corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary


Resource Toolbox
Additional Links
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 (Psalm 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 (Psalm 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.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
Search for…
Enter query in the box:
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

Prev Entry
Shepher, Mount
Next Entry
Shepherd's Bag
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology