Scenes From the Promised Land
Visit the Land, Visit the Sheep!
THOUSANDS of Christians have visited the Promised Land, feeling that seeing the places where events occurred would help them to understand the Bible, making it more meaningful. And it has.
Whether you have visited literally or you have visited mentally by studying books and articles about the land, what about visiting the sheep? ‘What do sheep have to do with the Promised Land?’ you may wonder. Actually, sheep were so much a part of life in Bible times that a visit to the Promised Land is, in a sense, incomplete without including sheep.
The photographs you see here can be part of your visit, since sheep that may be seen in the region today are much like the ones common during the Biblical period.* Their broad tail is heavy with fat. (Leviticus 7:3; 9:19) The thick wool is usually white. But remember that Jacob’s large flock included “sheep speckled and with color patches, and . . . dark-brown sheep.”—Genesis 30:32.
This same account illustrates that a man having a large flock was considered wealthy. (Genesis 30:43) We read of Job: “His livestock got to be seven thousand sheep and three thousand camels and five hundred spans of cattle and five hundred she-asses . . . [He] came to be the greatest of all the Orientals.” (Job 1:3; 42:12) Or recall that Nabal had 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats. What do you think his status and influence were in David’s day? (1 Samuel 25:2) But exactly why did a large flock constitute great wealth?
It was because sheep provided their shepherd or owner with valuable products. The wool itself was a renewing asset. Proverbs 31:13, 21, 22 helps us to see how a wise, industrious wife could use such to make clothing for her family or garments that could be sold. (Job 31:20) Wool was an important trading commodity. That is implied in the comment that a Moabite king “became a sheep raiser, and he paid to the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs and a hundred thousand unshorn male sheep.” (2 Kings 3:4) Yes, they were “unshorn” sheep; their abundant wool added to their worth.
Male sheep, rams, could have impressive horns, such as in the photograph to the right. Does this call to your mind that a ram’s horn was used to announce the Jubilee? (Leviticus 25:8-10) Similar hollow horns were used in sounding alarm signals or directing war maneuvers.—Judges 6:34; 7:18, 19; Joel 2:1.
Understandably, if you had a flock of sheep, you were ensured a source of food because sheep were among the clean animals that Israelites could eat. (Deuteronomy 14:4) The meat (mutton or lamb) could be boiled or roasted. Roasted sheep was a central element in the annual Passover. (Exodus 12:3-9) Sheep were also a regular source of milk, used for drinking and for cheese making.—1 Samuel 17:17, 18; Job 10:10; Isaiah 7:21, 22.
No visit to the sheep would be complete without noting the close bond between the flock and its shepherd. A faithful shepherd cared for his sheep. As Jesus mentioned, they would recognize their shepherd’s voice and respond when he called them by name. (John 10:3, 4) If one was missing, the attentive shepherd would search for it. When finding the lost sheep, he might put it on his shoulders and carry it back to the flock.—Luke 15:4, 5.
David drew on his personal experience with a flock when he likened himself to a sheep having Jehovah as its Shepherd. David was protected, as sheep were defended from attacking animals. The sheep could follow the lead of their caring shepherd. If they got injured, he dressed their wounds, perhaps with soothing oil. What a contrast to the selfish actions of Israel’s leaders, described at Ezekiel 34:3-8!
The Bible contains numerous prophetic and figurative references to sheep. So your visiting, getting familiar with, the sheep of the Promised Land can deepen your understanding of terms such as “little flock,” “the Lamb of God,” and “other sheep.”—Luke 12:32; John 1:36; 10:16.
The above photograph of sheep in the wilderness of Judea can be studied in the 1992 Calendar of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.
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