Shepherd (usually רעֶה, roeh, a feeder, ποιμήν; but substantially denoted also by בּוֹקֵר, boker, a "herdman," Am 7:14; and by נֹקֵד, noked, a "sheep master," 2Ki 3:4; "herdman," Am 1:1). In a nomadic state of society, every man, from the sheik down to the slave, is more or less a shepherd. As many regions in the East are adapted solely to pastoral pursuits, the institution of the nomad life, with its appliances of tents and camp equipage, was regarded as one of the most memorable inventions (Ge 4:20). 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 (30:29 sq.; 37:12 sq.), but even by their daughters (29:6 sq.; Ex 2:19). 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 (Nu 32:1 sq.). Henceforward in Palestine proper the shepherd held a subordinate position; the increase of agriculture involved the decrease of pasturage; and though large flocks were still maintained in certain parts, particularly on the borders of the wilderness of Judah, as about Carmel (1Sa 25:2), Bethlehem (16:11; Lu 2:8), Tekoah (Am 1:1), and, more to the south, at Gedor (1Ch 4:39), the nomad life was practically extinct, and the shepherd became one out of many classes of the laboring population. The completeness of the transition from the pastoral to the agricultural state is strongly exhibited in those passages which allude to the presence. of the shepherd's tent as a token of desolation (e.g. Eze 25:4; Zep 2:6). The humble position of the shepherd at the same period is implied in the notices of David's wondrous elevation (2Sa 7:8; Ps 78:70), and again in the self-depreciating confession of Amos (Am 7:14). The frequent and beautiful allusions to the shepherd s office in the poetical portions of the Bible (e.g. Ps 23; Isa 40:11; Isa 49:9-10; Jer 23:3-4; Eze 34:11-12,23), rather bespeak a period when the shepherd had become an ideal character, such as the Roman poets painted the pastors of Arcadia. SEE PASTURE.
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 (Ge 31:40); his food frequently consisted of the precarious supplies afforded by nature, such as the fruit of the "sycamore," or Egyptian fig, (Am 7:14), the "husks" of the carob tree (Lu 15:16), or perchance the locusts and wild honey which supported the Baptist (Mt 3:4); he had to encounter the attacks of wild beasts, occasionally of the larger species, such as lions, wolves, panthers, and bears (1Sa 17:34; Isa 31:4; Jer 5:6; Am 3:12); nor was he free from the risk of robbers or predatory hordes (Ge 31:39). To meet these various. foes the shepherd's equipment consisted of the following articles: a mantle, made probably of sheep's skin with the fleece on, which he turned inside out in cold weather, as implied, in the comparison in Jer 43:12 (comp. Juv. 14:187); a scrip or wallet, containing a small amount of food (1Sa 17:40; Porter, Damascus, 2, 100); a sling, which is still the favorite weapon of the Bedawi shepherd (1Sa 17:40; Burckhardt, Notes,1, 57); and, lastly, a staff, which served the double purpose of a weapon against foes and a crook for the management of the flock (1Sa 17:40; Ps 23:4; Zec 11:7). If the shepherd was at a distance from his home, he was provided with a light tent (Song 1:8; Jer 35:7), the removal of which was easily effected (Isa 38:12). In certain localities, moreover, towers were erected for the double purpose of spying an enemy at a distance and, protecting the flock; such towers were erected by Uzziah and Jotham (2Ch 26:10; 2Ch 27:4), while their existence in earlier times is testified by the name Migdal-Eder (Ge 35:21, A.V. "tower of Edar;" Mic 4:8, A.V. tower of the flock"). SEE TOWER.
