Rachel the Shepherd (Genesis 29:9)

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If you’ve ever read Psalm 23, you know that being a shepherd is a tough job.

Sure, the psalm itself is beautiful. The pictures of green pastures and still waters have created great imagery for paintings and needlework through the years.

But beyond the cross stitch, there’s the rod that strikes the sheep to get them back into line. There’s the hook that pulls sheep out of raging water. There’s the staff that beats off predators like lions and bears (1 Samuel 17:36).

It’s not for the faint of heart.

Imagine Jacob’s shock, then, when he sees Rebekah show up at the well and identify herself as a shepherdess. She’s not the only one (Moses’ wife Zipporah was also a shepherdess), and the job wasn’t too unusual for women in that time period, but it’s still a hard day’s work for anyone.

For Jacob, it was also exactly what he needed. As someone who had left home under not the best of circumstances, he needed someone who could help him. Someone who knew what it was like to live on their own; shepherds often spent hours in the fields by themselves.

According to Scripture, the picture of beauty (men and women) is often seen as industry. In Proverbs 31, the verses that describe the virtuous woman talk about someone who is good with their hands, buys fields, and plans ahead for the future to give her family the sustenance they need.

In Song of Solomon 1:7, Solomon is pictured as a shepherd, and his beloved is described in the next verse as a shepherdess (1:8).

Maybe it’s time we redefine our opinion of beauty as well. I have nothing against influencers and social media stars per se, but we should never negate the value of hard work. In a world where someone can be famous just because they’re famous (a weird sentence, I know), we should never think that good looks and a fancy camera are all you need.

At the end of the day, we should add to the world, not just take things away.