We have all heard the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth probably more times than we can count and when someone talks about the nativity scene you might even have a specific image that pops into your head. For example, the shepherds, when you think about the shepherds does an image of a middle-aged man with a beard come to mind? If so you are not alone because until yesterday I would have pictured the same image. It is all around us, every nativity set had a few middle-aged men with a lamb by their side and even the sermons preached described these shepherds as the lowest of the low men in that culture. But I’m going to plead the case that the shepherds were not middle-aged men. Now that poses the question if they were not middle-aged men who were they? 

Let me start with some facts, in Luke 2 we have the story of the birth of Jesus. Luke 2:8 is where it starts talking about the shepherds. Each time we see the shepherds mentioned they are grouped together using the terms they, us, or the shepherds. So that really doesn’t give us anything to go on, we need to dig deeper and look at the culture that was present during this time. So that is exactly what I did. I had never really thought about the shepherds in any other light than what I had been told or seen in those nativity sets. That was until yesterday when I saw an Instagram post from Dave Adamson {@aussiedave}. Dave was one of the first online pastors at a church, he started in 2008. He has also done an extensive study in Hebrew and the bible in general. This guy knows his stuff and I believe he is a trustworthy source. What he posted yesterday flipped this image of how I viewed the shepherds on its head and made me really excited. Even though I trust what he was saying I also wanted to research it for myself and dive deeper into the scripture. So that is exactly what I did and I’m so excited to share what I found with you today! 

Before we go any further, to really find the context of scripture you have to take yourself out of the equation. The culture was completely different than what we have today and especially the culture we have in America. So with that in mind let’s move forward.  In biblical times shepherds were typically the youngest in the family. Around the age of 8 and 9 years old is when they would start going out into the fields. The youngest boys would shepherd the larger livestock while the youngest girls would typically shepherd the goats and the sheep. If the family didn’t have any girls or not enough daughters the youngest son would also get assigned to sheep and goat duty. We can find proof of this in a couple of different places in scripture. First, in 1 Samuel 16:10-11, this is when Samuel comes to Jesse after the Lord had rejected Saul as king. 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” 

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Jesse didn’t have any daughters so David, the youngest, had the job of tending to the sheep. The fact that David wasn’t there to be presented with his older brothers shows us that he was overlooked by his family and probably viewed as the runt of the group. He would have been the last one chosen for anything of importance by man’s standards, but God specifically chose David for something greater. That defiantly gives some validity that the youngest of the family would have been a shepherd, but does it prove the possibility that the youngest females would have been shepherds? Let’s go to Exodus 2:16-17, 16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters who came as usual to draw water and fill the water troughs for their father’s flocks. 17 But some other shepherds came and chased them away. So Moses jumped up and rescued the girls from the shepherds. Then he drew water for their flocks. Here we see these seven daughters tending to their flocks just as shepherds would. In verse 17 when it says “some other shepherds” that makes me think that these seven daughters would also have been viewed as shepherds. Which would fit the findings of the youngest daughters would have been tending to the sheep and goats. However, it never comes out and says that they were shepherds.

 I feel like if this was an infomercial we would be arriving at the point where the host says, but wait there’s more. Because I found more and it’s a big piece of evidence, but we have to go toward the beginning. In Genesis 29 we see Jacob seeing Rachel for the first time. Genesis 29:9  Jacob was still talking with them when Rachel arrived with her father’s flock, for she was a shepherd. Unlike the verse in Exodus where it doesn’t name the daughters specifically as shepherds, you can’t argue when it clearly states that Rachel was a shepherd. That gives so much value to the idea that young kids and specifically young girls could have been the shepherds that we read about in scripture. 

So if we take what we just learned about shepherds and go to the story of Jesus’ birth, it’s highly likely that the shepherds that the angel proclaimed the birth of Jesus to would have been young children (possibly ages 8-14). That also means it is possible to think that the first ones who heard about Jesus’ birth were young girl shepherds. If we know that shepherds were viewed as the lowest of the low and also that at that time women and children were viewed as the lowest of the low. It’s not surprising that the shepherds were probably young kids and more likely young girls. The lowest of the low, BUT GOD! Just like with David, God is known for using those that are overlooked to accomplish something great for His glory! 

I would be doing you a disservice if I left this next part out, because the idea that the shepherds in the Christmas story were young girls, fits the narrative of Jesus. Now let me say that we don’t know for sure who the shepherds were but the more and more research I do, I truly believe that there is a huge possibility that those shepherds were young girls. With that in mind let’s look at the narrative of Jesus. First, at his birth, the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds, a group of young girls, announcing that Jesus was born. Second, the first person that Jesus revealed he was the Messiah to was the samaritan woman at the well. And third, at the resurrection of Jesus, when the women arrived at the tomb early in the morning the stone was rolled away and an angel appeared to the women to proclaim that Jesus had risen from the dead, just as he said it would happen. In these three important moments in Jesus’ life, God chose those who were viewed as the lowest of the low to share the good news with! If that doesn’t get you excited I don’t know what will. 

I said it before and I’ll say it again we don’t know for sure if this group of shepherds was young girls, but it is a huge possibility and one that I think changes the story that we’ve always known. It doesn’t change the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life then died on the cross and three days later rose again. But what it does show is the nature of God and his love for all people, even those who are viewed as the lowest of the low by all other world standards. 

I pray that this blog today was an encouragement to you. Always know I am available to pray with you or just be someone to talk to when life gets hard. E-mail me at megan@churchanywhere.us if you need prayer! 

Talk to you soon!