In a nomadic state of society every man, from the sheikh down to the slave, is more or less a shepherd. The progenitors of the Jews in the patriarchal age were nomads, and their history is rich in scenes of pastoral life. The occupation of tending the flocks was undertaken,not only by the sons of wealthy chiefs, Ge 30:29 ff.; Gene 37:12 ff., but even by their daughters. Ge 29:6,8; Ex 2:10 The Egyptian captivity did march to implant a love of settled abode, and consequently we find the tribes which still retained a taste for shepherd life selecting their own quarters apart from their brethren in the transjordanic district. Nu 32:1 ff. Thenceforward in Israel proper the shepherd held a subordinate position. The office of the eastern shepherd, as described in the Bible, was attended with much hardship, and even danger. He was exposed to the extremes of heat and cold, Ge 31:40 his food frequently consisted of the precarious supplies afforded by nature, such as the fruit of the "sycamore" or Egyptian fig, Am 7:14 the "husks" of the carob tree, Lu 15:16 and perchance the locusts and wild honey which supported the Baptist, Mt 3:4 he had to encounter the attacks of wild beasts, occasionally of the larger species, such as lions, nerves, panthers and bears, 1Sa 17:34; Isa 31:4 Jer 5:6 Am 5:12 nor was he free from the risk of robbers or predators hordes. Ge 31:39 To meet these various foes the shepherd's equipment consisted of the following articles: a mantle, made probably of sheep skin with the fleece on, which he turned inside out in cold weather, as implied in the comparison in Jer 43:12 (cf. Juv. xiv. 187.); a scrip or wallet, containing a small amount of food 1Sa 17:40 a sling, which is still the favorite weapon of the Bedouin shepherd, 1Sa 17:40 and lastly, a which served the double purpose of a weapon against foes and a crook for the management of the flock. 1Sa 17:40; Ps 23:4; Zec 11:7 If the shepherd was at a distance from his home, he was provided with a light tent, So 1:8; Jer 35:7 the removal of which was easily effected. Isa 38:12 In certain localities, moreover, towers were erected for the double purpose of spying an enemy at a distance and of protecting the flock; such towers were erected by Uzziah and Jotham, 2Ch 26:10; 27:4 while their existence in earlier times is testified by the name Migdal-edar Ge 35:21 Authorized Version "a tower of Edar;" Mic 4:8 Authorized Version "tower of the flock." The routine of the shepherd's duties appears to have been as follows: In the morning he led forth his flock from the fold Joh 10:4 which he did by going before them and calling to them, as is still usual in the East; arrived at the pasturage he watched the flock with the assistance of dogs, Job 30:1 and should any sheep stray, he had to search for it until he found it, Eze 34:12; Lu 15:4 he supplied them with water, either at a running stream or at troughs attached to wells, Ge 29:7; 30:38; Ex 2:16; Ps 23:2 at evening he brought them back to the fold, and reckoned them to see that none were missing, by passing them "under the rod" as they entered the door of the enclosure Le 27:32; Eze 20:37 checking each sheep, as it passed, by a motion of the hand, Jer 33:13 and, finally, he watched the entrance of the fold throughout the night, acting as porter. Joh 10:3 [See Sheepfold, under SHEEP] The shepherd's office thus required great watchfulness, particularly by night.
Lu 2:8 cf. Nahu 3:18
It also required tenderness toward the young and feeble, Isa 40:11 particularly in driving them to and from the pasturage. Ge 33:13 In large establishments there are various grades of shepherds, the highest being styled "rulers," Ge 47:6 or "chief shepherds," 1Pe 5:4 in a royal household the title of abbir "mighty," was bestowed on the person who held the post. 1Sa 21:7 [SHEEP]