The routine of the shepherd's duties appears to have been as follows: in the morning he led forth his flock from the fold (Joh 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 (Eze 34:12; Lu 15:4); he supplied them with water, either at a running stream or at troughs attached to wells (Ge 29:7; Ge 30:38; Ex 2:16; Ps 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 (Le 27:32; Eze 20:37), checking each sheep as it passed by a motion of the hand (Jer 33:13); and, finally, he watched the entrance of the fold throughout the night, acting as porter (Joh 10:3). We need not assume that the same person was on duty both by night and by day; Jacob, indeed, asserts this of himself (Ge 31:40), but it would be more probable that the shepherds took it by turns, or that they kept watch for a portion only of the night, as may possibly be implied in the expression in Lu 2:8, rendered in the A.V. "keeping watch," rather "keeping the watches" (φυλάσσοντες φυλακάς).The shepherd's office thus required great watchfulness, particularly by night (Lu 2:8; comp. Na 3:18). It also required tenderness towards the young and feeble (Isa 40:11), particularly in driving them to and from the pasturage (Ge 33:13). In large establishments there were various grades, of shepherds, the highest being styled "rulers" (Ge 47:6) or "chief shepherds" (1Pe 5:4); in a royal household the title of אִבַּיר, abbir, "mighty," was bestowed on the person who held the post (1Sa 21:7). Great responsibility attached to the office; for the chief shepherd had to make good all losses (Ge 31:39); at the same time he had a personal interest in the flock, inasmuch as he was not paid in money, but received a certain amount of the produce (30:32; 1Co 9:7). The life of the shepherd was a monotonous one; he may perhaps have whiled away an hour in playing on some instrument (1Sa 16:18; Job 21:12; Job 30:31), as his modern representative still occasionally does. (Wortabet, Syria, 1, 234). He also had his periodical entertainments at the shearing time, which was celebrated by a general gathering of the neighborhood for festivities (Ge 31:19; Ge 38:12; 2Sa 13:23); but, generally speaking, the life must have been but dull. Nor did it conduce to gentleness of manners; rival shepherds contended for the possession or the use of water with great acrimony (Ge 21:25; Ge 26:20 sq.; Ex 2:17) or perhaps is this a matter of surprise, as those who come late to a well frequently have to wait a long time until their turn comes (Burckhardt, Syria, p. 63). SEE SHEEP.
Large flocks of sheep and goats often constituted the chief wealth of patriarchal times. Job possessed seven thousand sheep (Job 1:3), and Nabal three thousand sheep and a thousand goats (1Sa 25:2). At the present day both sheep and goats usually intermingle in the same flock for pasturage, in the valleys and on the hills of Palestine (Ge 30:35). In one Arab encampment Prof. Robinson saw about six hundred sheep and goats, the latter being the most numerous; and the process of milking was going on at four o clock in the morning. The Arabs have few cows. In De 32:14, Moses, in his farewell song, represents Jehovah as having fed Israel with "butter of kine and milk of sheep;" and the apostle asks, "Who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?" (1Co 9:7). "It shall come to pass in that day that a man shall nourish a young cow and two sheep; and it shall, come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give, that he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land" (Isa 7:21-22). Here the milk is the production of the sheep as well as of the cow. SEE MILK.
The hatred of the Egyptians towards shepherds (Ge 46:34) may have been mainly due to their contempt for the sheep itself, which appears to have been valued neither for food (Plutarch, De Is. 72) nor generally for sacrifice (Herod. 2, 42), the only district where they were offered being about the Natron lakes (Strabo, 17, 803). It may have been increased by the memory of the shepherd invasion (Herod, 2, 128). Abundant confirmation of the fact of this hatred is supplied by the low position which all herdsmen held in the castes of Egypt, and by the caricatures of them in Egyptian paintings (Wilkinson, 2, 169). SEE HYKSOS.
The term "shepherd" is applied in a metaphorical sense to princes (Isa 44:28; Jer 2:8; Jer 3:15; Jer 22:22; Eze 34:2, etc.), prophets (Zec 11:5,8,16), teachers, (Ec 12:11), and to Jehovah himself (Ge 49:24; Ps 23:1; Ps 80:1); to the same effect are the references to "feeding" in Ge 48:15; Ps 28:9; Ho 4:16. The prophets often inveigh against the shepherds of Israel, against the kings who feed themselves and neglect their flocks; who distress, ill treat, seduce, and lead them astray (see Eze 34:10 sq.; Nu 27:17; 1Ki 22:17; Isa 40:11; Isa 44:28; Judith 11:15). SEE PASTOR.