Herdman (prop. בּוֹקֵר, a tender of oxen; in distinction from רוֹעֵה, a feeder of sheep; but practically the two occupations were generally united). From the earliest times the Hebrews were a pastoral people. Abraham and his sons were masters of herds and flocks, and were regulated in their movements very much by a regard to the necessities of their cattle, in which their wealth almost entirely consisted. In Egypt the Israelites were known as keepers of cattle. When they left Egypt, they, notwithstanding the oppressions to which they had been subjected, took with them "flocks and herds" (Ex 12:38); and though during their wanderings in the wilderness their stock was in all probability greatly reduced, before they entered Canaan they had so replenished it by their conquests in the pastoral regions beyond Jordan that they took with them a goodly number of animals wherewith to begin their new life in the land that had been promised them. Of that land large tracts were suited for pasturage; certain of the tribes were almost exclusively devoted to pastoral occupations; and traces of a nomadic life among other tribes than those settled on the east of the Jordan are found even as late as the time of the monarchy (compare 1Ch 4:38-43) the pastoral life has always had a charm for the Shemitic peoples; and among them, as well as among other nations, it has always been held in honor. In the open and spacious fields bordering on the Jordan and in the hill-country of Palestine it is a life of comparative ease and of great independence even in the present day; men possessed of flocks and herds become quietly and gradually rich without any severe exertion or anxiety; and but for feuds among themselves, the oppression of superiors, and the predatory tendency of their less respectable neighbors, their life might flow on in an almost unbroken tranquility. The wealth of sheiks and emirs is measured chiefly by the number of their flocks and herds; and men who would count it an intolerable indignity to be constrained to engage in any handicraft occupation, or even in mercantile adventure, fulfill with pride and satisfaction the duties which their pastoral life imposes upon them. It was the same in ancient times. Job's substance consisted chiefly of cattle, his wealth in which made him the greatest of all the men of the East (1:3). The first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, came from "following the herd" to ascend the throne (1Sa 9; 1Sa 11:5; Ps 78:70). Men very great," like Nabal, derived their riches from their flocks, and themselves superintended the operations connected with the care of them (1Sa 25:2 sq.). Absalom, the prince of Israel, had a sheep-farm, and personally occupied himself with its duties (2Sa 13:23). Mesha, king of Moab, was "a sheepmaster" (נוקד, 2Ki 3:4). The daughters of chiefs and wealthy proprietors did not think it beneath them to tend the flocks and herds of their family (Ge 29:9 [comp. 24:15, 19]; Ex 2:16; comp. Homer, II. 6, 423; Odys. 12, 121; 13, 221; Varro, De Re Rust. 2, 1). The proudest title of the kings of Israel was that of shepherds of the people (Jer 23:4; Eze 34:2, etc.; comp. ποιμένες λᾷῶν in Homer and Hesiod, passim, and Plato, De Rep. 4:15, p. 440, D.), and God himself condescended to be addressed as the Shepherd of Israel (Ps 80:1), and was trusted in by his pious servants as their shepherd (Ps 23:1). In later times the title of shepherd was given to the teachers and leaders of the synagogues, who were called פִּרנָסַים (Lightfoot, Hor. Hebrews in Matthew 4:23); but this was unknown to the times before Christ.
By the wealthier proprietors their flocks and herds were placed under the charge of servants, who bore the designation of מַקנֶה, מַעֵי, צאֹן, רֹעֵי, רֹעֵי, שֹׁמֵר, or נֹקדַי These were sometimes armed with weapons, to protect themselves and their charge from robbers or wild beasts; though, if we may judge from the case of David, their furniture in this respect was of the simplest description. Usually they carried with them a staff (שֶׁבֶט מִקֵּל) furnished with a crook, which might be used for catching an animal by the foot; those who had the charge of oxen carried with them a sharper instrument (Jg 3:31; 1Sa 13:21). SEE GOAD. They had also a wallet or small bag (יִלקוּט, πῆρα) in which to carry provisions, ammunition, or any easily portable article (1Sa 17:40,43; Ps 23:4; Mic 7:14; Mt 10:10; Lu 9:3,10). Their dress consisted principally of a cloak or mantle (the burnuis of the modern Arabs) in which they could wrap the entire body (Jer 43:12). For food they were obliged to be contented with the plainest fare, and often were reduced to the last extremities (Am 7:14; Lu 15:15). Their wages consisted of a portion of the produce, especially of the milk of the flock (Ge 30:32 sq.; 1Co 9:7). That they cultivated music is not unlikely, though it hardly follows from 1Sa 16:18, for David's case may have been exceptional; in all countries and times, however, music has been associated with the pastoral life. When the servants belonging to one master existed in any number, they were placed under a chief (שִׂר מַקנֶה, Ge 47:6; ἀρχιποιμήν, 1Pe 5:4);
and under the monarchy there was a royal officer who bore the title of אִבֹּיר הָרֹעַים, "chief of the herdsmen" (1Sa 21:7; compare 1Ch 27:29, and "magister regii pecoris," Livy, 1, 4).
