Sheep Know the Voice of Their Shepherd
THE following report on shepherding in the Middle East casts interesting light on Jesus’ illustration at John 10:2-5, wherein he speaks of the sheep as knowing the voice of their shepherd and their being given names:
“The modern shepherd . . . has a wonderful memory, which retains the name of every sheep. The flocks sometimes contain several hundred, and yet each one has a name and the shepherd knows it, and calls every sheep by its proper name. . . . [One observer] tells of watching shepherds with flocks upon the slopes of Mount Hermon: ‘Each shepherd . . . trains his sheep to come at his call, to go in order, in twos or fours, in squares and circles; one from the outer circle in a flock of a thousand will come when its name is called.’ It is the voice of the shepherd that the sheep recognizes.
“A stranger once declared to a Syrian shepherd that the sheep knew the dress and not the voice of their master. The shepherd said it was the voice they knew. To prove this, he exchanged dresses with the stranger, who went among the sheep in the shepherd’s dress, calling the sheep in imitation of the shepherd’s voice, and tried to lead them. They knew not his voice, but when the shepherd called them, though he was disguised, the sheep ran at once at his call.”—Orientalisms in Bible Lands, by E. W. Rice, pp. 159-161.