Shepherds: First Guests to the Manger

shepherdAnd they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. — Luke 2:16 (ESV)

To Read: Luke 2:1–20

Biblical Synopsis: As shepherds watched their flocks, an angel appeared with news of great joy over the Savior’s birth and a multitude of angels sang glory to God. They made haste to see the newborn king making known the angel’s report.

Application for Today: Many in the ancient world despised these low men on the totem pole (cf. “every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians”; Gen. 46:34). But there is also a sense in which the term “shepherd” engenders great respect. Many of Israel’s revered forefathers—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David—claimed the trade of sheepherding. God himself is also described as a shepherd to his people (cf. Ps. 23) and Jesus as the “good shepherd” who “lays down his life” (John 10:11).

The first royal proclamation of Jesus Christ’s birth came to shepherds watching over their flocks. Some emphasize the incredible wonder of the prince of heaven’s birth announcement going first to the poorest of the poor.

Yet, perhaps we miss the point when we overemphasize this part of the story.

The Old Testament foretells the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem (cf. Micah 5:2) but it also mentions “the tower of the flock” in the same context (Micah 4:8).

Traditionally, this tower has often been referred to as the “Migdal Eder”—the watchtower in the field where the best sheep were set aside for sacrifices in Jerusalem. This has led some to believe Jesus was literally born at the “Migdal Eder.” Others view this as a statement of God’s kingdom being proclaimed or established in the same vicinity.

Regardless of one’s viewpoint, in literary terms, there is a symbolic and poetic connection between the shepherds and the birth of the Good Shepherd. Those who cared for the sacrificial animals were among the first to welcome and behold the Good Shepherd who would be led like a sheep to be slaughtered (cf. Isa. 53) in the greatest sacrifice of all. Utter poetry; Sheer beauty.