February 17, 2008

Our Shepherd


There are many things from the Bible that I have learned in a new way in the last year and a half. Proverbs that have come to life in this setting. Stories I have never understood better. Many customs here are the same as in the days of Moses. If a man dies, his brother is expected to 'take in' the bereaved wife- and give her children and other things of the sort.

An important part of this culture is of course the cattle, and thus the shepherd. I remember learning Bible stories when I was a child- and seeing pictures of David- a happy looking boy, with a stick, a clean hair cut, and a healthy belly. When Joseph's brothers come to Egypt and he instructs them in what to say to Pharoah- he says that the Pharoah hates shepherds.

Living here it all takes on a whole new perspective. I see David in a new light also. Shepherds are a tough crowd. From the time they are young they are out alone for hours on end, often times with too many animals or animals that are bigger than them. They have been entrusted with the families wealth so to speak. And all they have is a stick. Dangers like snakes, lions, scorpions, and raiders are all too real. Little boys are sent out with the herd- to eat leafs and berries and to drink the bits of milk they can from the herd they're with, a sort of payment if you will. Older shepherds move along with their herd, sleeping on the ground, etc.
The older boys are trendsetters. Beautifully made up with earrings, beads and hats.

On the other hand, I always thought that shepherds were the poor members of society- like it was a shabby job. I thought perhaps that's why they were looked down on. In this society I have learned the opposite. It is a a sign of courage. The best sons tend the cows, while the others are 'sent to school'. Shepherds are brave. When they come through town- they are noticed. Even if they are poor little boys with no clothes on- they are basically in training. And unlike their brothers who are in school, they will some day have a dowry built up, carrying on the family wealth. They will have something to "show" for their work.

Knowing that Jesus is our shepherd is something else I have given thought to. The shepherds sing songs while they are out (beautiful songs actually). They make individual songs for individual animals- and they love their animals very very much. If an animal is lost they will stay out until they are able to find it....

Just something to think on.

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