“poimainō”

Quick Facts

  • Pronunciation: poi-mī’-nō
  • Strongs Concordance: #G4165
    • to feed, to tend a flock, keep sheep
      • to rule, govern
        • of rulers
        • to furnish pasture for food
        • to nourish
        • to cherish one’s body, to serve the body
        • to supply the requisites for the soul’s need
  • Appears 12 times in 11 verses in the New Testament
  • Common translations:
    • “caring”, “tending sheep”, “tends” (1x each)
    • “shepherd” (5x)
    • “rule” (3x)

How and where poimainō is used in the New Testament

  1. Matthew 2:6 – “‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'””

  2. Luke 17:7 – “”Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’?”

  3. John 21:16 – “He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.””

  4. Acts 20:28 – “”Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

  5. 1 Corinthians 9:7 – “Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?”

  6. 1 Peter 5:2 – “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;”

  7. Jude 1:12 – “These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted;”

  8. Revelation 2:27 – “AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father;”

  9. Revelation 7:17 – “for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.””

  10. Revelation 12:5 – “And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.”

  11. Revelation 19:15 – “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.”

My Perspective

The word poimainō appears twelve times in eleven verses. Most of the time, it refers to shepherding – as in tending literal sheep.

Strong’s Concordance indicates that this is primarily an act of feeding, pasturing, caring, nourishing, etc.

1 Peter 5:1-3 provides clarity that shepherding does not include taking authority over the saints in an authoritative or ruling over capacity.

Acts 20:28 is crucial because it links the act of shepherding with that of overseeing the flock. Because overseer is a form of the word overseeing, it’s reasonable to conclude that shepherds are overseers. However, overseers and shepherds are seemingly distinct from all Greek words for “Elder” in scripture.

When poimainō is used to denote “rule” in the New Testament, it is always in reference to Christ ruling the nations. The choice of this word is great, because though it implies ruling – and always in reference to a “rod of iron” – it still demonstrates that when Jesus does rule the nations, it will still be as a shepherd. This is a much better picture than the ‘angry Jesus with a big stick’ image promoted by so many.

Though an iron rod is indeed powerful and has strength and has force, the ruling of the nations is still communicated using the words that communicate care and nourishment. I believe this reveals the “beautiful outlaw” spirit of Jesus.

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