Matthew 9:35-38 NA28

76, II
35 Καὶ περιῆγεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὰς πόλεις πάσας καὶ τὰς κώμας διδάσκων ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς αὐτῶν καὶ κηρύσσων τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας καὶ θεραπεύων πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν.Mt 4:23

77, VI
36 Ἰδὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους ἐσπλαγχνίσθη περὶ αὐτῶν,Mt 9:36 Mk 6:34 Mt 14:14 Mt 15:32 Mt 18:27 Mt 20:34 Mk 1:41 Lk 7:13 Mt 10:6 1 Pe 2:25 Nu 27:17 Jdt 11:19 2 Ch 18:16 Eze 34:5 Zec 10:2 Mt 9:37 Lk 10:2 Jn 4:35 Re 14:15 Is 27:12 Mt 13:30 Mt 20:1–16
“>* ὅτι ἦσαν ἐσκυλμένοι καὶ ἐρριμμένοι ὡσεὶ πρόβατα μὴ ἔχοντα ποιμένα.

78, V
37 τότε λέγει τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ· Ὁ μὲν θερισμὸς πολύς, οἱ δὲ ἐργάται ὀλίγοι·

38 δεήθητε οὖν τοῦ κυρίου τοῦ θερισμοῦ ὅπως ἐκβάλῃ ἐργάτας εἰς τὸν θερισμὸν αὐτοῦ.

Faithlife Study Bible Notes

9:35–38 These final verses summarize Jesus’ ministry (compare 4:23). They also set up the next chapter, in which Jesus sends out His disciples.

9:36 like sheep that did not have a shepherd Jesus’ compassion for the people was intensified by the lack of leadership to help them (compare John 10:1–18Ezek 34). Without a shepherd, sheep are prone to wander and vulnerable to danger.

The Old Testament often portrays Israel as God’s flock and the nation’s leaders as shepherds—who failed in their responsibility to look after for the sheep (e.g., Num 27:172 Sam 5:2Isa 56:11Jer 10:21).

 Shepherding LTW

9:38 that he send out workers into his harvest Sets the stage for the events of Matt 10, as Jesus commissions His disciples to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.

Further notation (by Wayne Baxtor) regarding Sheparding from the Lexham Theological Wordbook:

Shepherding is the care and supervision a shepherd offers a flock. In the Bible, shepherding and related imagery are often used metaphorically to depict God’s pastoral care of Israel in the ot and to depict how Jesus and his leaders attended to the Church in the nt.


Concept Summary

By far the most important Hebrew term used to express the concept of shepherding in the ot is the verb רָעָה (rāʿâ, “to shepherd”), with the most common form being the participle רֹעֶה (rōʿeh, “shepherding, shepherd”). The participle is used metaphorically almost half of the time in the ot. In the Septuagint, the usual translations of rāʿâ (including its participle) are the noun ποιμήν (poimēn, “shepherd”) and the verb ποιμαίνω (poimainō, “to shepherd”), which are thus the main Septuagint words for shepherding. Occasionally the Hebrew verb is instead translated with βόσκω (boskō, “to tend”) and νέμω (nemō, “to pasture”). Given this background, it is not surprising that poimēn and poimainō are the key words used for shepherding in the nt; boskō occurs less frequently and is never used for Jesus, while nemō does not appear in the nt at all.


Theological Overview

Fundamental to the ot concept of shepherding is the metaphorical usage of רֹעֶה (rō‘eh). The biblical authors metaphorically describe various figures as providing to Israel the kind of protection, provision, and overall care that literal shepherds provided to their flocks; these figures include Moses (e.g., Num 27:17); David (e.g., 2 Sam 5:2) and other Israelite kings (e.g., 1 Kgs 22:17Jer 23:1–2); nonmonarchical Jewish leaders like prophets (e.g., Jer 17:16Zech 11:4–9); and even military commanders (e.g., Jer 6:2Mic 5:5). Most significantly, biblical writers routinely metaphorically apply the concept of shepherding for God: He is depicted as Israel’s care-giving Shepherd (e.g., Psa 23:1Jer 31:10) who grants deliverance to those who follow him (e.g., Gen 48:15; Psa 28:9) and who even provides his flock with wisdom (Eccl 12:11).

