But as familiar as this image might be, its ultimate profundity goes quite a bit beyond the usual green pastures. Sheep, to start with, are human.
Let me explain
The woolly sheep we are familiar with don't occur in nature. They were bred from feral ancestors in the late Stone Age, along with about a dozen others species (roughly the same amount as there are tribes in Israel).
How precisely this happened isn't clear, but most probably the ancestors of our domesticated friends stood out from other animal species by (1) their innate tendency to bond socially, and (2) their kindness and calm behavior. That initial approachability must have led to their taming, which was followed by their moving in.
Sheep and such may have a bit of a bad rep in modern culture, but since every animal is basically after food and safety, moving in with the humans was the smartest thing they could do. And not all animals could pull it off either. Cows and sheep aren't proverbially dumb, they are proverbially elected on account of their natural agreeable disposition and their ultimate potential.
After their initial taming, humans began to specifically breed their animals into their modern forms, and there's the rub. Modern sheep are living sculptures and as much part of humanity as a song by Rhianna. And just like Rhianna's latest production moves us, so did the presence of domesticated animals help form modern humanity.
Animal husbandry and farming allowed humans to engage in their celebrated cultural evolution, and transcend their natural state and become the epitomes of sophistication and godly glory we are today. We would not have our cities and libraries and academia if our ancestors hadn't adopted kind animals into their own immediate homes.
Modern humanity is a symbiotic collective that comprises humans as well as domesticated animals and plants. And none of them could exists or survive without the other members of that collective.
I'll say that again: there would be no smart-phone carrying, Rhianna-listening human beings if there were no sheep, pigs, cows, rice, potatoes and corn. You can't have one without the other. There is no division between domesticated animals and the humans that depend on them. We are one with them, and together we are humanity.
Why humans "invented" husbandryIn archaeological circles it's considered a bit of a mystery why humans began to domesticate animals and plants, because quite frankly, the ultimate effect (libraries, french fries, Rhianna) is not at all evident when the first wild mouflon wanders into one's Stone Age village and doesn't seem to want to leave.
Nature is a giant fractal, in which the same shape repeats at different levels of complexity. There are three main levels, which the Bible lovingly calls water, blood and spirit (1 John 5:8), or matter, life and society. All three levels have their basic building block, and all three building blocks have the same basic form, namely that of a nucleus that contains all information to run the building block and a larger body that (1) acts according to the information stored in the nucleus, and (2) interacts with neighboring building blocks in order to create structures.
|The Household Set dictates that matter, life and society consist of self-similar basic building blocks|
At the level of matter we have the atom, of which the nucleic information determines the quality and characteristics of the atom. Depending on the kind of atoms, atoms can cluster into molecules and huge objects.
At the level of life we have the living cell, with again the genetic information that determines the qualities and characteristics of the cell. Cells can cluster up into colonies and even multi-cellular creatures.
At the level of society we have the household, with the house-father as nucleus and the members of his household and the range of their economic activities as body.
Husbandry too occurs on all three levels.
Husbandry at water level
Atoms started out as simple hydrogen atoms. They have one proton for a nucleus, one electron zipping around it and a photonic force field that binds the two together. But all hydrogen atoms can do is huddle up and drift through space as a cloud. They can't bind together to make rocks and planets. And so they drift together until they are plentiful enough to collapse under their own gravity and form a star. Within that star a process called fission begins to occur, and that comes down to protons absorbing electrons to make a whole new symbiotic whole: the neutron.
|Husbandry at the atomic level|
Husbandry at the blood level
|Husbandry at the cellular level|
Cells too started out simple and virtually unable to create complex colonies. The earliest cells are called prokaryotes, and all they can do is just swarm about. Things changed when certain complicated prokaryotes opened their doors for a certain kind of simple bacterium and, in stead of digesting it, adopted it into its very own body. These bacteria kept their own autonomous DNA and became mitochondria, also known as the power-houses of the cell, and cells became eukaryotes. Contrary to their prokaryotic ancestors, these super-powered eukaryotes were able to create specialized colonies and finally multi-cellular creatures.
So why did humans finally took up husbandry? Every atom and every cell in their body was telling them to. Humans had existed in hydrogen-slash-prokaryotic form, but somehow (most likely to do with population density) an urge occurred to tame and domesticate other animals the way protons domesticated electrons and prokaryotes domesticated bacteria.
Who are God's sheep?
According to John the Revelator, humanity will breach into two kinds. One will populate the earth, and the other will populate the New Jerusalem, where it will govern the earth together with God. That obviously follows the same general principle that gave the world its neutrons, eukaryotes and Rhianna, and besides demonstrating that the ancients were a whole lot better informed than we give them credit for, it also invites contemporary humans to contemplate which of the modern human expressions might be deemed worthy to be absorbed into the House of Divinity. Certainly all available philosophies and religions claim that they're the one, but claiming and being is not the same thing.
|Husbandry at the Divine level|
All human mentalities will claim that they are the pinnacle of existence, just like every bear and lion will gladly submit that they are the best animals ever to roam the earth. But when our ancestors began to look for animals to take into their home and treat like family members, they weren't looking for superior prowess but rather for compatibility. Likewise the humanities that God targets to bring into His home are not necessarily those excelling in certain traits.
Here at Abarim Publications we guess that the realm of humanity is as psycho-diverse as the biosphere is bio-diverse, and that nature is producing this diversity deliberately (that is to say: in order to satisfy a natural law, such as the second law of thermodynamics).
In other words: in our world today there are humanities (philosophies, religions, -isms and schools of thought) that relate to the rest of mankind the way, say, bears and wolves relate to the whole of the biosphere. And the biosphere appears to be geared to grow towards a situation in which a group of separate creatures can unite to form a symbiotic super-creature.
Which creatures or humanities that will ultimately be depends not so much on the gloriousness of each separate creature, but much rather on how the whole bunch operates together. After all, to herd sheep you need a sheep-dog, not a whale.
You can't have humans reading books without cows, sheep, dogs and pigs. And you can't have those without first having aurochs, mouflon, wolves and boar. And you can't have those without also having ants and tigers and octopuses. And that explains the biosphere.
But one thing is abundantly clear: the House of Divinity that the Creator is compiling according to wholly natural processes is not just for fun. It has a job. And that job is to govern creation and make it run the way the Creator wants it run.
Here at Abarim Publications we bet that tribe of the Scientific Method stands an excellent chance of being included. The tribe of the scud missile, not so. Tolerance will surely be incorporated, but corporate fascism probably not.
We'll see. The New Jerusalem will be peopled with domesticated humanities. And the earth will be peopled with humanities that are useful even though they can't be domesticated. And there will be quite a few humanities that will die out on account of their worthlessness.
"And I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever"
Psalm 23 - The Lord is my Shepherd