In this episode we will uncover the meaning behind a name used in a Psalm that has been treasured, made into a song, and has been memorized by thousands next to the Lord’s Prayer. The term appears throughout the text of scripture in 142 different verses.
In Psalm 23:1 YHWH reveals himself to us as our Shepherd, and though this term for Shepherd doesn’t first appear here, it is the first time that we see YHWH and Shepherd being directly stated. However, I would venture to say that a deeper understanding of what a shepherd does and who a shepherd is will be clearly revealed through the myriad of verses that uses the term.
There are two rules that I hope you see consistent in this series and number one is the significance of finding the original meaning of the words we are looking at so that we can ensure that we have a proper understanding of their meaning. The second would be the importance of understanding its meaning from its origin. In other words, looking at how the word was first used and understanding that we build from there as our foundation. The same reason we go back to the root of a word and as more is revealed we add to the original, not change the original. If we really understand that then we would see that YHWH operates in cycles, and that He doesn’t do away with a covenant as YHWH never has a bad idea that needs revamping, but because of His great love for us he adds addendum’s to the plan so that His goal of having us with Him becomes more attainable. He never lost sight of His original plan which is to have a people after His own image and likeness. Our failure has consequences, thus Adam who had one rule, that when broken, led to Moses having six hundred thirteen more instructions.
Why more instructions? Because the goal is so that we being unholy might have a means by which we can draw near to a Holy God. This means He sanctifies us through His word so we can get the filth of the world off of us and draw near without drawing our last breath. Just as one could never expect to get clean by rejecting water, one should never expect to receive life by rejecting the water of life, Yahushah. Thus without Yahushah you can’t come to the father. Hence, He is our Passover Lamb, not our Easter bunny, Santa Clause, Tooth Fairy, and his love has nothing to do with a Valentine. Coming to the Father by any means other than the one He made available results in strange fire and one need only to study Nadab and Abihu to understand the severity of coming without the Word to the altar of Yah. (Lev. 10) There is only one way to the Father, not my way or your way, but His way and either we respect the rules of the Father’s House or we won’t be allowed in it.
I know it seems like I have digressed far from the topic, but I really haven’t. As our topic is about YHWH our Shepherd. If we understand that a Shepherd functions as one who has a responsibility to care for something of great value, then we realize that following someone means that both parties have a role in the relationship. Sheep are expected to follow as Shepherds are expected to lead. If anyone on either side of that partnership fails to fulfill their role then there will be loss.
Let’s look at the first place we see this word used, and in order to do that we must peel back the first layer that we always consider when tackling words and that is searching the bible using the Strong’s word. The Strong’s number is H7462 for Ra’ah. Why do we look it up by the Strong’s number rather than the word itself? Glad you asked, well one Strong’s word can be translated many different ways in English and so you can never get a true or accurate word count by searching the English word in your bible. The most thorough and efficient method of bible study will require that you have computerized bible software. While you can do it without one, by using textbooks like a Strong’s concordance, it will take you much longer than just doing this:
This tool is the most important reason why everyone who loves the Word of God and is serious about leading others to the fountain of living waters should have a PC. This print screen is of E-sword a powerful tool for your PC that has thousands of dollars worth of information available for FREE!! If you get the Awakened Church version not only will they send you a disk but it will be loaded with all sorts of tools including dictionaries like the (AHLB), bible versions, timelines, pictures, encyclopedias and more. However, this program is not Mac compatible.
It’s impossible to follow the Shepherd if you don’t know what he said, no more than someone who speaks no English is likely to understand your instructions. They don’t even charge for postage but I would highly encourage you to donate money to them they are serious about getting the word out to as many people as possible.
I was only able to show you a sample of the search as my screen wasn’t large enough to contain the entire list, but I wanted you to notice that when you look it up by the Strong’s number you will see that the same number produced different words other than Shepherd. Which is why it is important that you look up words in the bible based on the original word used (Strong’s number) not by the word translated. This is how you do a word study when you study according to the Strong’s number rather than the English translation.
The first verse that this Strong’s number appears in is Genesis 4:2:
Notice that our word appears as “keeper” not “Shepherd”. So in digging deeper let’s look in context of the subject at hand. Extracting all the information Yah is revealing to us because as scripture makes clear in the volume of the book it is written of Him. (Psa. 40:7) So we see that Yah uses Abel as an example of one who is a Shepherd, and he tells you that he keeps sheep. How does this apply to Yahushah? He too reveals to us in the Gospel that He is the Good shepherd. (John 10) As we look more into the story of Abel we also find that He was murdered by His brother Cain for being one who offered the Father the acceptable sacrifice. (Gen. 4:8) What do we see in the life of Yahushah? He was murdered as the acceptable sacrifice. (John 15:25; John 1:29)
It is important to understand that we don’t serve God on our terms, but on His. Remembering that Cain did give God an offering, but God had no respect for his offering. Yahushah warns us in Matthew 7 of offerings that those who will say “Lord, Lord” will give to him, yet he will have no respect towards their offering, He will say He never knew them, why? Because they were lawless, meaning like Cain they offered God what they wanted, not what he asked for, and as he said to King Saul he says to all “to obey is better than to sacrifice”. (1 Sam. 15:22)
The Shepherd is only responsible for His sheep. No shepherd is required to keep any sheep other than those that belong to Him. This is very important because as we stated earlier the Shepherd/Sheep relationship is based on mutual acceptance. A sheep that doesn’t want to be kept has the ability to leave. The Shepherd goes after His, He is coming back to get His, and like David to take out the wolves, bears, lions, and Goliath’s that make merchandise of His sheep.
