John 10:4
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
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(4) And when he putteth forth his own sheep.—The majority of the better MSS. add the word “all.” The tense is past. We should read, therefore, when he has put forth all his own sheep. The addition is important as marking the care of the shepherd to count his flock and see that none is missing. The word “put forth” is stronger than “lead out,” in the previous verse, and represents the details of the action as it took place in the sheepfold. The shepherd would call each sheep by name, and when it answered to its name would drag it outside the fold. Though it knew its shepherd, it would be unwilling to separate itself from the whole flock. One by one, then, he calls his sheep, and places them outside the fold.

He goeth before them, and the sheep follow him.—This is one of the incidents in the management of an Eastern flock, which strikes all who see it for the first time, and is abundantly illustrated in books of Eastern travel. The details are here given with minute accuracy. When the last sheep has been brought out the shepherd places himself at their head, and the flock together follow him.

For they know his voice.—The word is stronger than the one in John 10:3, “and the sheep hear his voice.” It expresses the familiar knowledge which the little flock has of the voice of their own shepherd who leads them day by day.

10:1-5 Here is a parable or similitude, taken from the customs of the East, in the management of sheep. Men, as creatures depending on their Creator, are called the sheep of his pasture. The church of God in the world is as a sheep-fold, exposed to deceivers and persecutors. The great Shepherd of the sheep knows all that are his, guards them by his providence, guides them by his Spirit and word, and goes before them, as the Eastern shepherds went before their sheep, to set them in the way of his steps. Ministers must serve the sheep in their spiritual concerns. The Spirit of Christ will set before them an open door. The sheep of Christ will observe their Shepherd, and be cautious and shy of strangers, who would draw them from faith in him to fancies about him.He putteth forth - Or leads them out of the fold.

He goeth before them - He leads them, and guides them, and does not leave them. A shepherd spent his time with his flocks. He went before them to seek the best pastures and watering-places, and to defend them from danger. In this is beautifully represented the tender care of him who watches for souls as one that must give account.

3. To him the porter openeth—that is, right of free access is given, by order of Him to whom the sheep belong; for it is better not to give the allusion a more specific interpretation [Calvin, Meyer, Luthardt].

and the sheep hear his voice—This and all that follows, though it admits of important application to every faithful shepherd of God's flock, is in its direct and highest sense true only of "the great Shepherd of the sheep," who in the first five verses seems plainly, under the simple character of a true shepherd, to be drawing His own portrait [Lampe, Stier, &c.].

In our country at this day, shepherds generally follow their sheep, which go before them. In other countries, as France, &c., it is otherwise at this day; the shepherds go before their flocks, and their flocks follow them, upon some sounds they make. In Palestine (which was the Jews country) it should seem that the shepherds sometimes went before their sheep, and sometimes followed them. David followed his father’s sheep, 2 Samuel 7:8 Psalm 78:71. On the other side, God is spoken of, Psalm 80:1, under the notion of the Shepherd of Israel, who leadeth Joseph like a flock. And the psalmist, Psalm 23:1, speaking of God as his Shepherd, saith, Psalm 23:2, he leadeth me beside the still waters. Christ here speaketh of himself under the notion of a shepherd that went before his sheep, and whom the sheep followed; and thereby lets us know the duty of all faithful pastors in the church, so to live, that their flocks may follow them with safety; which cannot be, unless they follow Christ, 1 Corinthians 11:1. For, saith our Saviour, those that are my true sheep, they know my voice; thereby signifying that power of discerning between truth and damnable errors, which the Lord gives unto all true believers, 1Jo 2:27.

And when he putteth forth his own sheep,.... The Ethiopic version reads, "when he leads them all out"; in order to bring them into proper pastures:

he goeth before them; in allusion to the eastern shepherds, who when they put out their flocks, did not, as ours do, drive them before them, and follow after them, at least not always, but went before them: so Christ, the great shepherd, goes before his flock, not only to provide for them, but by way of example to them; in many instances he is an ensample to the flock, as under shepherds, according to the measure of grace received, should be: he has left them an example in many respects, that they should tread in his steps:

and the sheep follow him; in the exercise of the graces of humility, love, patience, self-denial, and resignation of will to the will of God; and in the discharge of duty, walking, in some measure, as he walked.

