John 10:12
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
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(12) But he that is an hireling.—The Greek word occurs again in the New Testament only in the next verse and in Mark 1:20. It implies a lower position than the household servant, and is more nearly what we should call the tramp-labourer. The thought follows from that of the good shepherd who in the time of danger will give his own life for the sheep. The hireling has no interest in the sheep, and cares for them only as far as to secure his own hire. This want of interest is strongly expressed in the double statement, “not the shepherd,” “whose own the sheep are not.” In the interpretation we are not to think of the hierarchy, who have been already, in John 10:8, designated as “thieves and robbers,” breaking into the fold, but of all persons who from any other motive than love for humanity, and by any other way than the door which is Christ, or by any other call than that of the Holy Spirit, take upon themselves the office of shepherds of the flock. The hour of danger will distinguish between the shepherd and the hireling. The one, loving the sheep, will give even his life for them. The other, caring only for the hire, in whatever form it comes, will flee and leave the sheep as a prey to the wolf.

And the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.—The words “the sheep” are not found in the majority of the better MSS., and their insertion makes the sentence awkward, because the pronoun “them” has been immediately before used for the same sheep. Adopting the better reading (see Note on next verse), we have, and the wolf catcheth them, and maketh havoci.e., seizeth individual sheep, and maketh havoc in the flock. Under the general image we are to understand all the spiritual foes which destroy individual souls and rend the Church of Christ. The wolf is the natural enemy of the sheep, and the fit emblem of all evil persons, who are the natural enemies of the sheep of Christ’s fold. He spake of “false prophets” as “ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). He sent forth the Twelve “as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matthew 10:16), and the Seventy, whose mission, we shall see (comp. Note on John 10:22), was connected with the teaching of this chapter, “as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). St. Paul foresaw that in the very city from which St. John wrote this Gospel, “after his departing, grievous wolves would enter in among them, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). These are the only passages in the New Testament where the word occurs, and from them we may gather that while wolves represent all false teachers and foes to truth, “the wolf” represents him who is the source from whence they come. As all shepherds are related to the Good Shepherd, so are all wolves to the wolf whose work they do.

10:10-18 Christ is a good Shepherd; many who were not thieves, yet were careless in their duty, and by their neglect the flock was much hurt. Bad principles are the root of bad practices. The Lord Jesus knows whom he has chosen, and is sure of them; they also know whom they have trusted, and are sure of Him. See here the grace of Christ; since none could demand his life of him, he laid it down of himself for our redemption. He offered himself to be the Saviour; Lo, I come. And the necessity of our case calling for it, he offered himself for the Sacrifice. He was both the offerer and the offering, so that his laying down his life was his offering up himself. From hence it is plain, that he died in the place and stead of men; to obtain their being set free from the punishment of sin, to obtain the pardon of their sin; and that his death should obtain that pardon. Our Lord laid not his life down for his doctrine, but for his sheep.A hireling - A man employed to take care of the sheep, to whom wages is paid. As he does not own the sheep, and guards them merely for pay, rather than risk his life he would leave the flock to the ravages of wild beasts. The word translated "hireling" is often employed in a good sense; but here it denotes one who is unfaithful to his trust; and especially those ministers who preach only for support, and who are unwilling to encounter any danger or to practice any self-denial for the welfare of the church of God. They are those who have no boldness in the cause of their Master, but who, rather than lose their reputation or place, would see the church corrupted and wasted by its spiritual foes.

Whose own the sheep are not - Who does not own the sheep.

12. an hireling … whose own the sheep are not—who has no property, in them. By this He points to His own peculiar relation to the sheep, the same as His Father's, the great Proprietor and Lord of the flock, who styles Him "My Shepherd, the Man that is My Fellow" (Zec 13:7), and though faithful under-shepherds are so in their Master's interest, that they feel a measure of His own concern for their charge, the language is strictly applicable only to "the Son over His own house" (Heb 3:6).

seeth the wolf coming—not the devil distinctively, as some take it [Stier, Alford, &c.], but generally whoever comes upon the flock with hostile intent, in whatever form: though the wicked one, no doubt, is at the bottom of such movements [Luthardt].

Those that deal in sheep, either keep them themselves, or by their near relations, as Jacob’s sons, and David, and Laban’s daughters did; or else they hired persons to keep them for them. There is a great deal of difference between the care of an owner, and the care of a hired servant in any thing; the owner taketh a more natural, diligent care, because the whole profit of the sheep, thriving and doing well, returneth unto himself. The hired servant may be careful in his measure and degree; but no such servant will take the care that an owner will take, nor run the hazards that he will run, because he knoweth that, let the flock thrive never so well, he shall have no more than the wages he is hired for: therefore what our Saviour saith is true concerning the generality of such hired servants, they will take some care of the flocks of sheep in their trust so long as there appeareth no danger, but if any danger appeareth, they leave the sheep, and flee, and the wolf cometh, and scattereth the sheep.

