Shepherd (To) - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words

Usage Number: 1
Part Of Speech: Verb
Strong's Number: H7462
Original Word: ra‘â
Usage Notes: "to pasture, shepherd." This common Semitic root appears in Akkadian, Phoenician, Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Arabic. It is attested in all periods of Hebrew and about 170 times in the Bible. (The word should be distinguished from the verb "to have dealings with or associate with.")

Ra‘â represents what a shepherd allows domestic animals to do when they feed on grasses in the fields. In its first appearance Jacob tells the shepherds: "Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle should be gathered together: water ye the sheep, and go and feed them" (Gen. 29:7). Ra‘â can also represent the entire job of a shepherd. So "Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and [he was still a youth]" (Gen. 37:2). Used metaphorically this verb represents a leader's or a ruler's relationship to his people. At Hebron the people said to David: "Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel" (2 Sam. 5:2). The verb is used figuratively in the sense "to provide with nourishment" or "to enliven": "The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom" (Prov. 10:21).

Ra‘â is used intransitively describing what cattle do when they feed on the grass of the field. So Pharaoh dreamed that "there came up out of the river seven well-favored kine and fat-fleshed; and they fed in a meadow" (Gen. 41:2). This usage is applied metaphorically to men in Isa. 14:30: "And [those who are most helpless] shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety…." This word is used to describe destruction: "Also the children of Noph and Tahapanes have broken [literally, "consumed as a domestic animal utterly bares a pasture"] the crown of thy head" (Jer. 2:16).

Usage Number: 2
Part Of Speech: Noun
Strong's Number: H7462
Original Word: ra‘â

Usage Notes: "shepherd." This noun occurs about 62 times in the Old Testament. It is applied to God, the Great Shepherd, who pastures or feeds His sheep (Psa. 23:1-4; cf. John 10:11). This concept of God, the Great Shepherd, is very old, having first appeared in the Bible on Jacob's lips in Gen. 49:24: "…From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel."

When applied to human kings, ro‘eh recalls its usage among non-Israelites. There it depicts the king as the head of the cultus (officials public worship) and the mediator between the god(s) and men. It also suggests that he is the center of national unity, the bestower of every earthly blessing, and the dispenser of justice. Interestingly, no biblical king claimed the title ro‘eh for himself (cf. 2 Sam. 5:2). In later times leaders other than the kings were also called "shepherds" (cf. Isa. 44:28; Ezek. 34:2).

Other nouns derived from the verb ra‘â occur infrequently. Mir‘eh, which occurs 12 times, means "pasture or pasturage" in the sense of where animals graze, and/or what they graze on (Gen. 47:4). Mar‘ît appears 10 times and refers to a "pasture" (Psa. 74:1). Re‘i is found once and means "pasture" (1 Kings 4:23).

Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words