WHAT IS A “SHEEPCOTE?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
We find three references to a “sheepcote” in the King James Bible:
- 1 Samuel 24:3: “And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet: and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave.”
- 2 Samuel 7:8: “Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel:….”
- 1 Chronicles 17:7: “Now therefore thus shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, even from following the sheep, that thou shouldest be ruler over my people Israel:….”
Of course, upon initial glance, we can surmise a “sheepcote” must have something to do with sheep and shepherds. Yet, what about the “cote” portion of this compound word? A “cote” is simply a shelter, small shed, or pen for mammals or birds. When you see “cote,” think “cottage” (they are actually related through Old English). Therefore, a “sheepcote” is just a place where sheep are kept (“sheepcote” is British English, the 1611 Bible being from England, remember). In other contexts, the Hebrew word for 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles (“nave”) is rendered “habitation,” “dwelling.” As for the 1 Samuel reference, that Hebrew term (“gedera”) is elsewhere handled as “wall,” hedge,” “folds” (that is, “enclosure”).