Click here to get started today!
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
In the first period of their history the Hebrews led an unsettled pastoral life, such as we still find among many Oriental tribes. One great object of the Mosaical polity was to turn them from this condition into that of fixed cultivators of the soil. Pasturage was, however, only discouraged as a condition of life unfriendly to settled habits and institutions, and not as a pursuit connected with agriculture. Hence, although in later times the principal attention of the Hebrews was given to agriculture, the tending of sheep and cattle was not at any time neglected.
The shepherds who move about with their flocks from one pasture-ground to another, according to the demands of the season, the state of the herbage, and the supply of water, are called nomads—that is, not merely shepherds, but wandering shepherds. They feed their flocks on the 'commons,' or the deserts and wildernesses, which no settled or cultivating people have appropriated. At first, no pastoral tribe can have any particular property in such tracts of ground in preference to another tribe; but, in the end, a particular tract becomes appropriated to someone tribe, or section of a tribe, either from long occupation, or from digging wells therein. According to the ideas of the East, the digging of a well is so meritorious an act, that he who performs it acquires a property in the waste-lands around. In the time of the patriarchs, Palestine was but thinly peopled by the Canaanites, and offered many such tracts of unappropriated grounds fit for pasturage. In these they fed their flocks, without establishing any exclusive claims to the soil, until they proceeded to dig wells, which, being considered as an act of appropriation, was opposed by some of the inhabitants (). After the conquest of Canaan, those Israelites who possessed large flocks and herds sent them out, under the care of shepherds, into the 'wildernesses,' or commons, of the east and south, where there are rich and juicy pasturages during the moist seasons of the year,;;;; .
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Pasturage'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/p/pasturage.html.