Following the manner in which ot writers apply shepherding imagery to God, nt authors apply the terms ποιμήν (poimēn, “shepherd”) and ποιμαίνω (poimainō, “to shepherd”) to Jesus. He is called the “Good Shepherd (poimēn)” (John 10:11) and the “Great Shepherd (poimēn) of the sheep” (Heb 13:20) because the culmination of his shepherding was his sacrificial, atoning death on the cross for his flock. Similar to how the ot applies shepherding imagery to Israel’s leaders, the nt employs the concept for congregational leaders (e.g., Acts 20:28). An important difference, however, concerns the scope of shepherding: In the ot, the shepherding of leaders most often revolves around geopolitical ruling, whereas nt writers present the act of shepherding as teaching (e.g., Eph 4:11) and congregational oversight (e.g., 1 Pet 5:1–2).

Lexical Information

Old Testament

רָעָה (rāʿâ). vb. to shepherd, to pasture, to tend, to grazeTo care for flock animals (sheep or goats).

The core meaning of this verb is “to shepherd, care for flocks.” The participle form רֹעֶה (rōʿeh) is very common and usually refers to a shepherd. The verb and its participle are sometimes used to describe shepherding of literal flocks (e.g., Exod 2:171 Sam 17:15), but they are also often used metaphorically. Leaders of nations are often referred to as shepherds or as shepherding their people. Thus, Moses and Joshua are likened to shepherds (Num 27:17Isa 63:11), as are Israel’s judges (2 Sam 7:7) and the nation’s kings (1 Kgs 22:17). When the leaders fail to rule or guide the nation responsibly, God promises to judge those leaders harshly and replace them with his own shepherds (e.g., Ezek 34). God’s shepherding of Israel involves reigning over his people (e.g., Psa 80:1); his shepherding activity also includes delivering his flock from individual dangers (e.g., Gen 48:15–16) and rescuing them from corporate captivity (e.g., Jer 31:8–11). Moreover, in the wake of the Babylonian exile, God promises to shepherd his injured flock by gathering together the lost, healing their wounds, and re-establishing them in their pasture land (Ezek 34:13–16).

צֹאן (ṣōʾn). n. fem. flock, sheep, goats. A collective term for small livestock (sheep and goats); the singular refers to a group of animals, not an individual animal.

This word usually refers to literal flocks of sheep or goats. Since shepherding describes the act of taking care of sheep, metaphors about God shepherding Israel sometimes characterize Israel as God’s flock (ṣōʾn)—often but not always in metaphorical passages that also include רֹעֶה (rōʿeh, “shepherd”). The focus of metaphors that use ṣōʾn alone naturally tends to be on the sheep rather than on the shepherd. These metaphors can describe the special relationship Israel has with God; thus, Psa 100:3 describes Israel as “his people, the sheep (ṣōʾn) of his pasture (מַרְעִיתmarʿît).” These metaphors also can describe how God intervenes on their behalf; thus, in Mic 2:12 God says that he will set the remnant of Israel together “like sheep (ṣōʾn) in a fold, like a flock (עֵדֶרʿēder) in its pasture.” They can also illustrate Israel’s awful suffering at the hands of other nations: Israel has been made “like sheep (ṣōʾn) for slaughter” (Psa 44:11). Isaiah 53:6 (esv) uses such a metaphor to depict the nation’s moral laxity: “All we like sheep (ṣōʾn) have gone astray.”

עֵדֶר (ʿēder). n. masc. flock, herd. A group of livestock.

This word literally refers to a flock or herd of sheep or other livestock; for example, Gen 32:16 uses it for herds of goats, sheep, camels, cattle, and donkeys. It is often used like צֹאן (ṣōʾn, “flock, sheep”) to refer to God’s people as his flock; for example, Psa 78:52 refers to God leading his people through the wilderness like sheep (ṣōʾn) and like a flock (ʿēder), and Jeremiah (Jer 13:17) refers to exile as Yahweh’s flock (ʿēder) being taken captive.

מַרְעִית (marʿît). n. fem. pasture. A place where domestic animals graze.

