From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

(See Sheep .) The nomadic state is one of the earliest stages of society, and was regarded as honourable even to a chief ( Genesis 4:2;  Genesis 4:20;  Genesis 30:29 ff; Genesis 37); chiefs' daughters did not disdain to tend flocks ( Genesis 29:6, etc.;  Exodus 2:19). The long stay in Egypt elevated Israel from the nomadic to a settled life. The two and a half nomadic tribes received their portion in the outlying regions beyond Jordan (Numbers 32). As agriculture increased pasturage decreased, and was limited to particular spots, the border of the wilderness of Judah, Carmel ( 1 Samuel 25:2), Bethlehem ( 1 Samuel 16:11;  Luke 2:8), Tekoa ( Amos 1:1), and Gedor ( 1 Chronicles 4:39). Hence the "shepherd's tent" came to symbolize desolation ( Ezekiel 25:4;  Zephaniah 2:6). The shepherd's occupation was now no longer dignified ( Psalms 78:70;  2 Samuel 7:8;  Amos 7:14).

The shepherd's office represents Jehovah's tender care of His people (Psalm 23;  Isaiah 40:11;  Isaiah 49:9-10;  Jeremiah 23:3-4;  Ezekiel 34:11-12;  Ezekiel 34:23). Allusions occur to the exposure to heat and cold ( Genesis 31:40), the precarious food ( Amos 7:14), the husks of the carob ( Luke 15:16), the attacks of beasts ( 1 Samuel 17:34;  Isaiah 31:4;  Amos 3:12), robbers ( Genesis 31:39). The shepherd had a mantle of sheepskin with the fleece on ( Jeremiah 43:12), a wallet for food ( 1 Samuel 17:40), a sling such as the Bedouin still carries, a staff to ward off foes and to guide the flock with its crook ( Psalms 23:4;  Zechariah 11:7; so Jehovah "lifts up His staff against" His people's foes,  Isaiah 10:1-24; His word is at once our prop of support and our defense against Satan). The shepherd, when far from home, had his light tent ( Song of Solomon 1:8), easily taken down and shifted ( Isaiah 38:12).

Towers were sometimes erected to spy a foe afar off, and to guard the flock ( 2 Chronicles 26:10;  2 Chronicles 27:4, compare "tower of Edar,"  Genesis 35:21;  Micah 4:8). (See Edar .) His duty was to go before and call by name the sheep ( John 10:4), watch it with dogs, a sorry animal in the East ( Job 30:1), to search for stray sheep ( Ezekiel 34:12;  Luke 15:4), to supply water, either at a stream or at troughs by wells ( Genesis 29:7;  Genesis 30:38;  Exodus 2:16), (So Jesus,  Psalms 23:2 ) , to bring back to the fold at evening and to reckon the sheep that none be missing (Compare As To Jesus  John 18:9 ;  John 17:11-12 ;  John 10:28-29 ) , passing one by one "under the rod" ( Leviticus 27:32;  Jeremiah 33:13;  Ezekiel 20:37), (I.E. You Shall Be Counted As Mine, And Subjected To My Chastening Discipline With A View To My Ultimate Saving Of The Elect,  Micah 7:14 ) , checking each sheep as it passed; to act as porter, guarding the entrance to the fold by night ( John 10:3).

The shepherds kept watches (Plural In Greek,  Luke 2:8 , Not "Slumbering,"  Nahum 3:18 ) by turns at night, not on duty both night and day as Jacob ( Genesis 31:40). Tenderness to the young and feeble was the shepherd's duty, not to overdrive them ( Genesis 33:13); so Jesus ( Isaiah 40:11-29;  Mark 6:31;  Mark 8:2;  Mark 4:33;  John 16:12). There were chief and under shepherds ( Genesis 47:6;  1 Peter 5:4), and hirelings not of the family ( John 10:11-13;  1 Samuel 21:7). The shepherd had responsibility, and at the same time personal interest in the flock ( 1 Samuel 31:39;  1 Samuel 30:32;  1 Corinthians 9:7).

Playing on the pipe beguiled the monotony, and a feast at shearing time gave a yearly variety ( 1 Samuel 16:17;  Genesis 31:19;  Genesis 38:12;  2 Samuel 13:23). Shepherds often contended with one another as to water ( Genesis 26:17-22;  Exodus 2:17). The Egyptian antipathy to shepherds (Whom The Monuments Always Represent As Mean) was due to their being themselves agriculturists, whereas the neighbouring Arabs with whom they so often strove were nomads. The seizure of Lower Egypt by shepherd kings (Hyksos) for centuries aggravated this dislike, though the Hyksos were subsequent to Joseph ( Genesis 46:34). Princes, and even hostile leaders, are called shepherds:  Isaiah 44:28;  Jeremiah 2:8;  Jeremiah 3:15;  Jeremiah 6:3;  Ezekiel 34:2;  Micah 5:5. Teachers:  Ecclesiastes 12:11. Messiah:  Genesis 49:24;  Psalms 80:1;  Zechariah 13:7;  John 10:14;  Hebrews 13:20.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [2]