There are several verses that I would like for us to look at so that we can see continuity of use of this particular term. This will not be an exhaustive look, as you have been provided the tools to do that on your own, but it will give you food for thought to help aid you in your study if you so choose to learn more about the role of a shepherd. For obvious reasons sheep should be familiar with the Shepherd’s voice and I can’t think of a better way of becoming familiar with the Shepherd’s voice then by reading and understanding the word pictures provided to us in His word. Let’s look at a few people who were shepherds in scripture. We have already looked at Abel, and the next shepherd we see is Abraham. (Gen. 13) We see that both Abraham and Lot were shepherd’s and they delegated their herd to herdsmen. This reveals something important for us to understand, being responsible for something doesn’t often mean that you are directly involved in the ends and outs of that entity, but rather you ensure that you place responsible people over your flock. In the New Covenant writings it would translate to us in this way, “know those who labor amongst you” (1 Thess. 5:12)
The Path of Peace, I think it is important that we notice something here that would become a pattern concerning Abraham and His righteous seed. Notice, that when it came to him fighting with his nephew Lot, he would rather defer and separate then cause strife and contention. Abraham wasn’t caught up in stuff that is something serious to consider. Loving and shepherding someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you keep reigns on them to make them stay with you, but rather that you protect and always lead them in the way they should go. Simplifying the role of a Shepherd would be that his responsibility is to protect the sheep from danger and to lead them to food and water. If you know that you are unable to successfully do that than your responsibility as a Shepherd is to delegate it to someone who can, because your job is to do what is in the best interest of your sheep, not yourself. Thus the Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, as a husband is called to lay down his life for his wife and children. It’s an awesome responsibility that is not based on what you can get out of the relationship but rather what you should give.
As we read however, we will find that women were also responsible for being Shepherds. We see that Rachel also kept her father’s sheep. Scripture teach us that in Yah there is neither male nor female. (Gal. 3:28) When the Father gives you authority to do something then you can do it, because he enables you to do it. In many cases families only have daughters and no sons and especially in those cases it becomes necessary for women to step in.
If you are not aware of the story of Joseph then this would be a good time to read it before proceeding. For the sake of keeping it brief there will be a lot of details I am going to assume you already know as we zoom in on the relevant part of this story to understanding “Ra’ah”. Joseph is the favored son of Israel, who is not embraced by his brothers. What we do see concerning a shepherd is Yah reveals to us in this instance as well as with David who was tending his father’s sheep that the shepherd is the one who is sent by the Father. To further emphasize the spiritual picture Yah chooses for the author to reveal the spiritual name given to Jacob (Israel) rather than his given name by flesh “Jacob”. Yahushah sums it up this way:
|Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (Joh 10:7-18)
In this passage we see that Yahushah connects being the shepherd to being the door of the sheep. A door has a twofold purpose, it is a line of defense against predators, and a source of security for the prey. As a walled fortress to a city provides a source of comfort to its inhabitants so also does the word of God provide comfort to us, as a wall of life that provides life to those within it. We also see here the characteristics of a good shepherd versus those of a hireling (bad shepherd). A good shepherd, like David, like Yahushah, lays down their life for the sheep. As the sheep knows the shepherd’s voice so also does the Shepherd know those that are his.
In the case of Joseph he was sent by the Father to check on his brother’s who were instructed by their father to shepherd the sheep. However, as we see how they treated Joseph we can gather that they painted the picture of the hireling rather than the shepherd. Rather than care for the sheep (Joseph) they led him into a pit. (Gen. 37)
Defining terms Hebraically make it much easier to discern whether or not you are dealing with shepherds or hirelings, because a shepherd from a Hebraic point of view is based on what they do, not what they know or what degrees they have behind their name. Your name is based on your ability to keep your word, and your name will not be greater than your word. If your word is worthless your name is worthless. That is Hebrew thinking.
That stated now let’s look at the Hebrew word that makes up shepherd.
Ancient Hebrew Font courtesy of AHRC
The first character is the picture of a man’s head and has the meaning “Chief”, “leader”, “head” as all describe the position and authority given to Adam (mankind) from the Creator. The second character is the picture of an eye and carries the meaning “to see”, or “to know”. The last character means to “behold”, “to reveal”, or to “Look”. When we put pictures together we see the Shepherd represent the revelation of the man that is watching. We know YHWH is the One who watches us and there is nothing hidden from his sight. Therefore Yahushah represents the best example of what being a shepherd means.
Finally, we receive a foreshadow of the work and position of a Shepherd when we go to the Creation week and review the choice Yah used to focus on, on the day he created mankind, the ox and the lamb. Both of these animals represent the work of a servant and like David the ox represents a strong servant able to conquer lion and bear to protect his Master’s sheep. Then there is the lamb which represents the selfless sacrifice that would give his life to protect His Father’s sheep. Though David was a fierce warrior as it related to the enemy of God’s people he was also a compassionate and loving King that won the heart of His people. We see this same spirit demonstrated in Messiah Yahushah. The greatest example of a Good Shepherd has been walked out before us and is the Example the Father has given to us in His Son, Yahushah.
Next episode we will uncover YHWH of Host, the God who when Isaiah met him became speechless before him. YHWH is indeed worthy of hearing Holy, Holy, Holy, as HE alone is God Almighty.