A captivating photo captures a flock of sheep moving in mesmerizing circular patterns, symbolizing the biblical concept of lost sheep seeking guidance and finding solace in the shepherd's care.

What Does The Bible Say About Sheep Walking In Circles?

Sheep walking in circles or wandering aimlessly is often seen as a metaphor for people going astray and needing guidance. The Bible has a lot to say about sheep and shepherds that provides insight into this phenomenon.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible often compares people to sheep, who need a shepherd (God/Jesus) to guide them, keep them safe, and prevent them from going astray.

Specific verses refer to sheep wandering, getting lost, or scattered when without proper guidance from a shepherd.

In this comprehensive article, we will explore key Bible passages about sheep and shepherds, examine the symbolism of sheep behavior, and explain the spiritual meaning behind verses that mention sheep wandering or walking in circles.

Sheep as Symbols in the Bible

Sheep represent people in need of guidance

In the Bible, sheep often symbolize people who need guidance and care. As Psalm 23:1 states, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Sheep tend to wander off and can get easily lost without a shepherd leading them.

Similarly, human beings need spiritual guidance from God, who is compared to a caring shepherd (John 10:11). Just as sheep recognize their shepherd’s voice and follow him, Christians are exhorted to listen to God’s voice and follow His lead (John 10:27).

Sheep are also depicted as vulnerable creatures prone to danger when left unattended. Isaiah 53:6 states, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” This suggests that people often lose their way morally and spiritually without proper leadership.

As defenseless animals, sheep need to be protected from predators and harsh weather. Biblically, this points to people’s helplessness against evil influences and difficult circumstances. Without divine oversight, both sheep and human beings are susceptible to harm.

Shepherds symbolize spiritual leaders and God/Jesus as the Good Shepherd

In biblical times, shepherds were responsible for guarding flocks of sheep from predators and harsh elements. Shepherds guided sheep to food, water and shelter. This role made them fitting symbols of spiritual leaders who guide and protect God’s “flock” of followers.

In particular, Jesus identified Himself as the “Good Shepherd” who lays down His life for His sheep (John 10:11). He embodies the perfect model of servant leadership that human spiritual leaders should emulate. He demonstrated selfless care, protection and self-sacrifice for the sake of those He led.

So in the Bible, shepherds like Abraham, Moses and David foreshadowed the coming Messiah. Their divinely appointed leadership of Israel pointed to Jesus – the Chief Shepherd who offers eternal salvation to all who heed His voice (1 Peter 5:4).

His sacrificial death and resurrection enable Him to guide His people through this life and the next.

Verses About Sheep Going Astray Without a Shepherd

Matthew 9:36 – Sheep without a shepherd are scattered

In Matthew 9:36, Jesus looks with compassion on the crowds following him, because they were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”. This conveys the idea that sheep tend to become dispersed, lost and vulnerable when they lack a dedicated shepherd to watch over them.

Sheep have a strong flocking instinct and become anxious when separated from the group. Without a shepherd to keep them together, they wander and are unable to find food, water and shelter. Predators can pick off stray individuals, and the sheep can endanger themselves in hazardous terrain.

So there is a clear parallel to people lacking spiritual guidance and the Word of God to keep them on the right path.

John 10:11-13 – Jesus the Good Shepherd who gathers and protects sheep

In John 10, Jesus describes himself as the “Good Shepherd” who is willing to lay down his life for his sheep. He contrasts himself with hired hands who abandon the sheep in times of danger. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus knows each of his sheep individually and they know his voice and follow him (John 10:14).

The passage goes on to say that Jesus as the Good Shepherd has “other sheep that are not of this sheep pen”, referring to Gentile believers. He will bring together all of his sheep into “one flock” under himself as the one shepherd (John 10:16).

This underscores Jesus’ role in gathering those who have strayed back into his flock.

1 Peter 2:25 – Sheep had gone astray but return to the Shepherd and Overseer

1 Peter 2:25 also uses sheep imagery to describe the saving work of Christ: “For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” It echoes Isaiah 53:6 which reads: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.”

This verse clearly states that believers had wandered from God’s flock and the spiritual caretaker he appointed for them. But now, they have come back under the watch, guidance, and tender care of the Lord Jesus as the Shepherd and Overseer.

He brings back, protects, and nurtures those who were lost but now follow him.