Shepherd.' 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,  Genesis 30:29;  Genesis 37:12, but even by their daughters.  Genesis 29:6;  Genesis 29:8;  Exodus 2:10. The Egyptian captivity did much 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.  Numbers 32:1. Thenceforward, in Palestine 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,  Genesis 31:40; his food frequently consisted of the precarious supplies afforded by nature, such as the fruit of the "sycamore" or Egyptian fig,  Amos 7:14, the "husks" of the carob tree,  Luke 15:16, and perchance, the locusts and wild honey which supported the Baptist,  Matthew 3:4; he had to encounter the attacks of wild beasts, occasionally of the larger species, such as lions, nerves, panthers and bears,  1 Samuel 17:34;  Isaiah 31:4;  Jeremiah 5:6;  Amos 5:12; nor was he free from the risk of robbers or predators hordes.  Genesis 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  Jeremiah 43:12.; (compare Juv. Xiv. 187); a scrip or wallet, containing a small amount of food,  1 Samuel 17:40; a sling, which is still the favorite weapon of the Bedouin shepherd,  1 Samuel 17:40; and lastly, a staff which served the double purpose of a weapon against foes, and a crook for the management of the flock.  1 Samuel 17:40;  Psalms 23:4;  Zechariah 11:7.

If the shepherd was at a distance from his home, he was provided with a light tent,  Song of Solomon 1:8;  Jeremiah 35:7, the removal of which was easily effected.  Isaiah 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,  2 Chronicles 26:10;  2 Chronicles 27:4, while their existence, in earlier times, is testified by the name Migdal-edar,  Genesis 35:21, Authorized Version, "A Tower Of Edar",  Micah 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,  John 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,  Ezekiel 34:12;  Luke 15:4; he supplied them with water, either at a running stream, or at troughs attached to wells,  Genesis 29:7;  Genesis 30:38;  Exodus 2:16;  Psalms 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,  Leviticus 27:32;  Ezekiel 20:37; checking each sheep, as it passed, by a motion of the hand,  Jeremiah 33:13, and, finally, he watched the entrance of the fold throughout the night, acting as porter.  John 10:3. See Sheepfold , Under Sheep .

The shepherd's office, thus required, great watchfulness, particularly by night.  Luke 2:8, compare  Nahum 3:18. It also required tenderness toward the young and feeble,  Isaiah 40:11, particularly in driving them to and from the pasturage.  Genesis 33:13. In large establishments, there are various grades of shepherds, the highest being styled "rulers,"  Genesis 47:6, or "chief shepherds,"  1 Peter 5:4, in a royal household, the title of abbir , "Mighty" was bestowed on the person who held the post.  1 Samuel 21:7. See Sheep .

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [3]

The occupation of shepherd was one of the earliest recorded ( Genesis 4:2). In the dry semi-desert countries of the Bible story, shepherds lived a hard tough life, battling against heat, drought and wild animals ( Genesis 31:38-40;  Amos 3:12). It is therefore not surprising that ‘shepherd’ became a word symbol for a leader of God’s people. The emphasis is not only on care and leadership, but also on the ability to endure hardship. The shepherd must be prepared to battle against all opponents who threaten the welfare of those in his care ( John 10:1;  John 10:10-12;  Acts 20:28-29).

Life of a shepherd

Shepherds were a common sight in Palestine and neighbouring countries. They lived in tents and moved around from place to place with their flocks in search of grass and water ( Exodus 3:1;  Deuteronomy 8:15;  Isaiah 13:20; see also Sheep ). Often the only water available was at wells that people had dug. These wells were frequently the cause of disputes ( Genesis 26:12-32).

After the Israelites took possession of Canaan, the shepherds among them settled down more or less permanently with their flocks. They still faced the problem of finding good pastures and water, and still had to meet attacks by wild animals ( 1 Samuel 17:34;  Psalms 23:2;  Psalms 23:4-5;  Matthew 10:16). Additional dangers came from thieves who stole sheep by night, and desert people who raided in groups ( Genesis 31:39;  Job 1:14-15;  2 Chronicles 21:16-17;  John 10:10). The shepherd’s only weapons were a sling and a stick, though he may have used trained dogs to help him in his work ( 1 Samuel 17:40;  1 Samuel 17:49;  Job 30:1;  Psalms 23:4;  Zechariah 11:7;  Zechariah 11:10).

