Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4 ESV
Not much has changed through the centuries in the Middle East. The shepherds still are in the fields with their flock just as they would have been during the Hittite era.
When I pass a flock of sheep here in California, I never see a shepherd. They are usually all alone and protected only by a fence.
You will often see a small donkey among the sheep. The donkey is used to carry the supplies for the shepherds.
I started the post with verse 4 from the 23rd Psalm. Do you know the difference between a rod and a staff? Don’t they just mean a stick of wood?
Actually the rod and staff are specific tools that are used for different tasks.
Do you know whether this is a rod or a staff? This is usually what we see depicted with a shepherd, whether it is Jesus or the shepherds in the field who are being told of his birth. You can see another image in my post: Peace on Earth
In the picture above we have a staff. The staff is usually used to either guide the sheep when they are being moved, or to help keep them together as a flock.
Here is a shepherd with a rod. The rod is much shorter than the staff and is used mainly for protection of the flock. The rod can be thrown or swung at a predator, or used to prod sheep to safety. The rod can also be used to help inspect the sheep by spreading the wool to see what is underneath.
The rod is more of a utility tool that can be used in many different ways to help protect the flock. The staff is used more for guidance. In Turkey we mainly saw shepherds using just the rod. For the guidance of the flock they would use sheep dogs, but that is a different post.