one mother sheep, and was able to pick out each one's lamb, and restore it to its mother to suckle. To do this in the light would be a feat for many shepherds, but this was done in complete darkness, and in the midst of the noise coming from the ewes crying for their lambs, and the lambs crying for their mothers. But no Oriental shepherd ever had a more intimate knowledge of his sheep than JESUS our great Shepherd has of those who belong to His flock. He once said of Himself: "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep" (John 10:14). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

HANDLING AND GATHERING THE SHEEP Several flocks sometimes allowed to mix. More than one flock may be kept in the same fold, and often flocks are mixed while being watered at a well. For the time being, no attempt is made to separate them. Jacob saw such a mixture of flocks: "Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the East. And he looked, and behold, a well in the field, and lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it" (Genesis 29:1-3). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

The wild animals of Israel today include wolves, panthers, hyenas, and jackals. The lion has not lived in the land since the days of the Crusaders. The last bear was killed over half a century ago. David as a shepherd lad experienced the coming of a lion and of a bear against his flock, and by the LORD's help, he was able to slay both of them (I Samuel 17:3437). Amos tells of a shepherd attempting to rescue one of the flock from the lion's mouth: "As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear" (Amos 3:12). One experienced Syrian shepherd is reported to have followed a hyena to his lair and compelled the animal to give up his prey. He won his victory over the wild beast by himself howling in characteristic fashion, striking on rocks with his heavy staff, and flinging deadly stones with his slingshot. The sheep was then carried in his arms back to the fold. The faithful shepherd must be willing to risk his life for the sake of the flock, and perhaps give his life for them. As our Good Shepherd JESUS not only risked his life for us, He actually gave Himself on our behalf. He said: "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Ability to separate the sheep. When it becomes necessary to separate several flocks of sheep, one shepherd after another will stand up and call out: "Tahhoo! Tahhoo!" or a similar call of his own choosing. The sheep lift up their heads, and after a general scramble, begin following each one his own shepherd. They are thoroughly familiar with their own shepherd's tone of voice. Strangers have often used the same call, but their attempts to get the sheep to follow them always fail. The words of JESUS are indeed true to Eastern shepherd life when he said: "The sheep follow him, for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers" (John 10:4,5). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Separating goats from sheep. At certain times it becomes necessary to separate the goats from the sheep, although they may be cared for by the same shepherd that cares for the sheep. They do not graze well together, and so it frequently becomes necessary to keep them apart from the sheep while they are grazing. Dr. John A. Broadus, when visiting Israel, reported seeing a shepherd leading his flock of white sheep and black goats all mingled together. When he turned into a valley, having led them across the Plain of Sharon, he turned around and faced his flock: "When a sheep came up, he tapped it with his long staff on the right side of the head, and it quickly moved off to his right; a goat he tapped on the other side, and it went to his left." This is the picture the Saviour had in mind when he spoke the solemn words: "And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left" (Matthew 25:32-33). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Fold in Easton's Bible Dictionary an enclosure for flocks to rest together (Isa. 13:20). Sheep-folds are mentioned Num. 32:16, 24, 36; 2 Sam. 7:8; Zeph. 2:6; John 10:1, etc. It was prophesied of the cities of Ammon (Ezek. 25:5), Aroer (Isa. 17:2), and Judaea, that they would be folds or couching-places for flocks. "Among the pots," of the Authorized Version (Ps. 68:13), is rightly in the Revised Version, "among the sheepfolds."
http://www.bible-history.com/eastons/F/Fold/


Sheepfold in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
shep'-kot, shep'-kot, shep'-fold (gedherah, mikhlah, mishpethayim, naweh; aule): At night the sheep are driven into a sheepfold if they are in a district where there is danger from robbers or wild beasts. These folds are simple walled enclosures (Nu 32:16; Jdg 5:16; 2 Ch 32:28; Ps 78:70; Zeph 2:6; Jn 10:1). On the top of the wall is heaped thorny brushwood as a further safeguard. Sometimes there is a covered hut in the corner for the shepherd. Where there is no danger the sheep huddle together in the open until daylight, while the shepherd watches over them (Gen 31:39; Lk 2:8). In the winter time caves are sought after (1 Sam 24:3; Zeph 2:6). The antiquity of the use of some of the caves for this purpose is indicated by the thick deposit of potassium nitrate formed from the decomposition of the sheep dung.
http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/S/SHEEPCOTE%3B+SHEEPFOLD/
 

Relevant Bible Verses The Bible mentions a lot concerning "Fold"

Micah 2:12 - I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of [the multitude of] men.

Isaiah 13:20 - It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.

Hebrews 1:12 - And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

Habakkuk 3:17 - Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither [shall] fruit [be] in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and [there shall be] no herd in the stalls:

Isaiah 65:10 - And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me.

Ezekiel 34:14 - I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and [in] a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.

John 10:16 - And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd.
 

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