Sheep had to be protected and watched by shepherds constantly, otherwise they would wander away and be lost. If sheep became lost, the shepherd sometimes had to risk his life in searching for them and rescuing them ( Ezekiel 34:8;  Ezekiel 34:12;  Matthew 18:12). The shepherd was responsible to pay the owner the cost of any sheep lost while in his care, unless he could satisfy the owner that he was not to blame for the loss ( Genesis 31:39;  Exodus 22:10-13).

At night the shepherd usually kept his sheep in a walled enclosure called a fold, as an added protection against dangers ( Numbers 32:36;  Micah 2:12;  Habakkuk 3:17;  Luke 2:8;  John 10:1). He counted the sheep as they went in at night, to make sure that none was missing; then, in the morning, he led them out into the fields ( Jeremiah 33:13;  Ezekiel 20:37;  John 10:3;  John 10:27;  John 17:12).

Leaders of God’s people

The Old Testament often refers to the leaders of Israel as shepherds, and to the people as the flock ( Numbers 27:17;  Isaiah 63:11). Many of Israel’s leaders were bad shepherds, and because of them the nation crumbled ( Isaiah 56:11;  Jeremiah 50:6;  Ezekiel 34:2-6;  Zechariah 11:15-17).

In the New Testament also leaders of God’s people are referred to as shepherds of the flock. As elders of a church they have the responsibility to lead it, feeding it with spiritual food and protecting it from spiritual harm ( John 21:15-17;  Acts 20:28-29;  1 Peter 5:1-3; see Elder ; Pastor ).

The true shepherd, however, is always God ( Genesis 49:24;  Psalms 23:1;  Isaiah 40:11). This is seen clearly in the illustration Jesus used to picture himself as the good shepherd. He was so concerned for the sheep that he died for them ( John 10:1-29;  Hebrews 13:20;  1 Peter 2:25;  1 Peter 5:4; cf.  Ezekiel 34:23-24).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [4]

Or Pastor .

Abel was a keeper of sheep,  Genesis 4:2 , as were the greater number of the ancient patriarchs. When men began to multiply, and to follow different employments, Jabal son of Lamech was acknowledged as father, that is, founder of shepherd and nomads,  Genesis 4:20 . A large part of the wealth of ancient patriarchs consisted in flocks and herds, the care of which was shared by their sons, daughters, and servants. Rachel the bride of Jacob was a shepherdess,  Genesis 29:6; his sons, the fathers of the tribes of Israel were shepherds, and so was David their king,  Psalm 78:70-72 . The employment is highly honored in the Bible,  Luke 2:8-20 . In the time of the kings, the "chief herdsman" occupies a post of some importance,  1 Samuel 21:7   2 Kings 3:4   1 Chronicles 27:29-31 . In Palestine and its vicinity, besides those who united the keeping of flocks and herds with the tillage of the ground, there were and still are numbers of nomads or wandering shepherds confining themselves to no settled home. These dwellers in tents often had a wide range of pasture grounds, from one to another of which they drove their flocks as occasion required,  Genesis 37:12-17 . In the vast deserts east and south of Palestine they found many spots which in winter and spring were clothed with verdure,  Exodus 3:1   Psalm 65:12 . But the heat of summer withered these "pastures of the wilderness," and drove the shepherds and their flocks to seek for highlands and streams. There are many indications in the Scripture of the conscious strength and independence of he ancient shepherd patriarchs, of the extent of their households, and the consideration in which they were held,  Genesis 14:14-24   21:22-32   26:13-16   30:43   Job 1:3 .

God sometimes takes the name of Shepherd of Israel,  Psalm 80:1   Jeremiah 31:10; and kings, both in Scripture and ancient writers, are distinguished by the title of "Shepherds of the people." The prophets often inveigh against the "shepherds of Israel," that is, the kings, who feed themselves and neglect their flocks; who distress, illtreat, seduce, and lead them astray,  Ezekiel 34:10 . In like manner Christ, as the Messiah, is often called a shepherd,

  Zechariah 13:7 , and also takes on himself the title of "the Good Shepherd," who gives his life for his sheep,  John 10:11,14,15 . Paul calls him the great Shepherd of the sheep,  Hebrews 13:20 , and Peter gives him the appellation of Prince of shepherds,  1 Peter 5:4 . His ministers are in like manner the pastors or under-shepherds of the flock,  Jeremiah 3:15   23:3   Ephesians 4:11 .

In  John 10:1-16 , our Savior says the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep; that he knows them, and they know him; that they hear his voice, and follow him; that he goes before them; that no one shall force them out of his hands, and that he calls them by their names. These, however, being all incidents taken from the customs of the country, are by no means so striking to us as they must have been to those who heard our Lord, and who every day witnessed such methods of conducting this domesticated animal. Modern travelers in the East meet with many pleasing confirmation of the truth of Scripture in respect to these particulars; they see the shepherd walking before his flock, any one of which will instantly run to him when called by its own name. The hireling, or bad shepherd, forsakes the sheep, and the thief enters not by the door of the sheepfold, but climbs in another way. See Sheep .

