MAYFIELD, Ky. (BP) — The account of the shepherds in Luke’s nativity i (Luke 2:8-20) continues to fascinate modern-day readers. Receiving one angelic post that the Messiah was born in adjacent Bethlehem, these shepherds left their closely guarded flocks of sheep to look for the great news themselves.

Theologians tell united state that the angel’s article represented God’s annunciation that his Son’s bear to the common human being of Israel, yet who were these shepherds?

The shepherds that Bethlehem persisted in an honorable occupation that additionally claimed assorted Old testament figures, including Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Moses, David, Job and also Amos — simply to surname a few.

They greatly kept apricot of the broad-tailed sheep (ovis laticaudata) that deserve to still be found in the holy Land today. Allusions to the very prized “fat tail” of this sheep have the right to be found in Exodus 29:22 and Leviticus 3:9.

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In terms of their daily and also nightly chores, shepherds to be responsible for grazing and watering your charges, protecting lock from person theft and animal predation, shearing the lamb at the ideal time, milking them for dairy products and also providing lock for ritual sacrifices and/or human intake during essential feasts. Together a basic rule, dairy-producing and wool-producing lamb were too an useful to be a daily menu item.

Although the Old and new Testaments ascribe an excellent personal honor to the men and also women that this occupation, the shepherds that the era the Christ’s birth showed up to be much less honored in the Jewish tradition.

The rabbis who created the Talmudic literature (written approximately A.D. 200-500 but containing oral legacies from before, during and also after the earthly life time of Jesus) regularly regarded shepherds as dishonest and prone come violating Jewish law.

Likewise, Philo, a Jewish sage in Egypt and also a modern of Jesus, composed that shepherds “are hosted to be mean and also inglorious” (On Husbandry, 61).

Nevertheless, God regularly uses unlikely vessels to more His will. Follow to the Jewish Mishnah (A.D. 200 but likewise containing ancient oral traditions of previous ages), animals in the vicinity that Bethlehem (specifically Migdal Eder — “Tower of the Flock”) might be readily available for temple sacrifices (Shekalim 7:4).

According come Eusebius, a Palestinian Christian leader that the 4th century in his work, “Concerning the Place-names in spiritual Scriptures” (Section B, 196), Migdal Eder was located one roman inn mile eastern of Bethlehem (a roman mile the 1,000 paces is a tiny short of our mile by 143 yards).

If the shepherds that Luke’s account to be those who kept flocks potentially destined because that the temple at Migdal Eder, they especially would have actually been receptive to the angel’s message.


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Both the geographical areas of Bethlehem and surrounding Migdal Eder are mentioned in Micah’s prophecy of the Messiah (Micah 5:2 and also 4:8). In regard to Migdal Eder, this locale too is attached to the resulting the King.

If the shepherds tending the flocks because that the temple stationed at Migdal Eder constitute the shepherds that the Luke account, then the annunciation come the shepherds would accomplish that facet of messianic prophecy.

When the point of view of the Lord appeared to this shepherds, accompanied by a great light (Luke 2:9), their very first reaction was sheer terror. Nevertheless, the point of view calmed them and also told them the the Messiah had actually just been born in adjacent Bethlehem.

While no revealing the exact location in the city for the child, the angel associated that the boy was the one swaddled in binding cloths and also lying in a manger (v. 12). After ~ the point of view was briefly joined by a heavenly organize that praised God, lock left the shepherds.

The befuddled shepherds, however, chose to watch the Christ child. They can not pass up the chance to view the “Lamb that God.” after ~ a short walk to the city (only about one mile if Eusebius is correct), they discovered the boy with his parents.

They not only praised God because that both the angelic message and also visit v the child, they common this news v others (v. 17-20). Those listening this account through the shepherds also were amazed.

The annunciation to the shepherds that Bethlehem prove God’s love because that the usual people. Vault annunciations the the Lord’s bear had developed only to family members choose Mary, Joseph, Zechariah and also Elizabeth.

The an initial annunciation come those outside of the family were not to the priestly establishment in Jerusalem or those of Herod’s royal residence or come the affluent landowners the Judea however rather to these typical shepherds who the rabbinic tradition had tarnished.

Indeed, the good news was no to it is in a respecter that persons. Straightforward shepherds, like the later on fishermen and also farmers amongst the disciples of Jesus, would certainly be both the recipients and purveyors that the Gospel.

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Today plenty of shepherds in the Bethlehem area and also in various other parts that Israel/Palestine still seek and profess Christianity, and their stories deserve to be situated on the Internet and in the well-known press. In the 20th and also 21st centuries, plenty of of them completed some recognition from the evangelical Christian ar in the united States.

For instance, Stephen A. Haboush chronicled his endure as a Palestinian shepherd in his occupational “My Shepherd Life in Galilee.” The long tradition of shepherds seek to follow God in confidence extends from Abel, the son of Adam, come the present day. The shepherds located near Bethlehem top top the night of the Lord’s nativity to be a an extremely important chapter of that long tradition.–30–Stephen Douglas Wilson is dean emeritus and chair of the history department the Mid-Continent university in Mayfield, Ky., and a member that the SBC executive, management Committee. Obtain Baptist press headlines and also breaking news on Twitter (
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