23 Psalm and Who Are the Shepherds
“The Lord is my shepherd.” Psalm 23
Malinda Elizabeth Berry reminds us in a recent article, “Who is my Shepherd,” in the online The Christian Century’s Sunday Coming, July 22, Year B. Christiancentury.org, July 19, 2018 about a frequent misconception about the gender of shepherds. In biblical times shepherding was often done by young girls as well as boys and men. She reminds us that beautiful Rachel was tending her father Laban’s sheep when Jacob first saw her and fell in love with her. (Genesis 29: 9-10) Zipporah and her sisters were trying to water their father’s sheep when Moses drove away some other shepherds who were bothering them. (Exodus 2:16)
We may also imply from this that these young and fair maidens were also just as masterful with a sling shot as young David!
Berry asks us if we have ever seen any bible story pictures or paintings with girls as shepherds? Indeed, I could only find a few, this one by Hungarian painter, Marko Andrea (1887) called Shepherd Girl. Berry then challenges us to consider having girls as well as boys dressed up as shepherds in this year’s Christmas pageant! (At our staff meeting, Luke, our Family Ministries Coordinator at St. Mark’s, also reminded me that unknown to me, St. Mark’s had been having girl shepherds for years!)
For myself, this is one more example of a tradition that shepherds should be only boys or men that does not ring true with historical facts. It makes me wonder why I didn’t think of girls as shepherds even after having read the stories of Rachel and Zipporah more times than I can remember. Now it is so obvious.
I hope you can share my excitement with Berry’s new information about stories we thought we knew so well. It reminds us not to gloss over old Bible stories but rather hope to see new insights each time we read them. This also encourages us to keep reading what others are discovering in their journeys as well through the Bible. It is a reminder that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and continually teaching us new things and new insights in old stories.