Meet Zadok. He is the hero of The Walls of Arad, the third book in the “Journey to Canaan” series. Zadok is a shepherd—specifically, he is the shepherd of the Tabernacle flock. He has a gentle heart, one that Miriam decides is perfect for our heroine, Arisha. (You’ll meet her later.)
Ancient shepherds have a complicated history. In Abraham’s day, they were held in high esteem. Abraham and Lot were wealthy men, as were Isaac and Esau. The occupation was by necessity a nomadic one, especially with extremely large flocks. Once a man owned such a flock, however, he himself rarely spent much time with them. Young boys and even girls were hired to keep an eye on the sheep.
In Egypt, shepherds were looked down on. Egypt was an agrarian society, and the people were clean-shaven. They didn’t like and didn’t trust the long-haired, bearded nomads, which is one reason the Israelites were stuck out in Goshen.
Many think that it was around the time of the Exodus that the way people looked at shepherds began to change. Israel became attached to the land, the land they had yearned for for so long. The nomadic way of living became a thing of the past. By the time of Jesus’s birth, shepherds were despised. So many extra conditions had been added to the law by the rabbis that it was now impossible for a shepherd to ever be ritually clean, and they couldn’t go to Temple.
If the sheep inadvertently nibbled on grass on someone else’s land, the shepherd was a thief. It was also assumed that the hired men stole sheep from the flock and sold them for money. And a man that steals is a liar, and since they were also usually uneducated, their testimony in court was illegal.
A shepherd’s life was a hard one, even dangerous. He was exposed to extremes of heat and cold, his food was what he could find as he walked, he had to fight off predators such as lions, panthers, bears, and even robbers.
Then there are the sheep. Sheep are not particularly bright. They will keep eating the grass under their feet until it is literally all gone. Even running water can frighten them. They are entirely dependent upon their shepherd.
This is a real news story:
First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500 others followed, each leaping off the same cliff.
Over a thousand sheep jumped off a cliff for the sole reason that they followed each other. 450 of them died. The total estimated loss was $100,000. Almost every family in the village lost everything.
Sheep are prone to wander. Even if they have everything they need (green pastures and still waters), eventually they will just wander off. A shepherd must constantly be on guard. One of a shepherd’s main jobs is tracking down lost sheep.
Sheep are dumb and directionless. They are also defenseless. There is no fight, flight or even stand your ground. They have no claws, no fangs, no horns, no roar, no growl, no venom, no quills, no nothing. They have no speed to run. They aren’t even agile enough to turn very easily. If it’s close to shearing time their wool can be long and heavy, especially if it’s wet. They can’t fly or climb a tree. They aren’t very good at hiding, either.
All they have left is to band together. That usually leads to panic and running in circles, which leaves the outliers free to be picked off.Without a shepherd, sheep are totally helpless. Sound like any other beings you know? The Walls of Arad/June 15 Click To Tweet
It’s for good reason the Bible calls us sheep, and Jesus the Good Shepherd. We might not go marching off a cliff, but we’ve been known to follow the crowd into some other pretty stupid behaviors sometimes. We wander off, and by ourselves, we are utterly defenseless against the enemy’s attacks.
So we need to keep reminding ourselves:
The Lord is my Shepherd. I have everything I need.
The Walls of Arad releases June 15.
You can receive an eBook in exchange for an honest review now, or join my support team and receive a paperback copy, along with a version of the necklace which figures prominently in the novel!
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