Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (Exodus 3:1)
After fleeing Egypt, Moses spent forty years shepherding sheep. The Scriptures frequently compare Israel to a flock. She is the flock of the LORD. Her leaders are her shepherds, appointed by her ultimate Shepherd, the LORD Himself: “You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20). “Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock” (Psalm 80:1).
Israel’s greatest leaders herded sheep. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob followed the flocks. David shepherded over his father’s flocks. Moses proved himself worthy to shepherd Israel by faithfully taking care of his father-in-law’s flocks:
Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, was tending the flock of Jethro in the wilderness when a little kid escaped from him. He ran after it until it reached a shady place … and the kid stopped to drink. When Moses approached it, he said, “I did not know you ran away because of thirst, you must be weary.” So he placed the kid on his shoulder and walked away. Thereupon God said: “Because you have mercy in leading the flock of a mortal, you will surely tend my flock, Israel.” (Shemot Rabbah 2:2)
The Scriptures also refer to the Messiah as a shepherd over the flock of Israel: “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd” (Ezekiel 37:24). Yeshua saw Himself, like Moses, as the Good Shepherd over the flock of Israel. He undertook a mission seeking the lost sheep of Israel: the sinners and backslidden among the Jewish people of His day. The parables of John 10 further illustrate the messianic role of the shepherd over Israel. The disciple Peter said, “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).