Do you know that sheep go alllllll the way back to Genesis in the Bible? They have been around THAT long! Hard to believe, isn't it? When Pharoah took Abram's wife, Sarah, thinking she was Abram's sister, all Pharaoh's officials treated Abram very well, giving him gifts including sheep (Genesis 12:13-16). Sheep were used for food (they are definitely clean which means we can eat them and you can read that in Deuteronomy 14:4) and clothing.
Sheep were one of the earliest animals to be "domesticated" which means to make tame. They are relatively calm animals and, even today, raised for wool (a very warm material you probably have clothes made out of), meat and milk. Have you ever tasted sheep's milk? It may taste very similar to goat's milk.
A female sheep is called a "ewe," and can usually begin having babies (lambs) around 6 to 8 months old. Of course, we know in human years they are much, much older. A ewe's highest productivity is between 3 and 6 years of age. Sheep, like most animals, do not live as long as humans and an average age expectancy would be 10-12 years, much like a dog.
There are a lot of things very similar about sheep and goats because they are in the same subfamily called "Caprinae"; however they are separate species. Visual differences would include their tails where a goat's tail goes up and a sheep's tail hangs down. Also many goats have a beard and sheep have a divided upper lip, called a philtrum (groove).
Sheep have a natural tendency to stay close together with other members of their flock and will follow their leader anywhere. Sheep can get quite upset when separated from the rest of the flock. If you have ever been to a "petting zoo," you probably noticed how goats will come right up to you if you have food, but the sheep are a little more cautious and stay closer together in their group. Sheep are quite food-oriented and associate humans with regular feedings.
Sheep are sheared regularly and even as early as Genesis 31:19, there is a record of them being sheared. That was when Laban had gone to shear his flock when Rachel had stolen the household idols! That was not good, was it? Sheep are shorn for their fleece to make wool for clothes, blankets and such. Shearing does not hurt the animal. Here are some pictures that show a sheep being sheared.
For the end product and the sheep was off running again (just without his "coat"):
MORE BIBLE FACTS ABOUT SHEEP
Do you remember the story of the original Passover? Well, back in Exodus 12, the Israelites were told to take an "unblemished" male lamb from either the sheep or the goats and kill it. First of all, a sheep or goat is called a lamb usually only until it is one year old and it has not had a baby (for a female sheep/goat "ewe"). Sheep were much more valuable than goats, as we may shortly find out but that was to make it possible for every family to do what YAHWEH asked them to do. Read more about the story in Exodus 12. For now, let's get back to sheep.
In Numbers 31, we read how the Israelites went to battle against Midian and kept quite a lot of "booty." In fact, they kept so much, that YAHWEH spoke to Moses and said to count the booty and divide among the warriors who had gone out to battle and all the congregation. Then there was a tax levied from the men of war and that tax was on the people captured, the cattle, the donkeys and the sheep. See how worthy the sheep were!
There was a man name Mesha, who was the king of Moab, and he was a breeder of sheep, but was not a very good person. You can read about him in 2 Kings 3.
Being a shepherd was a very important job back then. David was a shepherd (1 Samuel 16:11). In 2 Samuel 7:8, YAHWEH told David, "I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel." We are all familiar with our Messiah, Yahshua, being called the "Lamb of Yah," and we are to follow Him (1 John 2:6).
Do you know there was even a gate in Jerusalem called the "Sheep Gate" (Nehemiah 3:32, 12:38,39)?
We should all want to be "sheep of His pasture" (Psalm 79:13), giving thanks to YAHWEH forever. But all of us at some point, just like sheep who get lost, have gone astray and did what WE wanted instead of what was right. YAHWEH caused all the sins of us to fall on our Messiah--He suffered and was like a lamb led to slaughter--all for us. Read about that in Isaiah 53.
Just as shepherds lead the sheep, there are shepherds that lead people. There are good shepherds and bad shepherds; shepherds that lead sheep (people) astray; teaching them things that are NOT in accord with Scripture and perhaps forgetting those things that MUST be taught. Jeremiah sends a warning to those bad "shepherds" in Jeremiah 34:11-12.
Our Messiah warns us to beware of the false prophet in sheep's clothing, meaning a prophet who sounds nice, sincere, truthful, but in reality is a bad prophet perhaps teaching AGAINST what YAHWEH says (Matthew 7:15). But, in closing, let's remember what Yahshua says in John 10, that the sheep knows the good shepherd's voice and they follow him (verses 2-4) and that He (Yahshua) IS the good shepherd (verse 11). So, let's try to follow Yahshua all the time and to follow Him, we must read about Him!
If you would like to learn more about sheep, you can go to sheep101 and/or the Howard Hall Farm (and a special thank-you to them for permitting us to use some of the pictures above). If you would like to learn more about sheep in Scripture, read your Bible!
LET'S MAKE "POM-POM" SHEEP!
Let's pretend we are shepherds and make our own "flock" of cute little Pom-Pom sheep.
What you'll need (for each little sheep):
2 inch white Pom-pom
3/4 inch white Pom-pom
1/2 inch black Pom-pom (or pink for a white sheep)
2 black seed Beads
Black felt scraps for ears (or white for a white sheep)
Black pipe cleaner (or white for a white sheep)
1/4 inch red Ribbon
1 small Bell
How to make it:
Glue 3/4" white pom-pom (head) to 2" white pom-pom (body).
Cut two 2" sections of black pipe cleaner. Bend into a letter U.
These are the legs. Glue center of U into the center of the 2" pom-pom
(one towards the head and the other towards the tail).
Glue 1/2" black pom-pom (nose) onto front of head.
Cut small leaf shaped ears from black felt and glue on sides of head.
Glue black seed beads for eyes.
Tie red ribbon around neck and attach bell to ribbon at the throat area.
Now that you have one, make some more for an entire flock!