For they know his voice; in the Gospel, which directs and encourages them to exercise grace in him, and to walk in the path of duty: this they know by the majesty and authority of it; and by the power with which it comes to their souls; and by its speaking of him, and leading to him; and by the evenness, harmony, and consistency of it. The Persic version renders the whole thus; "when he calls and leads out the sheep, they go before him, and their lambs after them, for they know his voice".

And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
John 10:4. And when he has brought out all his own sheep (those belonging to his flock), and so forth. He leaves none behind (πάντα, see the critical note). ἐκβάλῃ pictures forth the manner of the ἐξάγειν. He lays hold on the sheep which he has called to him, and brings them out to the door.

The idea, which is symbolically set forth in John 10:3-4, is that of the living, loving fellowship which subsists between the leaders of the people of God, whom Christ has appointed, and Christ Himself, for the satisfaction of the spiritual needs of the Church, both in general and in particular.

4. when he putteth forth his own sheep] Better, when he hath put forth all his own. Most of the best MSS. have ‘all’ for ‘sheep:’ ‘there shall not an hoof be left behind’ (Exodus 10:26). The word for ‘put forth’ is remarkable; it is the same as is used in John 9:34-35 of the Pharisees ‘casting out’ the man born blind. This is perhaps not accidental: the false shepherds put forth sheep to rid themselves of trouble; the true shepherds put forth sheep to feed them. But even the true shepherds must sometimes use a certain amount of violence to their sheep to ‘compel them to come’ (Luke 14:23) to the pastures. But note that there are no ‘goats’ in the allegory: all the flock are faithful. It is the ideal Church composed entirely of the elect. The object of the allegory being to set forth the relations of Christ to His sheep, the possibility of bad sheep is not taken into account. That side of the picture is treated in the parables of the Lost Sheep, and of the Sheep and the Goats.

John 10:4. Ἐκβάλη, He putteth forth) Synonymous with the verb, ἐξάγει, He leadeth out, but more general.

Verse 4. - In like manner, our Lord continues to describe what every true shepherd of men has done and ever will do: When he hath put forth all his own, and not another's, drawn them by the music of his voice, or constrained them by the sweet violence of his love, or even compelled them to go forth from a fold in which they may find security, but not pasture; and when he has marshaled them into obedience and into thankful trust by the strength of his sympathy and knowledge of their need, he goeth before them. He is their leader and example; he shows them in his own life the kind of provision made for them; he shares with them the perils of the wilderness, and first of all is prepared to grapple with their fierce foes, "He drinks of the brook in the way." The highest meaning, the only complete interpretation, of this passage is found when Christ himself is the Shepherd, who does summon from the old enclosure "all his own," all who have entered into living harmony with himself. And the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. Nothing is here said of "lost sheep" or of "goats;" these are all the "ideal sheep" of the flock, individuals who recognize the voice of the true Leader, and discriminate their own shepherd from all others, whether pretenders to their affections or destroyers of their lives - wolves or butchers, thieves or robbers. Should we persist in interpreting the apologue as it stands, a question arises about the πρόβατα that are not the shepherd's" own." Some have answered it by supposing that the latter are the chief of his own flock, who will bring the rest after them. The truth is not obscurely hinted of that election to highest privileges and duties, which does not declare that the rest are not sheep at all. John 10:4Putteth forth (ἐκβάλῃ)

Rev., more strictly, hath put forth. Instead of leadeth out, in John 10:3. It implies a constraint; as if some of the sheep were unwilling to leave the fold. Meyer says that putteth forth pictures the manner of the leading out. He lays hold on the sheep and brings them out to the door.

His own sheep (τὰ ἴδια πρόβατα)

The best texts read πάντα, all, for πρόβατα, sheep: all his own. So Rev.

Goeth before

As the Eastern shepherd always does. Having pushed them forth, he now leads them.


"It is necessary that they should be taught to follow, and not stray away into the unfenced fields of wheat which lie so temptingly on either side. The shepherd calls from time to time to remind them of his presence. They know his voice and follow on; but if a stranger call, they stop, lift up their heads in alarm, and if the call is repeated, they turn and flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers. This is not the fanciful costume of a parable; it is simple fact. I have made the experiment often" (Thomson).

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