Egyptians Despise Shepherds

Egyptians Despise Shepherds

17 January 2011

Today’s Reading: Genesis 44-46; Luke 18


33 Then he said, “When Pharaoh calls for you and asks you about your occupation, 34 you must tell him, ‘We, your servants, have raised livestock all our lives, as our ancestors have always done.’ When you tell him this, he will let you live here in the region of Goshen, for the Egyptians despise shepherds.” (Genesis 46:33-34 NLT)

Egypt was the most advanced culture and technology on earth. The Egyptians built stone cities and developed irrigation systems and roads and wheeled vehicles while most of the world was living in mud huts or tents and following the seasons, drinking from streams and ponds and moving along when the pasture was used up.

Joseph’s family had always been nomads, living in tents, raising flocks, moving with the seasons, living with their sheep, and smelling like their sheep. To the sophisticated Egyptians they were uneducated rednecks and camel-jockeys.

Egypt here is an icon of the world system – taking control, shaping the environment, creating efficient and impersonal systems to get things done. Jacob’s family, nomadic shepherds who led their flocks from place to place as the seasons changed, is iconic of God’s system of total dependence on him and complete obedience to his leading.

The world system still values and rewards power, the ability to take control of our circumstances, the ability to organize and strategize and build and “make things happen.” God made Joseph a successful leader in the “Egypt” system and God blessed many others though him and his effective leadership.

There are other leaders – shepherd leaders – whose style is to be with the people, to fully engage in their lives, leading, feeding, and protecting their flocks, never building cities or pyramids or systems, and I respect them for faithfully living out their calling.

In God’s economy, both Prime Ministers and Shepherds are very respectable!


Father, This morning I’ve been thinking about the fact that you put such a strong emphasis on shepherds in the Bible. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Jesus – Shepherds. Help me to think the way you think. Help me to never despise shepherds and the way shepherds lead and live and serve. Amen.

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