I just finished a book titled, And God Said — a fascinating linguistic approach to why the King James Version hides some of the Bible’s true meanings. My favorite example was that of a shepherd (ro’eh) in ancient Israel. Dr. Joel M. Hoffman gives some good examples of why a shepherd was not who we think of. Anticipating this chapter, I thought I knew what he was going to say because of the many discourses over the years comparing shepherds (leaders) to sheep herders (managers). Fortunately for me (and my lack of patience for things I already know), this was not what I’d expected at all.
In Jeremiah 25:35, God shows his power by saying that “the shepherds will have no way to flee.” Dr. Hoffman goes on to compare shepherds to marines, saying they had to be able to protect the sheep from wolves, lions, and bears. He later compares them to lawyers (since that’s a more modern way of protecting from danger), knights in shining armor (because there was a heroic element to their work) and even to kings (since there was something regal about a shepherd’s ability). They were fierce and noble. In fact, when David says that he’s a shepherd that can slay lions and bears to protect his herd (I Sam 17:34-35), he was actually declaring his confidence that he could take on Goliath, rather than demonstrating some smallness or humility. He was a killer shepherd and knew the Lord was on his side.
So when Dr. Hoffman brings this to the point in Psalm 23 where the Psalmist writes, “The Lord is My Shepherd”, instead of picturing a humble sheep herder with a staff, perhaps we should picture someone more like Ammon in the Book of Mormon who protects the king’s flocks by cutting off the enemies’ arms. Hoffman says, “The original model was a brave, strong, valiant, regal protector of the weak, providing safety and food, and ensuring tranquility.” (p. 144) On the next page he continues, “God will give me protection, guidance, security, and safety—like a ro’eh—so I’ll have everything I need and I won’t have anything to worry about.” I love that. We shouldn’t worry when we have faith in the Savior. He’s there for us and will always provide a way to get through our challenges, if we have patience and trust in Him.