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A shepherd is a caretaker of sheep who is responsible for protecting a flock of sheep in the field from straying or being attacked by predators. Sheep are valuable primarily for the sale value of their wool and meat.

At the time of Jesus, wealth was primarily in form of livestock and the use of shepherds was familiar to most in surrounding areas of Jerusalem. The fidelity of the good shepherd in protecting his nearly helpless flock was a powerful concept that resonated with the people.