The Bible applies many of the excellences of the faithful shepherd in illustration of the Savior's care of his flock. The shepherd was responsible for each member of the flock intrusted to him,  Genesis 31:39   Exodus 22:12   John 10:28; he had need of great courage and endurance,  Genesis 31:40   1 Samuel 17:34,35   John 15:10; he exercised a tender care towards the feeble, and carried the lambs in his arms,  Genesis 33:13   Isaiah 40:11   Mark 10:14,16; and searched for the lost sheep, bringing it back from the "land of drought and the shadow of death" into green pastures and still waters,  Psalm 23:1-6   Luke 15:4-7 .

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [5]

The name ‘shepherd’ is taken from the occupation of the Hebrews as a pastoral tribe ( Genesis 13:7;  Genesis 30:36;  Genesis 37:2;  Genesis 47:3,  Exodus 3:1,  1 Samuel 17:34) and applied to God as the one who feeds and provides for His people ( Genesis 48:15;  Genesis 49:24,  Isaiah 40:11,  Psalms 23:1;  Psalms 95:7;  Psalms 100:3; cf.  Ezekiel 34:11-31) and to the rulers of the nation ( Numbers 27:17,  2 Samuel 7:7,  1 Kings 22:17,  Jeremiah 2:8;  Jeremiah 3:15;  Jeremiah 23:1-4,  Ezekiel 34:2-10,  Zechariah 10:3;  Zechariah 11:3 ff;  Zechariah 13:5). The idea expressed in most of these passages is that the care of Israel, as ‘the flock of His pasture,’ is given by the Lord in charge of the rulers who are held to account for the welfare of every member of the same. Especially Ezekiel 34 rebukes these ‘shepherds’ for their neglect of their charge, and ends up (v.  Ezekiel 34:23 b) with the prophecy that in the end one shepherd, like unto David the servant of the Lord, will tend them as prince. To this Messianic passage reference is made in  John 10:11-16, where Jesus is represented as saying: ‘I am the good shepherd; … and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: … and they shall become one flock, one shepherd’; cf.  Hebrews 13:20,  1 Peter 2:25;  1 Peter 5:4. To His office as Shepherd Jesus refers in  Matthew 15:24; cf.  Jeremiah 50:6. Moses also is represented in Ex. R. ii. 2-3 as the good shepherd to whom the Lord said: ‘Since thon takest such care of the lambs of thy flock, be thou the shepherd of My flocks.’ The same is said there also of David when chosen by the Lord to be king. Concerning the identification of Christ as the Good Shepherd with Orpheus on ancient Christian paintings see F. Piper, Mythologie und Symbolik der christl. Kunst, Weimar, 1847-51, i. 126; J. P. Lundy, Monumental Christianity, New York, 1876, pp. 187-196; also R. Reitzenstein, Poimandres, Leipzig, 1904, 11-13, 32 f., 113. But the title ‘shepherd’ or ‘pastor’ is given in the NT to all the heads of the Church, to the apostle Peter ( John 21:17; cf.  Matthew 10:6;  Matthew 10:16) and to the elders of the Church ( Acts 20:28,  1 Peter 5:2) as having charge of the ‘sheep of Christ,’ ‘the flock of God.’ The name Ποίμην (‘pastor’ or ‘shepherd’) is used in the sense of ‘overseer,’ episcopus ( Ephesians 4:1), wherefore Jesus is also called the ‘arch-shepherd,’ ἀρχιποίμην ( 1 Peter 5:4). This conception (cf. Philo, ed. Mangey, i. 196) of spiritual rulers as shepherds rests on the original Jewish Didascalia (preserved in the so-called Apostolic Constitutions, ii. 6, 10, 15. 4, 18. 7-18, 19. 1-3, 20. 3-5, 9, 11), where the above-quoted passages from Jeremiah and Ezekiel are interpreted in a spiritual sense as referring to the duties and responsibilities of the overseer of the Church, viz. that he has to look after the spiritual health of each member of the flock, keep them in a sound state of perfect faith, strengthen those weakened by doubt, bind up those bruised by the remorse of sin, and bring back those that have gone astray, while expelling those that may affect the moral or spiritual well-being of the flock by evil conduct or evil doctrine (see article‘Didascalia’ in Jewish Encyclopedia). The name ‘shepherd’ or ‘pastor’ became henceforth the title of the bishop (Ignat. ad Phil. ii. 1, ad Rom. ix. 1; Iren. iv. 33; Cyprian, Ep. viii. [ii.], ‘Cleri Romani ad clerum Carthaginensem’; Clem. Alex. Strom. i. 26), and later on in Protestant Christianity of the minister of the Church in general. In Enoch lxxxix. 59, xc. 25, the name ‘shepherd’ is given to the 70 angels ruling the 70 nations of the earth (see R. H. Charles, ad loc., and F. Spitta, Zur Geschichte und Litteratur des Urchristentums, Göttingen, 1901, ii. 367 ff.), also to the angel in Hermas, Mand. iv. 2. 2, Sim. vi. 3. 2. In ancient Babylonia the chief stars bore the name of ‘Shepherds of Heaven.’