The animals placed under the care of these herdsmen were chiefly sheep and goats; but besides these there were also neat cattle, asses, camels, and in later times swine. It would seem that the keeping of the animals last named was the lowest grade in the pastoral life (Lu 15:15); and probably the keeping of sheep and goats was held to be the highest, as that of horses is among the Arabs in the present day (Niebuhr, Arabie, 1, 226). The herdsman led his charge into the open pasture-land, where they could freely roam and find abundant supply of food; the neat cattle were conducted to the richer pastures, such as those of Bashan, while the sheep, goats, and camels found sufficient sustenance from the scantier herbage of the more rocky and arid parts of Palestine, provided there was a supply of water. While in the fields the herdsmen lived in tents (מַשׁכּנוֹת, Song 1:8; Isa 38:12; Jer 6:3), and there were folds (גּדֵרוֹת, Nu 32:16; 2Sa 7:8; Zep 2:6), and apparently in some cases tents (אַהָלַים, 2Ch 14:15) for the cattle. Watch-towers were also erected, whence the shepherd could descry any coming danger to his charge; and vigilance in this respect was one of the shepherd's chief virtues (Mic 4:8; Na 3:18; Lu 2:8). If any of the cattle wandered he was bound to follow them, and leave no means untried to recover them (Eze 34:12; Lu 15:5); and harsh masters were apt to require at their servants' hands any loss they might have sustained, either by the wandering of the cattle or the ravages of wild beasts (Ge 31:38 sq.), a tendency on which a partial check was placed by the law, that if it was torn by beasts, and the pieces could be produced, the person in whose charge it was should not be required to make restitution (Ex 22:13; comp. Am 3:12). To assist them in both watching and defending the flocks, and in recovering any that had strayed, shepherds had dogs (Job 30:1), as have the modern Arabs; not, however, "like those in other lands, fine, faithful fellows, the friend and companion of their masters but a mean, sinister, ill-conditioned generation, kept at a distance, kicked about, and half starved, with nothing noble or attractive about them" (Thomson, Land and Book, 1, 301), a description which fully suits Job's disparaging comparison. The flocks and herds were regularly counted (Le 27:32; Jer 33:13), as in Egypt (Wilkinson, 2, 177).
The pastures to which the herdsmen conducted their flocks were called חוּצוֹת the places without, the country, the desert (Job 5:10; Job 18:17; Pr 8:26; compare ἔξω ἐν ἐρήμος, Mr 1:45); also נאוֹת(Jer 25:37; Am 1:2), נ8 מַדנבָּר (Ps 65:13; Jer 9:9, etc.), נָוֶה (1Sa 7:8; Ho 9:13, etc.), מַדנבָּר (Ps 65:13; Isa 42:11; Jer 23:10; Joe 2:22, etc.). In summer the modern nomads seek the northern and more hilly regions, in winter they betake themselves to the south and to the plain country (D'Arvieux, 3:315; 5, 428); and probably the same usage prevailed among the Hebrews. In leading out the flocks the shepherd went before them, and they followed him obedient to his call; a practice from which our Savior draws a touching illustration of the intimate relation between him and his people (Joh 10:4). The young and the sickly of the flock the shepherd would take in his arms and carry, and he was careful to adapt the rate of advance to the condition and capacity of the feebler or burdened portion of his charge, a practice which again gives occasion for a beautiful illustration of God's care for his people (Isa 40:11; comp. Ge 33:13). These usages still prevail in Palestine, and have often been described by travelers; one of the most graphic descriptions is that given by Mr. Thomson (Land and Book, 1, 301 sq.; compare Wilson. Lands of the Bible, 2, 322). As the Jews advanced in commercial wealth the office of shepherd diminished in importance and dignity. Among the later Jews the shepherd of a small flock was precluded from bearing witness, on the ground that, as such fed their flocks on the pastures of others, they were infected with dishonesty (Maimon. in Denui, 2. 3). SEE SHEPHERD.