Who Is A Shepherd In The Bible


In the Bible, the term “shepherd” is a complex one. It carries a variety of meanings throughout the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, it is a symbol of kingship and divine providence. In the New Testament, it is a figure of Jesus’ ministry and of the Church’s mission. To understand this concept better, it is necessary to consider the different meanings of shepherd in the Bible and their import.

The Meaning of Shepherd in the Bible

In the Hebrew Bible, the term ‘shepherd’ often has a double meaning. On the one hand, it is used literally to refer to people who care for and tend flocks of animals. At the same time, it is employed as a metaphor for leadership more broadly. This metaphorical usage is often found in poetic works, reflecting the idea that the leader serves God as a faithful shepherd. For example, King David is portrayed in Psalm 78 as a shepherd, who guides the chosen people “in His strength and courage”. This representation echoes the image of a leader in Ezekiel 34, where God chastises the kings of Israel who have “not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured.” The kings are therefore admonished to “be shepherds of My flock.”
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is also described as a shepherd. This figure of Jesus was developed early in the Christian tradition and is based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:12-14, where He calls His followers “little sheep” and says, “I know My own, and My own know Me.” Moreover, Jesus’ farewell discourse in John 14–17 is often interpreted as a metaphor for an ideal shepherd-leader who self-sacrificially seeks to protect and nurture His flock. This figure of Jesus as an ideal shepherd is reinforced by the parable of the Good Shepherd in John 10.

Implications for Modern Worshipers

These figures of the ideal shepherd have important implications for modern worshipers. For example, the image of David as a shepherd is used to represent a leader who is devoted to and guided by God’s law. Thus, a Christian leader should likewise strive to be devoted to and guided by God’s law. Moreover, the figure of Jesus as an ideal shepherd is significant because it invites worshippers to imitate Christ in their ministry. By doing so, they can increase the spiritual health of their congregation, as well as fulfilling the scriptural mission of being stewards of Christ’s flock.


It is clear that the term “shepherd,” as used in the Bible, carries a variety of meanings. While it has a literal sense, referring to animal herders, it is also used metaphorically to represent leadership. In the Old Testament, it is a symbol of kingship and divine providence. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is portrayed as an ideal shepherd, calling for His followers to imitate His example of self-sacrificial service. By understanding this concept, modern worshippers can be better equipped to serve in ministry and to lead their congregation spiritually.

Caring For The Flock

Caring for the flock, as a shepherd would, is a metaphor for nurturing and protecting people, especially in spiritual matters, and is a significant part of being a biblical shepherd. In the Old Testament, shepherds were expected to care gently for their flock, leading them to grass and water, and protecting them from marauding animals or robbers. In the New Testament, Jesus confirmed the importance of shepherding the flock by comparing Himself to a shepherd. He said that He would lay down His life for His sheep, and that He knows them and they know Him. As Christians, we are to follow Jesus’ example and consciously attempt to care for and protect the people we lead.

Teaching As A Shepherd

Another critical role of a biblical shepherd is to teach others about God’s ways and the importance of leading holy lives. When people recognize a shepherd and follow him, they are willing to listen to his spiritual instructions and teachings. In the Old Testament, God’s choice of whom to serve as a shepherd is based on the shepherd’s knowledge and commitment to the Law of God. Similarly, in the New Testament, Jesus sends his disciples out to teach the people, and tells them to go in peace “as lambs in the midst of wolves”. We, as Christians, have the same charge to “teach all nations” what Jesus said and did.

Leading By Example

The Bible also shows us that a true shepherd is to lead by example by demonstrating how to live godly lives. In the Old Testament, a faithful shepherd leads his flock to the right path, keeping God’s commandments. And in Matthew 11:2, Jesus warns the people to “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” It is up to us, as modern worshipers, to model our lives after Jesus’ example and to speak to others about the power of God’s love and grace.


The ancient shepherds of the Bible were also required to have a special capacity to discern danger and make wise decisions. In the Old Testament, a good shepherd had to be alert to potential predators and knowledgeable about where to seek shelter and help. In addition to physical dangers, a shepherd must be aware of spiritual dangers, such as temptation, false teaching and gossip. In the New Testament, Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”. As contemporary shepherds, we must use discernment to recognize potential spiritual hazards and lead our flock with God-given wisdom and courage.

Sacrificial Service

Finally, like the ancient shepherds, modern worshipers are to serve sacrificially. A biblical shepherd exemplifies selfless service, and is willing to lay down his life if need be. This is seen in the Old Testament when King David risked his life to save the flock from a lion and bear. And in the New Testament, Jesus said that the good shepherd would lay down his life for his sheep. As leaders, we are to be servants of Christ, reflecting His love and His example of sacrificial service.

Hilda Scott is an avid explorer of the Bible and inteprator of its gospel. She is passionate about researching and uncovering the mysteries that lie in this sacred book. She hopes to use her knowledge and expertise to bring faith and God closer to people all around the world.

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