K. Kohler.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [6]

A. Verb.

Râ‛âh ( רָעָה , Strong'S #7462), “to pasture, shepherd.” This common Semitic root appears in Akkadian, Phoenician, Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Arabic. It is attested in all periods of Hebrew and about 170 times in the Bible. (The word should be distinguished from the verb “to have dealings with or associate with.”)

Râ‛âh represents what a shepherd allows domestic animals to do when they feed on grasses in the fields. In its first appearance Jacob tells the shepherds: “Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them” (Gen. 29:7).

Râ‛âh can also represent the entire job of a shepherd. So “Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and [he was still a youth]” (Gen. 37:2). Used metaphorically this verb represents a leader’s or a ruler’s relationship to his people. At Hebron the people said to David: “Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel” (2 Sam. 5:2). The verb is used figuratively in the sense “to provide with nourishment” or “to enliven”: “The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom” (Prov. 10:21).

Râ‛âh is used intransitively describing what cattle do when they feed on the grass of the field. So Pharaoh dreamed that “there came up out of the river seven well-favored kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow” (Gen. 41:2). This usage is applied metaphorically to men in Isa. 14:30: “And [those who are most helpless] shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety.…” This word is used to describe destruction: “Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken [literally, “consumed as a domestic animal utterly bares a pasture”] the crown of thy head” (Jer. 2:16).

B. Nouns.

Ro’eh ( רָעָה , Strong'S #7462), “shepherd.” This noun occurs about 62 times in the Old Testament. It is applied to God, the Great Shepherd, who pastures or feeds His sheep (Ps. 23:1-4; cf. John 10:11). This concept of God, the Great Shepherd, is very old, having first appeared in the Bible on Jacob’s lips in Gen. 49:24: “… From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel.”

When applied to human kings, ro’eh recalls its usage among non-Israelites. There it depicts the king as the head of the cultus (official public worship) and the mediator between the god(s) and men. It also suggests that he is the center of national unity, the supreme protector and leader of the nation, the bestower of every earthly blessing, and the dispenser of justice. Interestingly, no biblical king claimed the title ro’eh for himself (cf. 2 Sam. 5:2). In later times leaders other than the kings were also called “shepherds” (cf. Isa. 44:28; Ezek. 34:2).

Other nouns derived from the verb râ‛âh occur infrequently. Mir’eh , which occurs 12 times, means “pasture or pasturage” in the sense of where animals graze, and/or what they graze on (Gen. 47:4). Mar’it appears 10 times and refers to a “pasture” (Ps. 74:1). Re’l is found once and means “pasture” (1 Kings 4:23).

Holman Bible Dictionary [7]

 Genesis 4:2 Genesis 12:16 Genesis 29:9 Genesis 30:31-40 Exodus 3:1

As cultivation of crops increased, shepherding fell from favor and was assigned to younger sons, hirelings, and slaves (compare David in  1 Samuel 16:11-13 ). Farmers such as in Egypt even hated shepherds ( Genesis 46:34 ).

The Bible mentions shepherds and shepherding over 200 times. However, the Hebrew word for shepherding is often translated, “feeding.” Shepherds led sheep to pasture and water ( Psalm 23:1 ) and protected them from wild animals ( 1 Samuel 17:34-35 ). Shepherds guarded their flocks at night whether in the open ( Luke 2:8 ) or in sheepfolds ( Zephaniah 2:6 ) where they counted the sheep as they entered ( Jeremiah 33:13 ). They took care of the sheep and even carried weak lambs in their arms ( Isaiah 40:11 ).

Shepherd came to designate not only persons who herded sheep but also kings ( 2 Samuel 5:2 ) and God Himself ( Psalm 23:1;  Isaiah 40:11 ). Later prophets referred to Israel's leaders as shepherds ( Jeremiah 23:1;  Ezekiel 34:1 ).

In Bible times the sheep cared for by shepherds represented wealth. They provided food ( 1 Samuel 14:32 ), milk to drink ( Isaiah 7:21-22 ), wool for clothing ( Job 31:20 ), hides for rough clothing ( Matthew 7:15 ), and leather for tents ( Exodus 26:14 ). Furthermore, sheep were major offerings in the sacrificial system ( Exodus 20:24 ). They were offered as burnt offerings ( Leviticus 1:10 ), sin offerings ( Leviticus 4:32 ), guilt offerings ( Leviticus 5:15 ), and peace offerings ( Leviticus 22:21 ).

