A Biblical Theology of the Divine Shepherd-King

In the ancient world kings were often presented (or presented themselves) as the shepherds of their people. Throughout Scripture, God is presented as a divine shepherd-ruler who protects and provides for his people. From his guiding of the patriarchs into the land of Canaan, to his leading Israel out of Egypt into the promised land, to the establishment of human shepherd-kings to rule over his people, and ultimately to the sending of Christ as the perfect shepherd-king who would lay down his life for the sheep, the biblical text is permeated with references to this important biblical-theological topic.

This paper will trace the theme of God as divine shepherd-king across the major movements of biblical history, noting throughout what this study reveals about the character of God and his pastoral care of humanity. In the Pentateuch and prophets, God shepherds his people geographically, politically, and spiritually, multiplying them from one man and his family to a thriving nation dependent upon his pastoral care. In the writings, the character of the divine shepherd-king is on display as one who dwells among, walks with, and lovingly supports his flock. In the Gospels, the divine shepherd-king takes on human form to rescue his wayward sheep and expand his flock to include other animals outside his original fold, creating a new fold from the two through his sacrificial death. In Acts and the epistles, the Good Shepherd appoints under-shepherds to care for the flock in his physical absence. In Revelation, the divine shepherd-king returns to rule over his flock with a shepherd’s rod of iron and lead them into peace, rest, and the tranquility of a world without the curse of sin.

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