What do you know about the Shepherds in the Bible?
- In Genesis, shepherding was a noble occupation – the wealthy sons of Isaac and Jacob all raised livestock
- This changed when the Israelites migrated to Egypt – Egyptians were agriculturalists/farmers
- They hated shepherding and shepherds because it meant that the animals would eat/destroy their crops and fields.
- The Egyptians’ negative perception of shepherds began to affect how the Israelites viewed shepherds and that job (think of an embarrassing elementary school nickname that follows you until high school graduation)
- After the Israelites settled in the Promised Land of Canaan (present day Palestine), Israelites acquired land to farm and “shepherding became a menial vocation for the laboring class”
- As time went by, their reputation became even worse:
- They were considered untrustworthy
- Couldn’t have judicial office positions
- Couldn’t be a witness in a court trial
- People assumed that if they bought something from a shepherd, then it was likely a stolen good
- Religious leaders officially labeled shepherds as the dreaded “sinner”*
What was so special the sheep in the Christmas story?
- Jerusalem was the mecca/capital for Jews
- Bethleham was a suburb of Jerusalem
- · The shepherds were tending sheep that were perfect – the sheep that would be used in temple sacrifices in Jerusalem
- When the priests sacrificed the lamb and finished the work with its’ blood, the priests would proclaim “It is finished!” (Sound familiar??)**
Jesus’ birth and the Angels’ Announcement to the Shepherds
- In light of this background, isn’t it just amazing that God chose to tell the shepherds FIRST of Jesus’ birth?
- Culturally, no one would have been inviting those shepherds to any parties, but God did – and left out the religious leaders
- Not even just a letter – but a chorus of angels singing “Glory to God in the highest heaven!”
- Significant parallels between Jesus’ life and the sheep that the shepherds were tending
Read Luke 2:8-20
We have heard that God uses the least of these to do His work – He did that from the very beginning of Jesus’ life and until the very end of it as well.
*information from Eternal Perspectives Ministries website
**Information from a Wabash College blog
Photo Credit: Pawan Sharma on Unsplash