Shepherds were, and are, those who tend, feed, and guard flocks of sheep. They are mentioned very often in The Bible. The Hebrew word in the Old Testament is pronounced raw-aw, and the Greek word in the New Testament is pronounced poy-main. In translating to English from the original languages, the familiar word pastor is sometimes used in place of shepherd.
Equipment typically carried by Biblical shepherds included:
- a bag made of a full goat's skin, with legs tied, in which was carried food or other items.
- a sling for defending himself and the flock against wild animals.
- a flute for entertaining himself and the sheep.
- a cloak that was also used for night-time bedding.
- a stick (rod) about a yard/meter long with a knob on one end.
- a staff, or "shepherd's crook," that looked somewhat like a modern cane.
The last 2 items in the above list are referred-to in the beautiful 23rd Psalm, written by David, as translated here in the classic King James Bible of 1611 -
"The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
For Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of The Lord for ever."
(Psalm 23:1-6 KJV)
David is perhaps the best-known shepherd of Bible History (see King David and David And Goliath), however numerous other prominent Biblical people had that occupation. The very first shepherd was Abel (Genesis 4:2), who tragically, was also humanity's first murder victim. Others were Abraham (Genesis 12:16), Rachel (Genesis 29:9), Jacob/Israel (Genesis 30:31), and Moses (Exodus 3:1).
The ultimate spiritual shepherd of course is Jesus Christ, as He clearly portrayed Himself -
"So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep."
"I am the good shepherd; I know My own and My own know Me, as The Father knows Me and I know The Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed My voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason The Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from My Father."
(John 10:7-18 RSV)
Fact Finder: Who were the very first people to visit the newborn Jesus Christ?