Within Genesis 29 the story around the well is described and while Ya'akov talks with the local shepherds it says something like this: While Ya'akov spoke with them, Rachel came, with the flock of her father; for she was a shepherdess.

Why was it so important to state that Rachel was a shepherdess? The verse already teaches that she came with the flock of her father, and the daughters of Yitro aren't called shepherdesses (see Exodus 2:16 & 19). Is there a more important reason why she is entitled this way?

  • From what translation is your quotation from? Please edit and clarify.
    – ezra
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 14:16
  • It seems to me that the Torah clarifies that Rachel was a shepherdess as opposed to her just "coming with sheep." Just because you happen to be walking along with some sheep does not mean you are a shepherdess. By the way, I don't remember anywhere specifically that says Yitro's daughters were shepherdesses, only that they came and were getting water.
    – ezra
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 14:18
  • @ezra Regards Yitro's daughters see Exodus 2:19 why I thought so. P.s. anyway, if we leave that away, why needed the verse to say that Rachel was a shepherdess; was it just because it was her job and she wasn't just walking along with some sheep? Besides isn't it so that Ya'akov takes over the herding of the sheep in the time he lives with Lavan?
    – Levi
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 14:36
  • @ezra In Exodus 2:16 states: Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. While in verse 19 is says: And they said: 'An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and moreover he drew water for us, and watered the flock.' It's clear from verse 20 that Moshe didn't watered the flock at Yitro's home(ground), for Yitro wonders were this man is.
    – Levi
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 14:44
  • 1
    @HopefullyHelpfull - I agree with you that it makes perfect sense that Yitro's daughters would have also been shepherdesses, but I find it interesting that the Torah does not mention it. Ha, I think I'm beginning to see what you're asking now!
    – ezra
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 15:03

3 Answers 3


Or Hachaim suggests that the verse stresses her experience as a shepherdess to explain how it was that she was able to handle all of the animals by herself without any assistance. See there for additional explanations of the verse.

  • Any translation?
    – Levi
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 18:30
  • @HopefullyHelpfull "שכל הצאן היתה מספקת היא להם" = "she [Rachel alone] was enough for all the sheep" "כי רועה היא פי' בקיאה ברעיית הצאן" = "'for she was a shepherdess' - meaning she was an expert in the shepherding of sheep"
    – Jay
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 18:40

We see from the medrash that until Yaakov came and began working for him, he had no sons to take care of his sheep. Nor could he afford to hire a shepherd in order to take care of his sheep. This is unlike Yisro who was being blackballed by the local shepherds so that his daughters were forced to take care of his sheep (which required all seven of them). Lavan had so few sheep that his youngest daughter was able to take care of them. Thus, the pasuk emphasizes that Rachel (was forced) to be the shepherdess.

LABAN (לבן).

Before Jacob's arrival Laban's flocks were scanty, as they had always decreased through pestilence (Pirḳe R.El. xxxvi.). When Jacob had completed his seven years of service, Laban assembled his countrymen and consulted them as to the best means to retain him; "for," said he, "ye know that formerly we had a scarcity of water, and it is only through this righteous man that we are now blessed with an abundance of it." His countrymen advised him to substitute Leah for Rachel (Targ. pseudo-Jonathan and Yerushalmi to Gen. xxix. 22; Gen. R. lxx. 17).

Additionally, we see that in Vayeitzei 31:1 that now Lavan's sons appear and complain abot him. There are meforshim who say that since they had not been born before he came, they only saw the wealth that he had gained from Hashem and thought that their father had always been rich.

Of course part of that was because Lavan kept complaining and refusing to acknowledge the good fortune that Yaakov had brought him, while at the same time scheming to prevent him from leaving in order that the blessing would continue.

Art Scroll Chumash Vayeitzei 29:9

כִּי רֹעָה הִוא For she was a shepherdess. Rachel tended the flocks alone, for Lavan had no other shepherd. Leah did not share this chore, either because the sun might have been harmful to her weak eyes [see verse 17], or because she was older, and Lavan was afraid to let her mingle with the shepherds. Rachel however, was still too young to arouse the interest of the shepherd boys. (Ramban)

The verse implies that Rachel came leading all of Lavan's sheep, which indicates that the flock was small. Indeed, Lavan became prosperous only after Jabob began working for him [see 30:30]. Even so, Rachel must have been a skilled shepherdess to tend single-handedly to even a small flock at such a young age (Ohr HaChaim).

Vayeitze 30:30

For the little that you had before me has increased in multitude, and the Lord blessed you upon my arrival; but now, when will I, too, provide [something] for my household?


The Targum Pseudo Yonathan (29:9) states she was a shepherdess because Hashem had sent a plague among the sheep of Laban and only a few of them remained (at that time Laban dismissed his sheperds and placed what remained) in the care of his daughter Rachel.

The Tur to 29:9 brings that Rachel is called shepherdess as opposed to Yitro who had 7 daughters all of whom attended flocks and to Rachel's own sister (Leah) that doesn't (Leah’s eyes were weak and were not able to do the work).

  • Leah isn't Yitro's sister but daughter, I also read somewhere that Lavan had some sons also (Genesis 31:1), so why couldn't they heard the flock?
    – Levi
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 18:25
  • @HopefullyHelpfull I explain that in my answer. You have a typo in your comment at the beginning. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 18:30
  • @HopefullyHelpfull, I corrected what I said before to Rachel's own sister (Leah) not Yitro's. Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 19:53

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