The New Testament mentions shepherds 16 times. They were among the first to visit Jesus at His birth ( Luke 2:8-20 ). Some New Testament references used a shepherd and the sheep to illustrate Christ's relationship to His followers who referred to Him as “our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep” ( Hebrews 13:20 ). Jesus spoke of Himself as “the good shepherd” who knew His sheep and would lay down His life for them ( John 10:7-18 ). Jesus commissioned Peter to feed His sheep ( John 21:1 ). Paul likened the church and its leaders to a flock with shepherds ( Acts 20:28 ). The Latin word transliterated “pastor” means shepherd.

Elmer Gray

People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

Sheep, Shepherd .  Genesis 4:2;  Genesis 46:32. Sheep were used in the sacrificial offerings, both the adult animal,  Exodus 20:24, and the lamb.  Exodus 29:38;  Leviticus 9:3;  Leviticus 12:6. Sheep and lambs formed an important article of food.  1 Samuel 25:18. The wool was used as clothing.  Leviticus 13:47. "Rams' skins dyed red" were used as a covering for the tabernacle.  Exodus 25:5. Sheep and lambs were sometimes paid as tributes.  2 Kings 3:4. Sheep-shearing is alluded to.  Genesis 31:19. Sheep-dogs were employed in biblical times.  Job 30:1. Shepherds in Palestine and the East generally go before their flocks, calling to them, and the sheep follow; comp.  John 10:4;  Psalms 77:20;  Psalms 80:1, though they also drive them.  Genesis 33:13. Rev. John Hartley gives an illustration of  John 10:1-16 : " Having had my attention directed to  John 10:3, I asked a shepherd to call one of his sheep. He did so, and it instantly left its pasturage and its companions and ran up to the hands of the shepherd with signs of pleasure and with a prompt obedience which I had never before observed in any other animal. It is also true in this country that 'a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him.'" The common sheep of Syria and Palestine are the broad-tailed, which, when fattened, have tails of an enormous size. "I have seen many in Lebanon so heavy," says Dr. Thomson, "that the owners could not carry them without difficulty... The cooks use this mass of fat instead of Arab butter.... This is the 'rump' so often mentioned in the Levitical sacrifices, which was to be taken off hard by the backbone.  Exodus 29:22;  Leviticus 3:9;  Leviticus 7:3;  Leviticus 9:19. It is, in fact, not properly a tail, but a mass of mar row-like fat, which spreads over the whole rump of the sheep, and down the caudal extremity, till near the end." The shearing of the sheep was celebrated anciently, as often now, with much festivity.  Genesis 31:19;  Genesis 38:12-13;  1 Samuel 25:4-8;  1 Samuel 25:36;  2 Samuel 13:23-28.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [9]

I should not have paused at this word, being in itself so very well understood, but only to remark the very great blessedness and tenderness of it as assumed by the Lord Jesus Christ. He saith himself, "I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." ( John 10:11) And God the Father also sweetly holds forth the Lord Jesus, in his mediatorial character, under this endearing point of view, as the Shepherd of his church and people.

It would form the subject of a volume, rather than an article in a Concordance, to enter upon the character and office of a Shepherd as peculiarly suited and carried on by Christ; I cannot therefore propose such an undertaking. But while I refer to the Scriptural account of our Lord Jesus under this character, and which is more or less scattered over the whole Bible, I cannot content myself, without just observing how very blessed it must be for all the sheep of Christ and the lambs of his fold to know Jesus, and to make use of Jesus as God the Father evidently intended he should be used, as their Shepherd.

As Jesus is the Shepherd, so they are the flock; the one character implies the other; and the church made up of sheep and lambs are his property. He received them as the gift of his Father, and he hath purchased them with his blood; so that every tye of nature, interest, property, and grace, endears them to Christ. And hence he saith himself, "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out, of my hand. My Father which gave.them me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of my Fathers hand. I and my Father are one." ( John 10:28-30)

I must not enlarge on this point, how sweet soever and interesting it is; but I do beg the reader who is conscious of being one of Christ's fold, and especially, the lambs of that fold, never to lose sight of Jesus under this pastoral office. Jesus knows all sheep, he calleth them all by name, his eye is always upon them, and his heart full of love towards them; he knows how helpless, poor, and prone to wandering they are; and he hath a suited grace for every one and for all. He saith himself that he will search and seek them out in every place whither they are scattered in the cloudy and dark day. His love, and not their deserts, is the cause of his care over them. He will feed them, protect them, help them, heal them, refresh them, restore them, and carry them through, the whole of this wilderness state, until he brings them all home to his fold in heaven. And all this and ten thousand things more, because he is their Shepherd, because he is, and ever must be, Jesus. "Hail, O thou almighty Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock, thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth!" ( Psalms 80:1, etc. See Pastor.)

