Hello and thanks for the interesting question.
The nomadic (or bedouin) shepherd traveled from place to place with
his flock. Nomadic shepherds would move to pastures where their
animals could graze, stay there for some time and then they would move
on to a new area after there was no more grass to graze on.
Other shepherds did not travel from place to place but instead were
residents of a town. Within town society there were a number of
different grades of shepherds. Some shepherds were peasants and
looked after a small flock. Some shepherds were called rulers or
chief shepherds. These shepherds often looked after the livestock
of wealthy families. Royal families also had their own shepherds and
these shepherds enjoyed the title of abbir, a word translated as
Shepherds during Biblical times wore mantles. This was primarily made
of sheep's skin and the shepherd would wear it with the wool on the
outside when the weather was warm, and with the wool on the inside
when the weather was cool. See Jeremiah 43:12 for a reference to this.
The shepherd also carried a wallet or sack which contained small
portions of food (see 1 Samuel 17:40).
There are two main weapons that the shepherd used to protect him
against lions, panthers, bears, robbers and what ever other foe he
might encounter. The first is a sling (again see 1 Samuel 17:40) as
in the sling used by David against Goliath. The second weapon used by
shepherds was a staff or crook. The staff served the dual purpose of
herding the flock and fighting off enemies. In addition to these,
shepherds also carried a rod that was about a meter long and had a
knob on the end. This was used to count the sheep.
The shepherds daily routine involved calling forth the flock in the
morning. The sheep would actually recognize the shepherds voice as is
evident in John 10:4. He would then watch the flock with the help of
dogs much in the same way as shepherds today do. If any sheep would
stray the shepherd would follow it until it was brought back to the
flock. He would also provide the flock with water either by leading
them to a stream or at troughs attached to wells. See Exodus 2:16. In
the evening, the shepherd would call the flock back to the sheepfold.
A sheepfold is an enclosure or pen for sheep. Usually the walls of
the sheepfold were made of stone. As the shepherd led the sheep back
to the fold, he would count them to make sure that all had returned.
He would count them by having them pass under his rod. See Ezekiel
20:37. During the evening the shepherd would watch the entrance to
the fold to ensure that none of the flock would be endangered.
The gate to the sheepfold is the gate that the sheep would pass
through as they entered the enclosure.
The sheepfold and the gate to the sheepfold are heavily symbolic
references in the Bible. The sheepfold provides protection and the
shepherd allows the sheep to enter the sheepfold via the gate. This
can be seen as a metaphor for God leading his people into a protected
area and watching over them. For more on the symbolic import of the
sheepfold and the gate see:
A very helpful website that provides more information on this topic
This site provides a helpful discussion of the usage of the word
shepherd in the Bible.
Daily Bible Study
shepherd sheepfold gate
Hope that helps. If you have any additional questions please do not
hesitate to ask for clarification.