But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd,.... That is, who is not the owner of the sheep, though he keeps them, yet only for reward: by whom are meant, not the faithful ministers of the word, who live upon the Gospel, as Christ has ordained, and who are worthy of their reward, and are not to be called hirelings by way of reproach; since they teach not for hire and reward, but for the good of souls, and the interest of the Redeemer; but such who seek only their gain, from their quarter, and mind their own things, and not the things of Jesus Christ:

whose own the sheep are not; who have neither a propriety in them, nor an hearty affection for them, and so care not what becomes of them: such an one "seeth the wolf coming"; by whom may be meant, either Satan; so the Jews compare Israel to a flock of sheep, and Satan, they say, , "he is the wolf" (u); or any false prophet, or teacher, who are ravenous wolves; though sometimes in sheep's clothing; or any tyrant, oppressor, or persecutor of the saints:

and leaveth the sheep; as the idol shepherd, against whom a woe is pronounced, Zechariah 11:17.

And fleeth; not being willing to bear any reproach or persecution, for the sake of Christ; not such a keeper of the flock as David, who went after the lion and the bear, and when they rose up against him, did not flee, but caught them by the beard and slew them; nor like the Apostle Paul, who fought with beasts at Ephesus, and would turn his back on none, nor give place, no, not for an hour, that truth might continue;

and the wolf catcheth them; some of them:

and scattereth the sheep; the rest; so are the sheep of Christ and his churches sometimes scattered, by persecution raised against them; see Acts 8:1. The Jews have a rule concerning such an hireling shepherd (w), which is this;

"a shepherd that feeds his flock, and leaves it, and goes to the city, and a wolf comes and ravines, and the lion comes and tears in pieces, he is free; but if he leaves by it his staff and his scrip, he is guilty.''

Which Maimonides thus (x) expresses and explains;

"a shepherd who can deliver that which is torn, and that which is carried captive, with other shepherds, and with staves, and does not call the other shepherds, nor bring the staves to deliver them, he is guilty: one that keeps freely, and one that keeps for hire; he that keeps freely, calls the shepherds, and brings the staves freely; and if he does not find them, he is not guilty; but he that keeps for hire, is obliged to hire shepherds and staves, in order to deliver them.''

(u) Caphtor, fol. 58. 1.((w) T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 41. 1. & 93. 2. & 106. 1.((x) Hilchot Shechirut c. 3. sect. 6.

But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
John 10:12 f. In opposition to the idea of the good shepherd, we have here that of the hireling. The term μισθωτός must not be taken to refer to the conduct of the Pharisees in their leadership of the people (Baeumlein and older writers, also my own view previously), as these hierarchs are included in the characteristic designation of Thieves and Robbers (John 10:8; John 10:2), with which the description of the hireling, who is cowardly, and careth not for the sheep, would not harmonize. Nor can it be directed against the mode in which the legitimate priesthood lead the people, as Godet thinks; for the priesthood consisted to a large extent of Pharisees, and formed with these latter, as far as antagonism to Christ was concerned, one great party (John 7:32; John 7:45; John 11:47; John 11:57; John 18:3). The expression ὁ μισθωτός rather represents those leading teachers of the people of God, who, instead of being ready to sacrifice their lives for the community, flee from danger, and forsake, with feelings of indifference and disregard, their charge. Under the figure of the μισθωτός, there rise to the view of Christ the many cross-forsaking teachers, who would arise even in the apostolic age (Galatians 6:12; Php 3:18), and to whom the Apostle Paul forms the most brilliant historical contrast. The question by whom the μισθωτός is to be regarded as hired, leads beyond the purpose of the allegory, which is to set forth, in contrast to the good shepherd, the idea of a shepherd who, influenced solely by self-interest, takes charge of a flock, which is not his own property.

καὶ οὐκ ὢν ποιμήν] is closely connected with ὁ μισθ. δέ: he, however, who is a hireling (hired for wage) and is not a shepherd,—shepherd in the sense of being owner of the sheep which he leads out to pasture; hence the words οὗ οὐκ εἰσὶ, etc., are added for the purpose of more emphatically expressing the meaning. Note that Christ possesses a Church (flock) even before His death; partly, according to the old theocratic idea, namely, that of the old people of God as His ἴδιοι, John 1:11; partly in reality, namely, the totality of those who believed on Him, whom the Father has given Him (John 6:37); partly proleptically (John 10:16); though, as far as He is concerned, they are first purchased (compare Acts 20:28; Titus 2:14) by Him through His death, after which event began the extension of His shepherd’s functions to all, by the drawing of His Holy Spirit (John 12:32).

There is no justification for interpreting the wolf specially, either of the devil (Euth. Zigabenus, Aretius, Olshausen, and several others; admitted even by Chrysostom); or of heretics, after Acts 20:20 (Augustine, Jansen, and several others). It is a general image of every sort of power, opposed to the Messiah, and bent on destroying the kingdom of God, which may make its appearance; this power, however, as such, has its causal and ruling principle in the devil, John 12:31; John 14:30; Matthew 10:16.

ἁρπάζει αὐτὰ κ. σκορπίζει τὰ πρόβ.] he snatches them (namely, the individuals on which he falls), and scatters the sheep, i.e. the mass of them, the flock; hence the word πρόβατα is neither superfluous nor harsh (De Wette).

