A sheep pen often held several flocks, with each flock having its own shepherd. When the time came to take his flock to its pasture, each shepherd separated his sheep from the others by making a unique call. Instead of driving them, he led them, and they followed him as one unit. The shepherd always went before them to guide them to the most beneficial pasture and to protect them from danger.
Jesus' references to the sheep are personal: "His own sheep" (verse 4), "My sheep" (verse 14), and "other sheep I have" (verse 16). Everyone is owned by the Creator God. The Father is the "Author of Creation" (Isaiah 40:28; 43:15), and the One who later became known as the Son, Jesus Christ, is the Word, through whom Creation was brought into existence and the work done (Psalm 102:25; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16-19; Hebrews 1:2, 10; Revelation 4:11). As such, His sheep are very familiar to Him and bear the mark of ownership—unconditional obedience and submission.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Good Shepherd (Part One)
In the illustration many sheep are in an enclosure where several flocks come together for the night. The shepherd comes in the morning to lead them to their pasture, and he calls to his sheep by name. Though the individual flocks had become hopelessly intermixed during the night, the shepherd's sheep hear his voice and separate themselves from the larger flock.
Notice how often Christ emphasizes the voice of the shepherd in this short section: "The sheep hear his voice" (verse 3); "The sheep follow him, for they know his voice" (verse 4); "They do not know the voice of strangers" (verse 5). When the shepherd speaks, the sheep go to him immediately.
When "voice" is used in the New Testament, the writers all chose the Greek word phone, meaning "sound" or "spoken word." But phone can also mean "an address as to a group of people, a speech." Phone derives from phaino, meaning "to enlighten" or "to shine." From this root meaning springs the fact that phone can mean "disclosure" or "revelation" through an address or speech—a message!
This is its figurative meaning in John 10. The true and faithful shepherd will be preaching a message which his sheep will hear and immediately follow!
The Shepherd's Voice
The sheep, like the lover in Song of Songs 2:14, know the voice because they know the Shepherd and trust Him. They trust His voice. In it, they hear safety, security, sustenance, joy, hope, encouragement, love, warmth, and correction that does not turn them aside. The voice is the effective means of communication between Christ and us. The voice not only identifies, but it also communicates concepts to us that reveal both character and emotion.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 4)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing John 10:4:
Song of Solomon 1:1