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is armed in order to defend his charge, and in this he is very courageous. Many adventures with wild beasts occur not unlike that recounted by David, and in these very mountains; for, though there are now no lions here, there are wolves in abundance; and leopards and panthers, exceeding fierce, prowl about these wild wadies. They not unfrequently attack the flock in the very presence of the shepherd, and he must be ready to do battle at a moment's warning. I have listened with intense interest to their graphic descriptions of downright and desperate fights with these savage beasts. And when the thief and the robber come (and come they do), the faithful shepherd has often to put his life in his hand to defend his flock. I have known more than one case in which he had literally to lay it down in the contest. A A poor faithful fellow last spring, between Tiberias and Tabor, instead of fleeing, actually fought three Bedawîn robbers until he was hacked to pieces with their khanjars, and died among the sheep he was defending.
Some sheep always keep near the shepherd, and are his special favorites. Each of them has a name, to which it answers joyfully, and the kind shepherd is ever distributing to such choice portions which he gathers for that purpose. These are the contented and happy ones. They are in no danger of getting lost or into mischief, nor do wild beasts or thieves come near them. The great body, however, are mere worldlings, intent upon their own pleasures or selfish interests. They run from bush to bush, searching for variety or delicacies, and only now and then lift their heads to see where the shepherd is, or, rather, where the general flock is, lest they get so far away as to occasion remark in their little community, or rebuke from their keeper. Others, again, are restless and discontented, jumping into every body's field, climbing into bushes, and even into leaning trees, whence they often fall and break their limbs. These cost the good shepherd incessant trouble. Then there are others incurably reckless, who stray far away, and are often utterly lost. I have repeatedly seen a silly goat or sheep
11 Sam. xvii. 34-36.
running hither and thither, and bleating piteously after the lost flock, only to call forth from their dens the beasts of prey, or to bring up the lurking thief, who quickly quiets its cries in death.
Isaiah has a beautiful reference to the good shepherd: He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. Have you ever noticed these actions mentioned by the prophet ?
Yes, in every particular. In ordinary circumstances the shepherd does not feed his flock, except by leading and guiding them where they may gather for themselves; but there are times when it is otherwise. Late in autumn, when the pastures are dried up, and in winter, in places covered with snow, he must furnish them food or they die. In the vast oak woods along the eastern sides of Lebanon, between Baalbek and the cedars, there are then gathered innumerable flocks, and the shepherds are all day long in the bushy trees, cutting down the branches, upon whose green leaves and tender twigs the sheep and goats are entirely supported. The same is true in all mountain districts, and large forests are preserved on purpose. Life in these remote and wild woods is then most singular and romantic. The ring of the axe, the crash of falling trees, the shout of the shepherds, the tinkling of bells and barking of dogs, wake a thousand echoes along the deep wadies of Lebanon. I have ridden five hours at a stretch in the midst of these lively scenes, and the mere remembrance of them comes back now like distant music dying out sweetly along the solemn aisles of the wood. From early boyhood there has been within me an earnest sympathy with the mighty forest—something ever ready to sigh for such boundless contiguity of shade as these wide sheep-walks of Lebanon and Hermon afford. Can any thing be more poetic than this life of the Syrian shepherd ? It ought to be religious too. Far, far away, out on the lone mountain, with the everlasting hills around, and heaven above, pure, blue, and high, and still. There go and
! Is. xl. 11.
worship free from the impertinence of human rhetoric, and the noisy cadences of prima donnas courting applause—in spirit and in truth worship—in solemn silence and soul-subduing solitude worship the most high God in his temple not made with hands. There
His varied works of wonder shine,
Holy and reverend be His name !
you ever see a shepherd gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom?
Often; and he will gently lead along the mothers in those times, when to overdrive them even for a single day would be fatal, as Jacob said to his brother when he wanted to get rid of him: My lord knoweth that the flocks and herds with young are with me, and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock would die. This, by the way, proves that Jacob's flight was late in the autumn, when alone the flocks are in this condition. The same is implied in his immediately building booths at Succoth for their protection during the winter.2
Micah, perhaps, had noticed the flocks feeding in the wilderness somewhat as you describe them along the slopes of Lebanon. He says, Feed thy people with thy rod—the flock of thy heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood in the midst of Carmel; let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old.
No doubt the reference is to the same thing. Large parts of Carmel, Bashan, and Gilead are now covered with just such forests, which, at the proper season, are alive with countless flocks, which live upon the green leaves and tender branches.
How do you explain the expression, Feed—with thy rod ? The word signifies both to feed and to rule, and both i Gen. xxxiii. 13. 2 Gen. xxxiii. 17. 3 Micah, vii. 14.
ideas are natural. The shepherd invariably carries a staff or rod with him when he goes forth to feed his flock. It is often bent or hooked at one end, which gave rise to the shepherd's crook in the hand of the Christian bishop. With this staff he rules and guides the flock to their green pastures, and defends them from their enemies. With it, also, he corrects them when disobedient, and brings them back when wandering. This staff is associated as inseparably with the shepherd as the goad is with the plowman. David, in the 4th verse of the 23d Psalm, has an extended reference to the shepherd and his kind offices, and among them is an allusion to this rod: “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me”-in every way in which these are employed by the good shepherd in the discharge of his office.
And now the lights are out in the village, the shepherds are asleep by the side of their flocks, the tinkling bell from the fold falls faintly on the still night air, and the watch-dog bays drowsily from his kennel at the gate. Good-night, fair world; 'tis time to seek repose, and
"The timely dew of sleep, Now falling with soft slumbrous weight,
Inclines our eyelids." Let us first read, and meditate a while upon that delightful chapter in John,' where our blessed Saviour appropriates all these characters of a good shepherd to himself.
March 2d. Either from association of ideas, or from the barking of dogs, the wailing of jackals, and the tinkling of bells, my head has been crowded with visions of shepherds, and flocks, and wild beasts, and wild Arabs, all night long. Then, ere it was fully light, the reality was before me, and I have been out watching an Oriental village wake into life as the morning comes on. There were some astir long before the dawn, loading donkeys and camels, and setting off as if going to market. Then come plowmen, goad in hand, and plow and
John x. 1-29.