ὅτι μισθωτ. ἐστι] nothing else. This and what follows supplies the ethical key to the behaviour described.

Notice further, that whilst in verse 12 we read ὁ μισθ. δέ, here we have ὁ δὲ μισθ.; because the antithesis of the hireling was first brought forward in John 10:12, and greater emphasis was secured by the immediate connection of μισθ. with . Comp. Klotz, ad Devar. p. 378.

John 10:12. ὁ μισθωτὸς δὲ [δὲ is omitted by recent editors] … πρόβατα. In contrast to the good shepherd stands now not the robber but a man in some respects better, a hireling or hired hand (Mark 1:20), not a shepherd whose instincts would prompt him to defend the sheep, and not the owner to whom the sheep belong. So long as there is no danger he does his duty by the sheep for the sake of his wages, but when he sees the wolf coming he abandons the sheep and flees. “The wolf” includes all that threatens the sheep. In Xen., “Mem., ii. 7, 14, the dog says to the sheep: ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι ὁ καὶ ὑμᾶς αὐτὰς σώξων, ὥστε μήτε ὑπʼ ἀνθρώπων κλέπτεσθαι, μήτε ὑπὸ λύκων ἁρπάξεσθαι.—καὶ ὁ λύκοςσκορπίξει, “and the wolf carries them off and scatters them”; cf. Matthew 9:36; a general description careless of detail. Bengel says “lacerat quas potest, ceteras dispergit”.

12. an hireling] The word occurs nowhere else in N.T. excepting of the ‘hired servants’ of Zebedee (Mark 1:20). The Good Shepherd was introduced in contrast to the thief. Now we have another contrast to the Good Shepherd given, the hired shepherd, a mercenary, who tends a flock not his own for his own interests. The application is obvious; viz., to those ministers who care chiefly for the emoluments and advantages of their position, and retire when the position becomes irksome or dangerous.

and not the shepherd] Better, and not a shepherd, as in John 10:2.

the wolf] Any power opposed to Christ. See on John 10:28.

and scattereth the sheep] The best authorities omit ‘the sheep;’ but the words might easily be omitted as apparently awkward and superfluous after the preceding ‘them.’ But in any case the meaning is ‘snatcheth certain sheep and scattereth the flock.’

John 10:12. Ὁ μισθωτός, the hireling) who acts as a shepherd for the sake of his own advantage.—οὐκ ὤν) More frequently μή, is put with the participle, but οὐκ here has the effect of giving greater emphasis.—ἀρπάζει, seizes them) he tears those which he can catch; he scatters the rest: two ways of doing injury. But the Good Shepherd collects together, John 10:16, “Other sheep I have—not of this fold; them also I must bring,—and there shall be one fold.”—τὰ πρόβατα, the sheep) all of them.

Verse 12. - He that is a hireling, and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth (the word μισθωτὸς occurs in Mark 1:20). The hireling is contrasted with the shepherd. The protector of a flock, who, though, not a thief, or robber, or alien, yet has no unselfish regard for the sheep, is guilty of cowardice, and his shameless flight from danger may do as much harm to the flock as the thief or robber. Godet would, at all events at first, limit the reference to the priestly party, who ought to have had more courage and real care for the sheep, but were utterly unable to bear the brunt of assault from Sanhedrin and Pharisees. The latter represent, as he thinks, the ravening "wolf." But surely all who have merely mercenary or selfish motives in their treatment of souls, and who flee at the approach of danger or death, are here held up to grievous condemnation. All who proclaim themselves to be "the door of the sheep," who, independently of Christ, and without the animating breath of the Divine Spirit, are considering themselves rather than the flock which they profess to instruct and protect, are the hirelings here denounced. In the hour of real peril they turn and flee. "Whose own the sheep are not." They do not seek the destruction of the flock which is not theirs, but they neglect and forsake when they should be faithful unto death. They have not identified themselves with the object of their professed care. The wolf is the deadly power over seeking the destruction of the soul, and even compassing it; it is the metaphor for every sort of power opposed to Christ (cf. Matthew 10:16; Luke 10:3; Acts 20:29). And the wolf snatcheth them, and scattereth (them). "The seizing and scattering" shows how these hostile powers not only devastate, but destroy; not only crush individuals, but ruin Churches. The sheep do not belong to a hireling, as they do to a shepherd. No living bond of common interest links them to each other. John 10:12Hireling (μισθωτὸς)

From μισθός, hire. See on 2 Peter 2:13. Wyc., merchant.

Seeth (θεωρεῖ)

Very graphic. His gaze is fixed with the fascination of terror on the approaching wolf. Compare Dante:

"But not so much, that did not give me fear

A lion's aspect which appeared to me.

. . . . .

And a she wolf, that with all hungerings

Seemed to be laden in her meagerness,

And many folk has caused to live forlorn!

She brought upon me so much heaviness,

With the affright that from her aspect came,

That I the hope relinquished of the height."

"Inferno," i., 44 54.


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