Updated: Nov 6, 2021
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INTRODUCTION. The Pharisees claimed to be the guides or shepherds of the people. When the man who was born blind was healed by Jesus, he openly acknowledged Jesus as one sent by God. Consequently, the Pharisees cast the man out of their synagogue. Since the Pharisees refused to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus accused them of being blind and, therefore, unqualified to lead the people (John 9). Jesus then proceeded to tell the Pharisees the nature of a true shepherd (John 10:1-18).
The shepherd was a familiar figure in Palestine. His equipment consisted of a rod, staff, water-skin, scrip, and sling.
The rod was like a shepherd's crook, used for walking and catching wandering sheep. At night the shepherd held his rod across the entrance to the sheepfold, and each sheep had to pass under it. The shepherd could then quickly inspect each sheep as it passed under the rod into the fold. The staff was a sturdy stick about three or four feet long with a knob of wood on the top. This was the shepherd's weapon with which he could beat off wild animals or thieves.
The water-skin contained water for the shepherd, and the scrip held his food. The sling was extremely important, and shepherds were experts in the use of a sling– consider David's encounter with Goliath (I Sam. 17). The shepherd did not have a dog to help with the herding. Instead he used the sling to drop a stone in front of a straying sheep to turn it back to the herd.
The sheepfold was a walled or fenced enclosure in the fields or villages where the
sheep were collected at night to protect them from the wild animals and robbers. In some cases there was no gate and the shepherd himself lay across the entrance to the fold at night. Thus he was the door to the sheepfold. Sometimes a porter or doorkeeper was employed to guard the sheep at night. When the shepherds came in the morning to lead the sheep out to pasture, the porter or doorkeeper opened "the door" allowing the shepherds to call their sheep.
In New Testament times sheep were used for their wool and seldom for eating. As a result the shepherd knew his sheep and called them by name. Likewise, the sheep knew their master's voice and responded to the call of no other. The shepherd walked in front of the sheep, leading them, and risking his life for them. He was the first to encounter the dangers–wild animals, robbers, dangerous rocky areas.