In the ot, this word is only used metaphorically. It mostly occurs in expressions referring to the people of Israel as the sheep (צֹאןṣōʾn) or people (עַםʿam) of God’s pasture (marʿît; e.g., Ezek 34:31Psa 79:13). In Jeremiah 25:36 it is used in a metaphor about human leaders as shepherds (רֹעֶהrōʿeh) whose pasture (marʿît) Yahweh devastates.

שֵׁבֶט (šēbeṭ). n. masc. rod, staff, club, scepter. A staff or rod was a key piece of shepherding equipment.

This word literally refers to a staff or rod. It could refer to a shepherd’s staff (e.g.Lev 27:32), to a rod used to strike someone as punishment (e.g., Prov 23:13), or to a scepter as a symbol of kingship (e.g., Gen 49:10). Biblical writers refer to God’s rod (šēbeṭ), likewise, as an instrument of comfort (e.g., Psa 23:4), discipline (e.g., Isa 30:31), and just kingship (e.g., Psa 45:6). The word is also used in more explicit shepherding imagery that describes God using רָעָה (rāʿâ, “to shepherd”; e.g., Psa 23:14Mic 7:14).

נָהַל (nāhal). vb. lead or guide to a watering place, give rest to, refresh. To lead to a place of rest or refreshment.

This word can be used for supplying literal livestock with food (Gen 47:14), but more often it is used for God leading Israel or individual Israelites. God led (nāhal) Israel out of its Egyptian bondage (e.g., Exod 15:13). Isaiah 40:11 portrays God caring for his people after the exile in Babylon as a shepherd (רֹעֶהrōʿeh) tending (רָעָהrāʿâ) his flock (עֵדֶרʿēder) and leading (nāhal) the nursing ewes among them.

בּוֹא (bôʾ). vb. to come in, go in, lead in. To enter (a place).

This is a basic word for “to enter, come in, go in.” Leading sheep in and out was one of the duties of a shepherd; thus, when Moses was about to die he asked God to provide Israel with someone who would lead the community in going out (יָצָאyāṣāʾ) and coming in (bôʾ) so that they would not be like sheep (צֹאןṣōʾn) without a shepherd (רֹעֶהrōʿehNum 27:15–17). The word bôʾ often appears in sustained shepherding imagery involving רֹעֶה (rōʿeh). So, too, the psalmist depicts God as bringing (bôʾ) his people to the land of Canaan (Psa 78:54), while the prophets describe God as bringing (bôʾ) his nation back into Palestine from their Babylonian captivity (e.g., Jer 31:8–9).

יָצָא (yāṣāʾ). vb. to go out, come out, go forth. To go out (from a place).

This is a basic word for “to go out.” As mentioned above in the entry for בּוֹא (bôʾ, “to come in”), leading sheep in and out was one of the duties of a shepherd; thus, this word often occurs as part of broader shepherding imagery. The Israelites acknowledged that although Saul had been their king, it was David who had led them out (yāṣāʾ) and brought them in (bôʾ) on their military campaigns; they connected this with David being the shepherd (רָעָהrāʿâ) of Israel according to God’s word (2 Sam 5:2). God charges his servant to tell the captives to come out (yāṣāʾ) so that God can be their shepherd and give them rest (Isa 49:9–10). As Israel’s Shepherd (רֹעֶהrōʿeh), God will cause his people to come out (yāṣāʾ) of their captivity and will bring (bôʾ) them to the mountains of Palestine (Ezek 34:12–13). The prophet Micah likens God’s shepherding (rāʿâ) in his day to the time Israel came out (yāṣāʾ) of their Egyptian bondage (Mic 7:14–15).

New Testament

ποιμήν (poimēn). n. shepherd, sheep-herderA person who herds sheep.

This is one of the major Septuagint translations of רָעָה (rāʿâ, “to shepherd”), especially of the participle רֹעֶה (rōʿeh, “shepherd”). In the nt, poimēn is only used literally in Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:8–20); the presence of shepherds conveys the lowly circumstances of his birth. Ephesians (Eph 4:11) once refers to congregational leaders as shepherds (poimēn). The nt applies ot metaphors about shepherding to Christ: Jesus had compassion on the crowds because they were like sheep (πρόβατονprobaton) without a shepherd (poimēnMatt 9:36Mark 6:34; compare Num 27:171 Kgs 22:17), and he will be the final judge of humankind by separating them “like a shepherd (poimēn) separates the sheep (probaton) from the goats (ἔριφοςeriphos)” (Matt 25:32 leb; compare Ezek 34:19). Jesus applies Zechariah 13:7 to himself: “I will strike the shepherd (poimēn) and the sheep (probaton) will be scattered” (Mark 14:27Matt 26:31). In John 10:2–16 Jesus repeatedly characterizes himself as the good shepherd (poimēn) of the flock, his people.