Website Quote
Gill’s Exposition of the Bible “sheep having no shepherd, are liable to be “scattered” abroad, and be lost, and become a prey to wild beasts”
Bible Hub “Christ’s sheep are ‘scattered;’ that is, dispersed here and there, many straying from the rest in devious paths”

The Spiritual Meaning of Sheep Wandering

It represents people wandering through life aimlessly without God

Sheep are known to follow each other in circles when there is no shepherd to guide them. This behavior reflects how people can wander through life aimlessly when they lack spiritual guidance and direction from God (Psalm 119:176).

Without divine wisdom and truth from the Word of God, it’s easy to get caught up in worldly pursuits that lead nowhere. Just as sheep walking in circles go nowhere fast, people living for themselves end up feeling empty and unfulfilled.

Only God can provide the purpose and meaning we long for deep down in our souls.

Sheep walking in circles suggests confusion from lack of spiritual guidance

Sheep walking in endless circles represent confusion and lack of clarity. Without a shepherd leading the way, they are left dazed and disoriented. This imagery parallels what happens when people lack spiritual guidance and discernment.

Without divine wisdom from the Holy Spirit, it’s easy to get caught up in wrong thinking and deception. Our enemy the devil tries to lead people in circles through lies and false teaching, keeping them trapped in cycles of anxiety, addiction, and dysfunctional relationships.

Just as a lost sheep walker gets more dizzy and distressed, people who lack spiritual discernment become increasingly confused about life’s direction. But there is hope!

There is hope – lost sheep can be brought back into the fold by the Good Shepherd

If you feel like you’ve been going in circles spiritually, take heart! Jesus came to seek and save lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7). No matter how far you’ve strayed or how dizzy you feel, He can bring you back to the fold.

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus guides us onto the right path through the power of the Holy Spirit. He brings clarity out of confusion when we submit to His loving Lordship. By abiding in Christ, the true vine, our roots grow deep in His steadfast truth. His wise counsel keeps our steps sure and steady.

So if you feel lost today, call out to Jesus. He is ready to lift you up and lead you in His light and life.

Additional Bible Verses About Sheep and Shepherds

Psalm 23 – The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want

The classic Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known passages from the Bible that uses the metaphor of sheep and shepherds. The Lord is compared to a shepherd who cares for, protects, and provides for his sheep in every way (“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want”).

As sheep rely fully on a shepherd for sustenance, guidance, and security, so too are believers completely dependent on and cared for by God.

Some key themes from Psalm 23 about sheep and shepherd relations that can be applied to the Biblical view of God’s leadership and provision:

  • Sheep have complete trust in their shepherd for all needs
  • Shepherds guide and lead sheep on right paths
  • Shepherds protect sheep from harm and predators
  • Shepherds ensure sheep have adequate food, water, rest (“green pastures”, “still waters”)

Isaiah 53:6 – We all like sheep have gone astray

In perhaps the most commonly known verse of Isaiah 53 about the suffering servant (representing the Messiah), sheep serve as a metaphor for man’s tendency to wander and go astray:

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way…” (Isaiah 53:6a)

Despite being prone to wandering off course on our own without guidance, Christ takes the punishment for our waywardness and redeems us:

“…and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6b)

This verse emphasizes a core Biblical principle – that human nature is directionless and lost in our own selfish pursuits until Christ’s sacrifice brings us salvation and a new purposeful life.

Luke 15:3-7 – Parable of the lost sheep

In one of Jesus’ most famous parables that uses sheep and shepherds, Luke 15:3-7 highlights the immense value God places on even one lost soul that strays from his flock:

  • A shepherd who has 100 sheep will leave the 99 to search for the 1 that gets lost
  • Rejoicing over finding that 1 lost sheep is greater than that for the 99 who were never lost

Key themes:

  • God views every person’s soul has sacred worth and value
  • Despite human wanderings into sin, Christ seeks out the lost
  • God rejoices immensely when even just 1 sinner repents and is found

Interestingly, about less than 50% of the global population identifies as Christian. So in God’s eyes, over 5 billion lost souls are still out there to save!


In summary, the Bible often refers figuratively to people as sheep in need of a shepherd. Sheep wandering, scattered, lost, or walking in circles represent human souls who have strayed from God’s path for their lives.

But the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, seeks out the lost sheep to guide them with His wisdom, restore their souls, and bring them eternal life in His fold.

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