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The Lord Jesus Christ: Potter, Captain, Shepherd, and More
TitleThe Lord Jesus Christ: Potter, Captain, Shepherd, and More
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsParry, Donald W.
Book TitleThe Jesus Christ Focused Old Testament: Making Sense of a Monumental Book
Chapter5
Pagination17-21
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT

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The multiple references in the Old Testament to trades and occupations reveal much regarding biblical industry and commerce and their impact on the life of the community. According to one source, “Agriculture, the basis of the economy in ancient Israel, influenced practically every facet of daily life, especially the religious, economic, legal, and social spheres.” In addition to agricultural workers, a thousand Israelite artisans were “brought captive” by Nebuchadnezzar II, probably for their talents and skills: “And all the men of might, even seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths a thousand, all that were strong and apt for war, even them the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon” (2 Kgs. 24:16).

Old Testament prophets and writers referred to various trades, occupations, and vocations in a variety of contexts and settings, including the following:

1. Poetic texts (including Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes) and prophetic texts (including Isaiah, Joel, and Ezekiel). These texts refer to various occupations, often in symbolic expressions or figures of speech. Writers, for instance, have compared prophets to watchmen on the watchtower, missionaries to fishermen, and so forth. 

2. Histories and narratives (including Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles). Histories and narratives mention occupations in order to explain facts and to provide context. For example, the accounts of David’s military maneuvers against his enemies refer to soldiers and archers; and the author of Ruth, in the course of relating the narrative, wrote of farmers, harvesters, and midwives.

3. Legal texts (including portions of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). Legal texts refer to occupations that were impacted by the law of Moses, such as judges, soldiers, and others.

4. Texts that contain prophecies (including Isaiah, Amos, Joel, and Ezekiel). These texts mention occupations in the context of the prophetic word. For example, Isaiah referred to a goldsmith (Isa. 40:19; 41:7), plowman (Isa. 28:24; 61:5), and potter (Isa. 29:16; 30:14).

5. Workers and Wage Earners. Most significantly, Old Testament prophets likened the Lord—the premortal Jesus Christ—to various workers and wage earners. For instance, the prophets compared the Lord to an advocate (Isa. 3:13), captain (Josh. 5:15), commander (Isa. 55:4), counselor (Isa. 9:6–7), guide (Ps. 48:14), judge (Gen. 18:25; Isa. 11:4; 33:22), potter (Isa. 64:8), servant (Isa. 42:1), shepherd (Ps. 23:1), teacher (Isa. 48:17), and woodsman (Isa. 10:33–34). Isaiah wrote that the Lord is a potter and we (mortals) are the clay: “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isa. 64:8).

The list of occupations and trades in the chart is representative and not comprehensive; additional scriptural references could be added to the chart.

Occupation

Scripture

ambassador

2 Chr. 35:21; Isa. 30:4

archers

1 Chr. 12:2

armor bearer

1 Sam. 14:12

artificer

craftsman; Isa. 3:3

astrologer

Isa. 47:13

baker

Gen. 40:1–22

barber

Gen. 41:14; 2 Sam. 19:24

blacksmith

Gen. 4:22; 1 Sam. 13:19

builder

Gen. 11:4

butler

Gen. 40:1–23

carpenter

2 Kgs. 12:11; Isa. 41:7

chamberlain

manager of a household; 2 Kgs. 23:11; Esther 1:10

cook

1 Sam. 8:13; 9:22–24

coppersmith

Ex. 26:11, 37

counselor

1 Chr. 27:32; Ezra 4:5

craftsman

2 Kgs. 24:14, 16

creditor

Isa. 50:1

cupbearer

Gen. 40:1–23; 1 Kgs. 10:5

designer

Ex. 35:35; 38:23

doorkeeper

Ps. 84:10

embroiderer

Judg. 5:30; Ezek. 27:7

farmer

Gen. 4:2–8

feller

one who cuts down trees; Isa. 14:8

fisherman

Isa. 19:5–8

footman

courier; Jer. 12:5

fowler

hunter; Prov. 1:17; Hosea 7:12

fuller

person who cleans and thickens cloth; 2 Kgs. 18:17

gatekeeper

2 Kgs. 11:4–9

goldsmith

Isa. 40:19; 41:7

government official

Gen. 41:34; Ex. 5:6–8;   Num. 11:16; 1 Kgs. 4:5

handmaid

Lev. 25:6; Deut. 5:14

harvestman

Isa. 17:5

herald

Dan. 3:4

hireling

laborer, often of menial work; Isa. 16:14; 21:16

interpreter

Gen. 42:23

ironsmith

Gen. 4:22; Isa. 44:12

jeweler

Gen. 24:22, 30; Ezek. 23:26

judge

Ex. 18:13–26

laborer

Ps. 90:10

lender

Isa. 24:2

linen worker

1 Chr. 4:21

maidservant

Gen. 16:1; 1 Sam. 1:11

merchant

Isa. 23:2, 8

midwife

Gen. 35:17; 38:28

mourner

Jer. 9:17; Amos 5:16

musician

1 Chr. 25:1–7

nurse

2 Sam. 4:4; 11:2

overseer

supervisor; 2 Chr. 2:8; Neh. 11:9

perfumer

producer or seller of perfume; 1 Sam. 8:13; Neh. 3:8

physician

Gen. 50:2; Jer. 8:22

plasterer

Lev. 14:42–43; Deut. 27:2–4

plowman

Isa. 28:24; 61:5

potter

Isa. 29:16; 30:14

prognosticator

foreteller of future events; Isa. 47:13

recorder

2 Sam. 8:16; 20:24

ruler

2 Chr. 7:18

sailor

1 Kgs. 9:26, 28

scribe

2 Kgs. 18:18; Ezra 7:6, 11

shearer

Isa. 53:7

shepherd

Isa. 13:20; 31:4

shipbuilder

1 Kgs. 9:26–27

silversmith

Judg. 17:4

singer

1 Chr. 15:16, 19, 27

smith

Isa. 44:12; 54:16

soldier

Ex. 14:9; Deut. 11:4

sower

Isa. 55:10

steward

Isa. 22:15

stone mason

2 Sam. 5:11; 1 Kgs. 5:17–18

tanner

Ex. 25:5; 26:14

teacher

Isa. 30:20; 43:27

trafficker

trader; Isa. 23:8

treader

wine; Isa. 16:10

treasurer

1 Chr. 27:25; 29:7–8

vinedresser

Isa. 61:5

watchman

2 Sam. 18:24

water carrier

Gen. 24:13; 1 Sam. 9:11; Ruth 2:9

weaver

Prov. 31:13, 19

woodworker

1 Kgs. 6:15–39

workman

Isa. 40:19, 20

Chart by Donald W. Parry. The Lord Jesus Christ: Potter, Captain, Shepherd, and More.

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