Date of Award
Restricted Access Thesis
College of Theology, Arts, & Sciences
Dr. Michael A. Thomas
With the advent of kings in the ancient world, the hierarchy between the gods, the kings, and the people needed definition and structure. Early on, the ancient near east developed the idea that the king is responsible for social justice towards the people and that they are given that role by the gods. Covenants were made between the gods, and the kings, and the people to further define that responsibility. These covenants were mutually beneficial and defined the attitude that a king ought to have toward his subjects: one of beneficent provision. In a pastoral society, the ubiquitous shepherd became a term used to describe kings because of the similarities in their duties: feeding, leading, and protecting their flocks.
The Hebrews also adopted this idea of a shepherd-king. They referred to the LORD as their shepherd who established kings over them to be his under-shepherds. He made covenants with his people agreeing to take care of them and be their God if they would obey him. Ezekiel 34 is a particularly detailed example of the LORD’s relationship with his people. Because so many of the under-shepherds acted like wolves instead of good shepherds of the sheep, the LORD said that he would come to seek his lost and scattered sheep to bring them to himself and be their shepherd again. He would then establish a shepherd like David to be over the flock.
Christianity came out of this environment in the Jewish perspective and answered the question, “Who is this good shepherd like David?’ with Jesus. John 10 parallels Ezekiel 34 in its use of similar language and ideas. Jesus calls himself the good shepherd from the LORD who is going to punish the bad shepherds and gather the LORD’s flock to himself to be in communion with him and the LORD.