Why are we called sheep?

Know that Yahweh, he is God. It is he who has made us, and we are his. We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

– Psalm 100:3 (WEB)

Through out the Bible, God’s people are referred to as sheep. But why sheep? Why not some other animal like horses, oxen or donkeys?

We think about the nature of sheep, how wayward they are. They tend to get into trouble and need the constant care of a shepherd to protect or rescue them. Of course, other animals can get into trouble, too. Personally, I think the stubborness of a donkey would make it a good human representative. But there is another trait that I think explains why we’re called sheep.

Oxen and donkeys are working animals, used to plow fields, grind grain, and carry loads. Sheep are not working animals. You won’t find sheep under a yoke pulling a plow, or grinding grain. People don’t ride sheep. They can do nothing to earn favor with their owners. They grow wool, but that takes no effort on their part. When you think about it, wool is more a product of the good care that the shepherd provides. The shepherd works to lead the sheep to water and good pasture. All the sheep do is follow the shepherd and eat grass.

How does this help your understanding of being called a sheep?

Update: I noticed that another analogy of God’s people is similar in this regard. A vine is also not used for work (Ezekiel 15:1-8).

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