Genesis 29:4 - 6

Jacob asked the shepherds, 'My brothers, where are you from?' 'We're from Haran, ' they replied. He said to them, 'Do you know Laban, Nahor's grandson?' 'Yes, we know him,' they answered. Then Jacob asked them, 'Is he well?' 'Yes, he is,' they said, 'and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.'" NIV translation

We see that Jacob did not even know where he was until he asked the shepherds and they informed him that he was at the right place. We are also introduced to Rachel and we see that she was a shepherdess as she was bringing her father's flocks to be watered.

It was common practice for a woman to tend the flocks if there were no male children in the family. As the youngest child, she would have been the one that was stuck with the job of tending the sheep. I say stuck because sheep smell and she would have been with them all day and cared for them.

She would have had to be strong to protect them from predators and also patient to deal with their constant desire to wander off.

Genesis 29:7 & 8

"'Look,' he said, 'the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.' 'We can't,' they replied, 'until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.'" NIV translation

When Jacob saw Rachel, he immediately wanted to get rid of the other shepherds and so he tried to get them to water their sheep and leave. The other shepherds answered that they could not do so until all of the sheep were there which brings up the question of why. There was more than one shepherd there so surely they had the physical strength to move the stone. The answer was that they would all gather and they would move the stone as Rachel would not have had the strength to do so on her own. We see that Jacob was not interested in the needs of anyone else and tried to change the situation for his own benefit. A shepherd would have been used to thinking of others as they were constantly looking out for what was best for the flock; Jacob, on the other hand was used to only thinking about himself and what he could get out of any situation.

Many of us can relate to Jacob in the fact that, before we became disciples of Jesus Christ, we were also only looking out for ourselves. As His disciples, that is changed and we grow in our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit to become more like the shepherd than Jacob. The mark of a mature Christian is one that, like the shepherds, has the power to serve (through the Holy Spirit) and the compassion to help those who cannot help themselves (the sheep).