Van Honthorst

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst

Shepherds were the keepers of the sheep as they are today. During the times of Abraham shepherds were considered a noble occupation but by the days of Jesus shepherds were considered to be among the lowly of society. This did not happen over night. When the twelves tribes of Israel migrated to Egypt they encountered Egyptian thinking. Egypt was built on agriculture and therefore looked down on shepherding because sheep and goats meant death to crops. To the Egyptian the only use for sheep was for food or sacrifice. During the 400 years Israel was in Egypt this attitude towards shepherds seeped into their culture. By the time the Exodus occurred very few tribes still had large numbers of livestock and looked poorly on the lifestyle. The Mishnah describes shepherds as "incompetent" and even says that people should never feel obligated to rescue one should they fall into a pit.[1]


  1. "Shepherd Status" by Randy Alcorn, in Come, Though Long-Expected Jesus by Nancy Guthrie