Going Primal, the Bible, and Freedom
But then, let's remember that "Cain is a farmer and Abel's a shepherd," as Yoram Hazony has pointed out — An Individualist Approach To The Hebrew Bible. Noting that "it turns out that this long, long narrative from Genesis to Kings, over and over again, presents people either as shepherds or as farmers," the professor continues,
- And in fact there's a whole history of conflict between them. So, all the greatest heroes in the Bible — Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and many others — they're all shepherds. And it's not just that they happen to be shepherds, because the Bible emphasizes the time they spent shepherding and what they learned from it. And this is kind of like a code — I mean, not a secret code, but it's a metaphor — the shepherd stands for people who live outside of society, on the hills. They make law for themselves, they seek God for themselves, and they're autonomous. It's almost an anarchical message.
The farmer represents the great urban agrarian societies on the huge rivers in Egypt, Babylonia, Syria, Persia. And the farming societies are what we would recognize today as kind of a totalitarian society, meaning that the king made the decisions, he spoke for the gods, he paid the priests. And these were societies, of course, that had virtues, but the virtues of farming society, of these great empires, were virtues like piety, submissiveness, obedience, honoring the government, honoring your father and your mother, keeping the system going. The shepherds were people who lived beyond society. And the funny thing is that the Hebrew Bible is one very complicated, sophisticated document which holds up the shepherds as being the heroes.