Shepherds after My own Heart | Timothy S. Laniak

It’s always difficult to write a review for a book that didn’t live up to your expectations. This is the third book I’ve read in the NSBT series. After devouring Beale’s brilliant survey of the Temple motif across the Canon, I was looking forward to a similar experience from Laniak.

Shepherds after My own Heart can be described in three sections:

  1. What did shepherding look like in the ancient world surrounding Israel?
  2. How is the shepherd metaphor used of God and of human leaders throughout the Old and New Testament?
  3. What does this mean for pastors today?

The first section on the ancient world was fascinating. Laniak delved deeply into ancient literature and unearthed relevant background information helpful for understanding God’s use of the shepherd metaphor. An Akkadian hymn to the sun god, Shamash, is particularly interesting:

You care for all the peoples of the land . . .
Whatever has breath you shepherd without exception . . .
Shepherd of that beneath, keeper of that above,
You, Shamash, direct, you are the light of everything (60).

Swap YHWH for Shamash, and most people would assume you’re quoting Psalms!

The middle section (and bulk of the book) was where I was disappointed. Laniak provided a comprehensive survey of the shepherd metaphor throughout the entire Bible (Genesis to Revelation). Instead of deep exegetical work, though, it felt at times like reading an embellished concordance. It was clearly an epic amount of work—Laniak interacts with Hebrew and Greek with equal fluidity—it just didn’t go deep enough exegetically.

The final section, officially titled “Concluding observations and reflections” returned to the great insight provided in the introduction. Unfortunately, using 5 pages to explore the implications of the other 308 was too little too late.

Shepherds after My own Heart is a fine book for what it is: a detailed survey of “shepherd” across the Canon.

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