I am doing a talk at my church, about the shepherds that were given the Good News about the coming Messiah, when He was born (Luke 2:8). I want to make sure as I talk, the proper understanding comes from my end.
I have read that the shepherds might have been unique, that they were shepherds for the temple. That they were raising sheep for the temple sacrifice. These shepherds understood some of the scriptures because there where around the temple all the time.
Is this accurate? If you know what I am talking about and could help clear some of this up for me that would be great.
The information on the shepherds to which you’re referring appears most authoritatively in Alfred Edersheim’s classic two volume work, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” [available at Amazon.ca]. Others who may have similar content, I assure you, are simply repeating what they have learned from him or others who used him as a reference. See his Vol. 1 section: Christmas-Night on the Plains of Bethlehem.
In Edersheim’s estimation, these are not the usual shepherds who roam the countryside with their flocks. Rather these were shepherds watching flocks destined for sacrificial services in the Temple. They were grazing close to the town of Bethlehem, near a traditional site called “Migdal Eder” [“Tower of the Flock”]. It was close to where Rachel, Jacob’s wife, died and was buried.
Edersheim writes: “The flocks, which pastured there, were destined for Temple Sacrifices, and …the shepherds who watch over them were not ordinary shepherds.”
We can’t be definite about the shepherds’ knowledge of the prophecies, but there was a tradition that the Messiah would be revealed at Migdal Eder; this place of great tragedy for Jacob would then be turned to a place of great hope.