Shepherds Looking For "Lost Sheep" Broke Their Legs Upon Finding Them

by Justitia Themis 6 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Justitia Themis
    Justitia Themis

    On another discussion board, a poster made this odd comment. She said that when ancient shepherds recovered a lost sheep, they broke its legs. Then, they never ran away again. She used this as a justification for discipline from 'Jesus' should a Christian 'stray' from the flock.

    I asked her source; she replied some 'Judaic Christian minister...'

    Has anyone else ever heard of this practice?



    Here's what a Methodist minister had to say about it:

    Reflection on the Scriptures: Broken Bones—God Pleads for us to Return to Him (given by Jinn Fuller Renfro)

    "I've been thinking this week about adversity. During Communion last Sunday, I read the 51st Psalm. In some translations, this Psalm includes a note that it was written after the prophet Nathan confronted David over his adultery with Bathsheba. I was particularly struck by this phrase: "Let the bones you have broken rejoice." What is David talking about here? He made the choice. He committed the sin. Why is he talking about God breaking his bones? Is he crazy? He brought his grief on himself. It wasn't God who broke him; he did that himself.

    I don't think I'm alone in disliking the idea that God might bring grief and adversity into my life. I would rather think that my sufferings are the work of the Evil One, or that I brought my troubles on myself through rejecting the Light and embracing the Dark. And, I think, both these things are true. There are Dark Powers in the world. Job's story makes a lot of sense to me—my faith being tested by outside forces of Darkness and God allowing me the free choice about how I respond in adversity. And then there's the fact that I do make wrong choices without any outside help at all, thank you very much, and I sin again and again. I stray from the Divine, over and over. I get myself in trouble, and—all too often—I think I can work it out without help from the people around me, and without God's help.

    I believe God's nature is Love, and it's awfully hard for me to reconcile God's loving nature and the thought that God might hurt me, or allow me to be hurt. But there's that line from Psalms: "Let the bones you have broken rejoice." Some commentators on this passage refer to a practice of ancient shepherds deliberately breaking a straying lamb's leg. Sounds cruel to me. But sheep are not meant to stray...keeping close to the shepherd preserves them from their natural enemies. If a lamb strays again and again, it's in danger of being overwhelmed by the forces against it and it's also going against its God-given, sheep-like nature. The thought that the shepherd might deliberately keep the lamb from straying starts to make some sense. A lamb healing from a broken leg has to depend on the shepherd. The shepherd must carry the lamb until it is healed. The shepherd brings the lamb food and water until it's healed. The lamb and the shepherd would bond during this time, and when the lamb is healed, I can't help but imagine the lamb's natural inclination to stick close to the shepherd is strengthened, and it's not as likely to put itself in danger from forces that wish to devour it.

    Well, that makes sense to me. But can I embrace the thought of a God, a loving shepherd, who would hobble me, or metaphorically break my leg, to keep me closer to him when I start to stray? Would God give me a problem to make me more dependent on him, to help me learn to rely entirely on him, to bring me closer and to help keep me closer to the Divine? I think of sheep as stupid—don't you?—and yet in both Old and New Testaments, the metaphor of God as Shepherd and people as sheep comes up again and again. I really don't want to see myself as a sheep; I rebel against the notion. But isn't that how I get myself into trouble, time and again? And how about all the times when I am just not paying attention, when I wander off the Path because I'm not thinking about what I'm doing or—as we say in my family—"Look, something shiny!" and I leave the Path to go investigate? I have to actively fight the feeling that I can handle just about anything that comes my way. If I must see myself as a sheep, I'd like to see myself as a smart, fierce sheep, which is pretty funny when you think about it. Smart, fierce, independent sheep, if they even exist, wouldn't last long in a world full of things with fangs and claws. When I suffer the delusion that I'm the smartest, baddest sheep in the flock, I tend to venture into dangerous territory, and I suffer pain—every time—as a result. More importantly, I stray from the Shepherd and it's often hard to find my way back."


  • Justitia Themis
    Justitia Themis

    Yes, I found plenty of references among various ministers of hearing of this practice, or someone told them about this practice. But does anyone have any authoritative documentation to which they might direct me?


  • Lady Liberty
    Lady Liberty

    Dear Justitia,

    My first inclination is to say the person who told you that is smoking crack! Although I have never researched it, it sounds too retarded to be true. If you think about it, one little shepherd boy having to carry the sheep that ran away around his neck because he broke it's legs because it couldn't walk in order to move from pasture to pasture?? Would seem more fitting if he just made a leash. Try googling it. What a terrible example of how to treat ones that come back!

    Her illustrations with breaking the sheeps legs totally contradicts the illustration in the bible of the prodigal son!! His father slaughtered the fattest calf and they had a HUGE celebration!! Infact in the story, the brother was jealous that his father was showering so much love and affection on his brother who had been so bad. By trying to justify cruel treatment on those that return, she sounds to me like the jealous brother in this illustration!!


    Lady Liberty

  • Justitia Themis
    Justitia Themis

    Sadly, Lady Liberty, it appears this is a hugh Christian urgan legend. It is all over the internet. I can see JWs picking up on this as a justification for disfellowshipping. I too disbelieve it, but I would like some authoritative source to quote to support my opinion.


  • BlackPearl

    This simply would'nt work from a business perspective. How would a sheep survive with broken legs? It couldn't move with along with the flock to greener pastures and hence die. This loss, of not one sheep, but many over the course time, would create losses in the flock, therefore underming the purpose of make money by selling the wool and meat.

    So it is an urban legend.


  • Justitia Themis
    Justitia Themis

    It couldn't move with along with the flock to greener pastures and hence die.

    Dear Black Pearl:

    The theory is that the sheep must now constantly be carried by the shepherd while the leg heals. The sheep doesn't 'remember' that the shepherd broke its leg, it just remembers the 'love' the shepherd showed it by constantly carrying it. Therefore, it ceases wandering off and loyally follows the shepherd.


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