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 ) ff.; Genesis37:12 ff., but even by their daughters. ( Genesis 29:6 Genesis 29:8 ; Exodus 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. ( Numbers 32:1 ) ff. 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 shepherds 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 ) (cf. 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 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, ( 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 ; 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 shepherds 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 ; 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 shepherds office thus required great watchfulness, particularly by night. ( Luke 2:8 ) cf. Nahu 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 ) [SHEEP]
[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
Bibliography InformationSmith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Shepherd'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary".