they know his voice: Repeated observations regarding shepherding in the Middle East confirm that sheep have the amazing ability to distinguish between the voice of their own shepherd and that of other shepherds or strangers. As Jesus indicated, shepherds would name each sheep, even when flocks were large. (Joh 10:3, 27) So from an early age, the sheep would hear the shepherd’s voice calling out their names as he guided and trained them. In addition, shepherds would use personalized sounds to distinguish themselves from other shepherds. They would teach the sheep to respond to different calls, or voice commands, in order to protect them from dangers or lead them to good pastures and water. Sheep can thus be said to know their shepherd’s unique voice, not only in the sense of identifying his voice as different from other voices but also in the sense of recognizing his tender care and protection for them individually and as a flock.
will by no means follow: The use of two Greek negatives with the verb emphatically expresses rejection of an idea, vividly emphasizing the permanence of Jesus’ words. In this context, the term stranger refers to someone who is not known to the sheep.
comparison: John is the only Gospel writer to use the Greek word pa·roi·miʹa. (Joh 10:6; 16:25, 29) It is similar in meaning to the Greek word pa·ra·bo·leʹ (“illustration” or “parable”) that is common in the other Gospels but not used at all in John’s account. (See study note on Mt 13:3.) The word pa·roi·miʹa may also convey the idea of a comparison or an analogy. Peter employed the same term with regard to the “proverb” of the dog that returns to its vomit and the sow that goes back to rolling in the mire. (2Pe 2:22) The same noun is used as the title of the book of Proverbs in the Greek Septuagint.
fine: Or “excellent; good.” The Greek word ka·losʹ may denote that which is intrinsically good and beautiful, something of fine quality. For example, the term is used of “fine fruit”; “fine soil”; “fine pearls.” (Mt 3:10; 13:8, 45) In this context, the term is used to denote that Jesus is a fine, excellent, superb shepherd.
life: Or “soul.” The meaning of the Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” has to be determined by the context. Here it refers to Jesus’ life, which he as the fine shepherd surrenders, or voluntarily gives up, for the benefit of his sheep.—See Glossary, “Soul.”
hired man: A flock of sheep was a valuable asset, so the owner, his children, or a relative often cared for these vulnerable creatures. (Ge 29:9; 30:31; 1Sa 16:11) An owner might also hire someone to care for the sheep. However, hired men were often motivated by the wages they received rather than by loyalty to the owner or concern for the sheep. (Compare Job 7:1, 2.) In the Scriptures, shepherding is used in the figurative sense of caring for, protecting, and nourishing the sheeplike servants of God. (Ge 48:15) Spiritual shepherds in the Christian congregation must avoid the type of attitude displayed by the “hired man.” (Joh 10:13) Rather, they strive to imitate Jehovah’s example as the caring Shepherd of his people (Ps 23:1-6; 80:1; Jer 31:10; Eze 34:11-16) and the self-sacrificing love displayed by Jesus, “the fine shepherd.”—Joh 10:11, 14; Ac 20:28, 29; 1Pe 5:2-4.
life: Or “soul.”—See study note on Joh 10:11.
bring in: Or “lead.” The Greek verb aʹgo used here can mean “to bring (in)” or “to lead,” depending on the context. One Greek manuscript dated to about 200 C.E. uses a related Greek word (sy·naʹgo) that is often rendered “to gather.” As the Fine Shepherd, Jesus gathers, guides, protects, and feeds the sheep that belong to this fold (also referred to as “little flock” at Lu 12:32) and his other sheep. These become one flock under one shepherd. This word picture emphasizes the unity that Jesus’ followers would enjoy.
listen: Here the Greek word for “listen” has the sense of “giving attention to, understanding, and acting upon.”
life: Or “soul.” The meaning of the Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” has to be determined by the context. Here it refers to Jesus’ life, which he was willing to surrender, or voluntarily give up, as a sacrifice.—See Glossary, “Soul.”