Morrish Bible Dictionary [10]

A person's wealth in the East frequently consisted of flocks, the shepherd therefore held an important and honourable position. David was a keeper of sheep. Joseph instructed his brethren to tell Pharaoh that they were shepherds, and they asked permission to dwell in Goshen, for every shepherd was an abomination to the Egyptians. This is supposed to have been caused by some 'shepherd-kings' having usurped authority over Egypt. The difficulties and hardships of a shepherd's life in the East may be gathered from what Jacob passed through during the time he was with Laban.  Genesis 31:39,40 .

The sheep following the shepherd is a sight often witnessed in the East, and that each sheep has a name and knows the shepherd's voice, has been tested and proved again and again. All this is beautifully typical of the relation of Jehovah to Israel and of Christ to the church. The sheep of Christ know the good Shepherd's voice, and find salvation, liberty, and pasture in following the One who leads. The good Shepherd gives them eternal life, having given His life for the sheep. Christ is called the great Shepherd, for the work which He accomplished could have been done only by One who was Himself God, though become man to work out redemption.

In the church there are those who by reason of gift are called pastors, to feed and shepherd the sheep; but Christ is the chief Shepherd, who is over all, whose own the sheep are, and who has given His word that they shall never perish.  Psalm 23;  Zechariah 13:7;  John 10:2-16;  Hebrews 13:20;  1 Peter 5:4; etc.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [11]

 Jeremiah 2:8 3:15 10:21 12:10 17:16 Psalm 23:1 80:1 Isaiah 40:11 44:28 Jeremiah 25:34,35 Nahum 3:18 John 10:11,14 Hebrews 13:20 1 Peter 2:25 5:4

The duties of a shepherd in an unenclosed country like Palestine were very onerous. "In early morning he led forth the flock from the fold, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed, and if any for a time eluded his watch and wandered away from the rest, seeking diligently till he found and brought it back. In those lands sheep require to be supplied regularly with water, and the shepherd for this purpose has to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness and furnished with troughs. At night he brought the flock home to the fold, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. Nor did his labours always end with sunset. Often he had to guard the fold through the dark hours from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief (see  1 Samuel 17:34 ).", Deane's David.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [12]

1: Ποιμήν (Strong'S #4166 — Noun Masculine — poimen — poy-mane' )

is used (a) in its natural significance,  Matthew 9:36;  25:32;  Mark 6:34;  Luke 2:8,15,18,20;  John 10:2,12; (b) metaphorically of Christ,  Matthew 26:31;  Mark 14:27;  John 10:11,14,16;  Hebrews 13:20;  1—Peter 2:25; (c) metaphorically of those who act as pastors in the churches,  Ephesians 4:11 . See Pastor.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [13]

 Isaiah 44:28 (a) It is used to represent King Cyrus as he took a leading place in the rebuilding of the temple, and restoring Israel to their land.  Ezekiel 34:23 (a) This represents King David as he would guide the affairs and the destinies of Israel. Probably it also is prophetic of Christ when He returns to reign.  John 10:14 (a) This is a type of the Lord Jesus He cares for, protects and leads His people.

King James Dictionary [14]


1. A man employed in tending, feeding and gaurding sheep in the pasture. 2. A swain a rural lover. 3. The pastor of a parish, church or congregation a minister of the gospel who superintends a church or parish, and gived instruction in spiritual things. God and Christ are in Scripture dinominated Shepherds, as they lead, protect and govern their people, and provide for their wilfare.

Webster's Dictionary [15]

(1): ( n.) A man employed in tending, feeding, and guarding sheep, esp. a flock grazing at large.

(2): ( n.) The pastor of a church; one with the religious guidance of others.

(3): ( v. t.) To tend as a shepherd; to guard, herd, lead, or drive, as a shepherd.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [16]

SHEPHERD . See Sheep.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [17]