ποιμαίνω (poimainō). vb. to shepherd, tend, pasture; figuratively, to lead, guide, ruleTo care for sheep.

This word is related to ποιμήν (poimēn, “shepherd”) and is the other major Septuagint translation of רָעָה (rāʿâ, “to shepherd”). The word poimainō is used literally in Luke 17:7, but the nt more often uses it metaphorically. Congregational leaders are described as shepherding (poimainō) their flock, i.e., offering spiritual oversight (e.g., John 21:16Acts 20:281 Pet 5:2), but they do so as under-shepherds to Jesus, the “Chief Shepherd” (ἀρχιποίμενοςarchipoimenos1 Pet 5:4). Matthew uses poimainō in a quoted prophecy about Jesus’ earthly mission to Israel (Matt 2:6), while Revelation uses it (within a citation of Psa 2:8–9) to portray Jesus ruling (poimainō) over the nations at the end of time (Rev 2:2712:519:15).

πρόβατον (probaton). n. neut. sheepA kind of small livestock.

This is the usual Septuagint translation of Hebrew צֹאן (ṣōʾn, “flock, sheep”) and שֶׂה (śeh, “sheep, lamb”). In the nt, probaton is usually used metaphorically, but sometimes it is used literally (e.g., Matt 12:11Rev 18:13). New Testament writers often use it in conjunction with ποιμήν (poimēn, “shepherd”) or ποιμαίνω (poimainō, “to shepherd”; e.g., Matt 9:36John 10:1–27). When used on its own, i.e., without poimēn or poimainō, the focus of the metaphor is on the sheep rather than on shepherding, as with ṣōʾn in the ot. Thus, it is applied to God’s people Israel (e.g., Matt 10:6) and to godly people in general at the time of final judgment (Matt 25:32–33).

ποίμνιον (poimnion). n. neut.; ποίμνη (poimnē). n. fem. flockA group of sheep.

These two words are related to ποιμήν (poimēn, “shepherd”) and literally mean “flock of sheep.” The word poimnē refers to literal flocks of sheep in Luke 2:8 and 1 Cor 9:7, but elsewhere both words refer metaphorically to the people of God. Matthew 26:31 and John 10:16 refer to Jesus as the shepherd (poimēn) of the flock (poimnē), while other passages (1 Pet 5:2–3Acts 20:28–29) refer to Christian leaders as shepherds (poimēn) or overseers of the flock (poimnion).

ἀρνίον (arnion). n. neut. sheep, lamb. Originally a lamb; by the time of the nt, could refer to a sheep of any age.

This word occurs in the nt only in books attributed to the Apostle John, mostly in the book of Revelation. It appears in a literal sense only in Rev 13:11. Of its metaphorical uses, it once refers to the people of God (John 21:15); otherwise it is used in metaphors expressing different facets of John’s Christology: Christ the Lamb (arnion) dwells in the throne room of God and receives worship (Rev 5:6–13); he is “slain” in appearance because of his sacrificial death (Rev 5:6); he is a warrior lamb who will ultimately conquer his enemies (Rev 17:14); and he will eventually experience and be at the center of the consummation of God’s heavenly kingdom, the marriage supper of the lamb (e.g., Rev 19:9).

βόσκω (boskō). vb. feed, tendTo feed or otherwise care for animals.

In the nt, this word is mostly used literally. It is used for grazing swine (Matt 8:3033Luke 15:15). Its only metaphorical usage in the nt is in John 21: Jesus tells Peter, “Feed (boskō) my lambs (arnion)” (John 21:15), and “Feed (boskō) my sheep (probaton)” (John 21:17)—i.e., exercise pastoral care over Christ’s flock.

Wayne Baxter


via Logos Bible Software