the Festival of Dedication: The Hebrew name of this festival is Hanukkah (chanuk·kahʹ), meaning “Inauguration; Dedication.” It was held for eight days, beginning on the 25th day of the month of Chislev, close to the winter solstice, (see study note on wintertime in this verse and App. B15) to commemorate the rededication of Jerusalem’s temple in 165 B.C.E. Syrian King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had shown his contempt for Jehovah, the God of the Jews, by desecrating His temple. For example, he built an altar on top of the great altar, where formerly the daily burnt offering had been presented. On Chislev 25, 168 B.C.E., to defile Jehovah’s temple completely, Antiochus sacrificed swine on the altar and had the broth from its flesh sprinkled all over the temple. He burned the temple gates, pulled down the priests’ chambers, and carried away the golden altar, the table of showbread, and the golden lampstand. He then rededicated Jehovah’s temple to the pagan god Zeus of Olympus. Two years later, Judas Maccabaeus recaptured the city and the temple. After the temple was cleansed, the rededication took place on Chislev 25, 165 B.C.E., exactly three years after Antiochus had made his disgusting sacrifice on the altar to Zeus. The daily burnt offerings to Jehovah were then resumed. There is no direct statement in the inspired Scriptures indicating that Jehovah gave Judas Maccabaeus victory and directed him to restore the temple. However, Jehovah had used men of foreign nations, such as Cyrus of Persia, to carry out certain purposes as regards His worship. (Isa 45:1) It is reasonable to conclude, then, that Jehovah might use a man of his dedicated people to accomplish His will. The Scriptures show that the temple had to be standing and operating in order for the prophecies regarding the Messiah, his ministry, and his sacrifice to be fulfilled. Also, the Levitical sacrifices were to be offered until the time when the Messiah would present the greater sacrifice, his life in behalf of mankind. (Da 9:27; Joh 2:17; Heb 9:11-14) Christ’s followers were not commanded to observe the Festival of Dedication. (Col 2:16, 17) However, there is no record that Jesus or his disciples condemned the celebrating of this festival.
wintertime: Referring to the last winter of Jesus’ ministry, in 32 C.E. The Festival of Dedication was in the month of Chislev, the ninth month, corresponding to November/December. In 32 C.E., the first day of the festival, Chislev 25, fell in the middle of December. (See App. B15.) It was common knowledge among the Jews that this festival occurred during wintertime. So the mention of wintertime may have been to emphasize the state of the weather as a reason for Jesus’ choice of a sheltered place for his teaching, in “the colonnade of Solomon.” (Joh 10:23) This location offered protection from the strong E wind in the winter.—See App. B11.
keep us: Or “keep our souls.” The meaning of the Greek word psy·kheʹ, traditionally rendered “soul,” has to be determined by the context. In some contexts, it can be used as the equivalent of a personal pronoun. Other examples of this usage in the Christian Greek Scriptures are Mt 12:18; 26:38; and Heb 10:38, where “my psy·kheʹ (soul)” can be rendered “I.”—See Glossary, “Soul.”
What my Father has given me is something greater than all other things: For this phrase, there are slightly different readings in Greek manuscripts and translations into other languages. Some manuscripts have a reading that can be rendered: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all others,” but many scholars consider that the main text rendering was likely the original reading.
one: Or “at unity.” Jesus’ comment here shows that he and his Father are unified in protecting sheeplike ones and leading them to everlasting life. Such shepherding is a joint task of the Father and the Son. They are equally concerned about the sheep, not allowing anyone to snatch them out of their hand. (Joh 10:27-29; compare Eze 34:23, 24.) In John’s Gospel, the unity in fellowship, will, and purpose between the Father and the Son is often mentioned. The Greek word here rendered “one” is, not in the masculine gender (denoting “one person”), but in the neuter gender (denoting “one thing”), supporting the thought that Jesus and his Father are “one” in action and cooperation, not in person. (Joh 5:19; 14:9, 23) That Jesus referred, not to an equality of godship, but to a oneness of purpose and action is confirmed by comparing the words recorded here with his prayer recorded in John chapter 17. (Joh 10:25-29; 17:2, 9-11) This is especially evident when he prays that his followers “may be one just as we are one.” (Joh 17:11) So the kind of oneness referred to in chapter 10 as well as in chapter 17 would be the same.—See study notes on Joh 17:11, 21; 1Co 3:8.
gods: Or “godlike ones.” Jesus here quotes from Ps 82:6, where the Hebrew word ʼelo·himʹ (gods) is used of men, human judges in Israel. They were “gods” in their capacity as representatives of and spokesmen for God. Similarly, Moses was told that he was to “serve as God” to Aaron and to Pharaoh.—Ex 4:16, ftn; 7:1, ftn.
in union with: Lit., “in.” In this context, the Greek preposition en is used to show close association. This use of the preposition is especially noteworthy in the writings of John and Paul. (Ga 1:22; 3:28; Eph 2:13, 15; 6:1) At 1Jo 3:24 and 4:13, 15, it describes a Christian’s relationship to God. Further supporting the rendering “in union with” is the way the preposition is used at Joh 17:20-23, where it occurs five times.