shep´ẽrd ( רעה , rō‛eh , רעי , rō‛ı̄  ; ποιμήν , poimḗn , "a feeder"): The sheep owner frequently tends the flocks himself (  Genesis 4:4;  Genesis 30:40; compare  Ezekiel 34:12 ), but more often he delegates the work to his children ( Genesis 29:9;  1 Samuel 16:19;  1 Samuel 17:15 ) or relatives ( Genesis 31:6 ). In such cases the sheep have good care because the keepers have a personal interest in the well-being of the animals, but when they are attended by a hireling ( 1 Samuel 17:20 ) the flocks may be neglected or abused ( Isaiah 56:10 ,  Isaiah 56:11;  Ezekiel 34:8 ,  Ezekiel 34:10;  Zechariah 11:15 ,  Zechariah 11:17;  John 10:12 ). The chief care of the shepherd is to see that the sheep find plenty to eat and drink. The flocks are not fed in pens or folds, but, summer and winter, must depend upon foraging for their sustenance ( Psalm 23:2 ). In the winter of 1910-11 an unprecedented storm ravaged Northern Syria. It was accompanied by a snowfall of more than 3 ft., which covered the ground for weeks. During that time, hundreds of thousands of sheep and goats perished, not so much from the cold as from the fact that they could get no food. Goats hunt out the best feeding-grounds, but sheep are more helpless and have to be led to their food (compare  Numbers 27:16 ,  Numbers 27:17 ); nor do they possess the instinct of many other animals for finding their way home (compare  Ezekiel 34:6-8 ). Flocks should be watered at least once a day. Where there are springs or streams this is an easy matter. Frequently the nearest water is hours away. One needs to travel in the dry places in Syria or Palestine, and then enter the watered valleys like those in Edom where the flocks are constantly being led for water, to appreciate the Psalmist's words, "He leadcth me beside still waters." Sometimes water can be obtained by digging shallow wells ( Genesis 26:18-22 ,  Genesis 26:25 ,  Genesis 26:32 ). The shepherd frequently carries with him a pail from which the sheep can drink when the water is not accessible to them. On the mountain tops the melting snows supply the needed water. In other districts it is drawn from deep wells ( Genesis 29:2;  John 4:6 ). The usual time for watering is at noon, at which time the flocks are led to the watering-places ( Genesis 29:2 ,  Genesis 29:3 ). After drinking, the animals lie down or huddle together in the shade of a rock while the shepherd sleeps. At the first sound of his call, which is usually a peculiar guttural sound, hard to imitate, the flock follow off to new feeding-grounds. Even should two shepherds call their flocks at the same time and the sheep be intermingled, they never mistake their own master's voice ( John 10:3-5 ).

The shepherd's equipment is a simple one. His chief garment is a cloak woven from wool or made from sheepskins. This is sleeveless, and so made that it hangs like a cloak on his shoulders. When he sleeps he curls up under it, head and all. During the summer a lighter, short-sleeved ‛aba or coat is worn. He carries a staff or club (see Staff ), and a characteristic attitude is to make a rest for his arms by placing his staff on his shoulders against the back of his neck. When an especially productive spot is found, the shepherd may pass the time, while the animals are grazing, by playing on his pipe ( Judges 5:16 ). He sometimes carries a sling ( קלע , ḳela‛ ) of goat's hair ( 1 Samuel 17:40 ). His chief belongings are kept in a skin pouch or bag (כּלי , kelı̄ ) ( 1 Samuel 17:40 ). This bag is usually a whole tawed skin turned wrong side out, with the legs tied up and the neck forming the opening. He is usually aided in the keeping and the defending of the sheep by a dog ( Job 30:1 ). In Syria the Kurdish dogs make the best protectors of the sheep, as, unlike the cowardly city dogs, they are fearless and will drive away the wild beasts. The shepherd is often called upon to aid the dogs in defending the sheep ( Genesis 31:39;  1 Samuel 17:34 ,  1 Samuel 17:35;  Isaiah 31:4;  Jeremiah 5:6;  Amos 3:12 ).


The frequent use of the word "shepherd" to indicate a spiritual overseer is familiar to Bible readers ( Psalm 23:1;  Psalm 80:1;  Ecclesiastes 12:11;  Isaiah 40:4;  Isaiah 63:14;  Jeremiah 31:10;  Ezekiel 34:23;  Ezekiel 37:24;  John 21:15-17;  Ephesians 4:11;  1 Peter 5:1-4 ). We still use the term "pastor," literally, "a shepherd." Leaders in temporal affairs were also called shepherds ( Genesis 47:17 margin;   Isaiah 44:28;  Isaiah 63:11 ). "Sheep without a shepherd" typified individuals or nations who had forgotten Yahweh ( Numbers 27:17;  1 Kings 22:17;  2 Chronicles 18:16;  Ezekiel 34:5 ,  Ezekiel 34:8;  Zechariah 10:2;  Matthew 9:36;  Mark 6:34 ).

Jesus is spoken of as the good shepherd ( John 10:14 ); chief shepherd ( 1 Peter 5:4 ); great shepherd ( Hebrews 13:20 ); the one shepherd ( John 10:16 ). "He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and will gently lead those that have their young" ( Isaiah 40:11 ) is a picture drawn from pastoral life of Yahweh's care over His children. A strong sympathy for helpless animals, though sometimes misdirected, is a marked characteristic of the people of Bible lands. The birth of offspring in a flock often occurs far off on the mountain side. The shepherd solicitously guards the mother during her helpless moments and picks up the lamb and carries it to the fold. For the few days, until it is able to walk, he may carry it in his arms or in the loose folds of his coat above his girdle. See also Sheep .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [18]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Shepherd'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [19]

Shepherd [PASTURAGE]