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)
Unlike other animals, sheep rarely find their own way safely. Since sheep go astray, their guidance and safety lies in the Shepherd's leadership (Psalm 23:1-2). A thief, a robber, or a stranger may call the sheep by name and try to imitate their Shepherd's voice, but through long usage and intimacy, the sheep can discern a strange voice and become alarmed. We know the Shepherd's voice because the Holy Spirit gives us discernment; the result is that we turn and flee from any unfamiliar, misleading voice.
Often the unfamiliar voice is a religious-sounding one. Just as the Pharisees' voices confused and misled Jews, so do many religious leaders' voices today. Since the truth is not in them (I John 1:8; 2:4), they lead foolish sheep away from the truth. It is vital for us to seek to live according to the Good Shepherd's will, known from His voice. His positive guidance leads us "in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake" (Psalm 23:3).
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Good Shepherd (Part Two)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing John 10:3:
Song of Solomon 1:1