The Shepherd in the Old Testament

First Shepherds in the Old Testament

The first Old Testament reference to a shepherd is Able as a profession. (Genesis 4). The first use of a shepherd as a leadership allegory is Genesis 49:24. Jacob was called The Shepherd; the Rock of Israel,.

Psalm 23 is the most extensive shepherd allegory. Each and every shepherd reference that follows Psalm 23 in both the Old and New Testament seems to be built upon David’s symbolism.

The Common Shepherd

The shepherd was a common figure in the Old Testament nomadic-agrarian culture. In that ancient world, nomadic tribes depended on herds of animals for trade, clothing and food. Herds/flocks were a form of wealth and positions of dignity. For example, Job was a very wealthy man. His possessions are listed as: 7000 sheep….(Job 1:3).

The Shepherd as Leader

Shepherd was a popular old world term of distinction and importance for people in positions of prominence and influence. This designation is found in Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian cultures. Shepherd has been a metaphor for leadership throughout history.

Bad Shepherds

When the Prophet Ezekiel condemned political and military leaders of his time, he used shepherd metaphors (Ezekiel 34). The critique of poor leadership was used in both Ezekiel 34:1-16 and Zechariah 11:15-17.

Old Testament Shepherd Tasks

Lead sheep to pasture Psalm 23:2
Lead to water Psalm 23:2
Lead on the right path Psalm 23:2
Lead through the scary places Psalm 23:4
Protect sheep from predators 1 Samuel 12:24
Defend off robbers Job 1:14
Watch over herd at night Nehemiah 3:18
Provide shelter (fold/cave) Judges 5:16
Nurse sick and lame Isaiah 40:11
Inspect sheep health and welfare Jeremiah 33:13
Recover strays Ezekiel 34:12
Account for sheep Ezekiel 20:37
…feed the flock and lead them to rest Ezekiel 34:15

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