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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Additional Resources
• Nave's Topical Bible
• Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
• Torrey's Topical Textbook
Christ, the Shepherd
• Easton's Bible Dictionary
• Fausset's Bible Dictionary
• Smith's Bible Dictionary
• International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Greek - chief shepherd, Chief Shepherd
Greek - shepherd
Greek - Shepherd, shepherd, shepherds
Hebrew - shepherd
Hebrew - shepherd, Shepherd, shepherd's, shepherded, shepherdess, shepherds, shepherds fed, shepherds feed, shepherds who are tending, shepherds will not feed, shepherds', sweep away your shepherds
Hebrew - shepherd, shepherd's

A keeper of sheep. The first keeper of sheep in the Bible was Adam's son Abel (Genesis 4:2). Shepherding was the chief occupation of the Israelites in the early days of the patriarchs: Abraham (Genesis 12:16); Rachel (Genesis 29:9); Jacob (Genesis 30:31-40); Moses (Exodus 3:1).

As cultivation of crops increased, shepherding fell from favor and was assigned to younger sons, hirelings, and slaves (compare David in 1 Samuel 16:11-13). Farmers such as in Egypt even hated shepherds (Genesis 46:34).

The Bible mentions shepherds and shepherding over 200 times. However, the Hebrew word for shepherding is often translated, “feeding.” Shepherds led sheep to pasture and water (Psalms 23:1) and protected them from wild animals (1 Samuel 17:34-35). Shepherds guarded their flocks at night whether in the open (Luke 2:8) or in sheepfolds (Zephaniah 2:6) where they counted the sheep as they entered (Jeremiah 33:13). They took care of the sheep and even carried weak lambs in their arms (Isaiah 40:11).

Shepherd came to designate not only persons who herded sheep but also kings (2 Samuel 5:2) and God Himself (Psalms 23:1; Isaiah 40:11). Later prophets referred to Israel's leaders as shepherds (Jeremiah 23:1; Ezekiel 34:1).

In Bible times the sheep cared for by shepherds represented wealth. They provided food (1 Samuel 14:32), milk to drink (Isaiah 7:21-22), wool for clothing (Job 31:20), hides for rough clothing (Matthew 7:15), and leather for tents (Exodus 26:14). Furthermore, sheep were major offerings in the sacrificial system (Exodus 20:24). They were offered as burnt offerings (Leviticus 1:10), sin offerings (Leviticus 4:32), guilt offerings (Leviticus 5:15), and peace offerings (Leviticus 22:21).

The New Testament mentions shepherds 16 times. They were among the first to visit Jesus at His birth (Luke 2:8-20). Some New Testament references used a shepherd and the sheep to illustrate Christ's relationship to His followers who referred to Him as “our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep” (Hebrews 13:20). Jesus spoke of Himself as “the good shepherd” who knew His sheep and would lay down His life for them (John 10:7-18). Jesus commissioned Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:1). Paul likened the church and its leaders to a flock with shepherds (Acts 20:28). The Latin word transliterated “pastor” means shepherd.

Elmer Gray

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'SHEPHERD'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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