23 Psalm and the Gender of Shepherds

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.

Joanna joannaseibert.com