Prophets as Shepherds
In many religious traditions, the major prophets are described as shepherds—either literally or metaphorically, and oftentimes both. It’s not difficult to understand why. Life as a shepherd is suggestive of many attributes we normally associate with the “religious life”: a humble beginning, life out in the countryside away from the excesses of the city, a slow-paced life that allows time for deep thought and reflection, patience and gentleness. The development of all these character traits early in life would certainly provide the fertile soil for growing into a wise and compassionate adult. The deeper, more spiritual and metaphorical side to this, is that God is often described as the shepherd of humanity and thus—as messengers of God—prophets too are meant to serve this role.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.'
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake."
“‘Now Moses was tending the flock’ (Exod. 3:1). The Holy One tested Moses by means of the flock, as our masters explained: When Moses our teacher was tending Jethro's flock in the wilderness, a lamb scampered off, and Moses followed it, until it approached a shelter under a rock. As the lamb reached the shelter, it came upon a pool of water and stopped to drink. When Moses caught up with it, he said, ‘I did not know that you ran away because you were thirsty. Now you must be tired.’ So he hoisted the lamb on his shoulder and started walking back with it. The Holy One then said: 'Because you showed such compassion in tending the flock of a mortal, as you live, you shall become shepherd of Israel, the flock that is Mine.'"
“Each of you is a shepherd, and all of you are responsible for your flocks.”
“When Moses appeared, the Israelitish people were disorganized. Enmity and discord increased their disunion. With divine power He assembled and united this scattered flock, placed within their hearts the pearl of love, freed them from captivity and led them out of Egypt into the Holy Land. They made wonderful progress in sciences and arts. Bonds of social and national strength cemented them. Their progress in human virtues was so rapid and wonderful that they rose to the zenith of the Solomonic sovereignty. Could it be said that Moses was nota real Shepherd and that He did not gather these scattered people together? Christ was a real Shepherd. At the time of His manifestation, the Greeks, Romans, Assyrians and Egyptians were like so many scattered flocks. Christ breathed upon them the spirit of unity and harmonized them. Therefore, it is evident that the Prophets of God have come to unite the children of men and not to disperse them, to establish the law of love and not enmity."
"He founded the oneness of the world of humanity, declaring that all mankind are as sheep and that God is the real and true shepherd. The shepherd is one and all people are of his flock. The world of humanity is one and God is equally kind to all. What then is the source of unkindness and hatred in the human world? This real shepherd loves all his sheep. He leads them in green pastures. He rears and protects them. What then is the source of enmity and alienation among humankind?”
“Beware that thou allow not the wolf to become the shepherd of God's flock, and surrender not the fate of His loved ones to the mercy of the malicious."
“To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.”
“Have you seen a shepherd at work? He can control several hundred sheep by getting a child to prod them gently from behind with a bamboo stick. The entire flock will move in the direction he wants them to go. On the other hand, if you try to lead each sheep, you will not be able to get the flock moving.”