Sheepcote (or Sheepfold)
Sheepcote (Or Sheepfold)
is designated by several Heb. terms נָוֶה, naveh (a habitation or dwelling place, as usually rendered, "sheepcote," 2Sa 7:8; 1Ch 17:1; "fold," Isa 65:10; Jer 23:3; Eze 34:14;
"stable," 25:5), means, in a general sense, a place where flocks repose and feed; and, as the Orientals do not usually fold their flocks at night, it must be left to the context to determine whether we are to understand "pastures" or "sheepfolds." A more distinctive term is גּדֵרָה, gederah, an enclosure, "cote" (1Sa 24:3; "fold," Nu 32:16,24,36; Zep 2:6; elsewhere "hedge" or "wall"), which means a built pen or safe structure, such as adjoins buildings, and used for cattle as well as sheep. Special terms are מַכלָה, miklah (a pen for flocks; "fold," Ps 1:6; Ps 78:70; Hab 3:17), and מַשׁפּתִיַ, mishpethayim (the dual form of which indicates double rows, as of stalls for cattle or sheep; "sheepfolds," Judges 16; "two burdens," Ge 49:14). It is to be observed that the Oriental flocks, when they belong to nomads, are constantly kept in the open country, without being folded at night. This is also the case when the flocks belonging to a settled people are sent out to feed, to a distance of perhaps one, two, or three days' journey in the deserts or waste lands where they possess or claim a right of pasturage. This seems to have been the case with the flocks fed by David. As such flocks are particularly exposed to the predatory attacks of the regular nomads, who consider the flocks of a settled people as more than even usually fair prey, and contest their right to pasture in the deserts, the shepherds, when they are in a district particularly liable to danger from this cause, or from the attacks of wild beasts, and doubt whether themselves and their dogs can afford adequate protection, drive their flocks at night into caves, or, where there are none, into uncovered enclosures, which have been erected for the purpose at suitable distances. These are generally of rude construction, but are sometimes high and well-built enclosures or towers (generally round) which are impregnable to any force of the depredators when once the flock is within them. Such towers also occur in districts where there are only small dispersed settlements and villages, and serve the inhabitants not only for the protection of their flocks, but as fortresses in times of danger, in which they deposit their property, and, perhaps, when the danger is imminent, their females and children. When no danger is apprehended or none from which the protection of the shepherds and dogs is not sufficient, the flocks are only folded when collected to be shorn. They are then kept in a walled, but still uncovered, enclosure, partly to keep them together, but still more under the impression that the sweating and evaporation which result from their being crowded together previously to shearing improve the quality of the wool. Those poor villagers who have no large flocks to send out to the wilderness pastures with a proper appointment of shepherds, but possess a few sheep and cattle which feed during the day in the neighboring commons under the care of children or women and who cannot provide the necessary watch and protection for them at night, drive them home, and either fold them in a common enclosure, such as we have mentioned, in or near the village, or pen them separately near their own dwellings. Pens or cotes of this class serve also for the lambs and calves, while too young to be kept out with the flocks or to be trusted in a common enclosure. They usually are near the dwellings, which are merely huts made of mats on a framework of palm branches these we conceive to answer well to the "tabernacles" (booths), "shepherds' cottages," and other humbler habitations noticed in Scripture. Such villages are of a class belonging to a people (Arabs) who, like the Israelites, have relinquished the migratory life, but who still give their principal attention to pasturage, and do some little matters in the way of culture. It is possible that the villages of the Hebrews, when they first began to settle in Palestine, were of a very similar description. See Kitto, Pict. Bible, note at 1Ch 17:2.