In the parable of the sheepfold, Jesus presents himself as the Good Shepherd who will rescue Israel from her end-time captivity in the Bozrah sheepfold.
The Parable of the Sheepfold
Verses 1 to 5 are a parable that Jesus spoke publicly to the Jews and Pharisees. Verse 6 tells us they did not understand it. So in verses 7 to 18 he explains it and expands upon it with additional symbolic details. But his explanation caused division among his audience. Many concluded that he was demon-possessed and had lost his mind (v20). So what does this parable mean?

Jesus tells us that he is the good shepherd (v11). The sheep in the sheepfold are clearly the Jews, although Jesus says he has other sheep who are not of this sheepfold. He must bring them too so that there is one flock and one shepherd (v16). By that, I understand that he is referring to the northern tribes of Israel, and to Gentiles who will believe in him. Many Old Testament prophecies indicate that both Judah and Israel will be restored in the end times, and reunited under Messiah's rule (Isaiah 11:10-16, Ezekiel 37:16-22, Jeremiah 3:17-18, 31:31-33, Hosea 1:11) and that his kingdom will also include Gentile nations (Isaiah 49:6, 55:5, 56:6-7, 65:1). Jesus tells us that he is also the door of the sheepfold, through which the sheep can enter in to be saved, or go out to find pasture (v9). Similarly in Luke 13:24, Jesus likens salvation to a narrow door. Pasture symbolises God's provision for his saved people. As well as being the door (v9), he also enters by the door (v2). So he is the one who saves, and the means by which they are saved. The thief and robber who enters another way (v1) represents anyone proclaiming a means of salvation other than Jesus. Any other such means of salvation is ultimately a deception of Satan who comes only to steal and kill and destroy (v10a). Jesus comes to give his people eternal life (v10b).

But what does the sheepfold represent? In its immediate context, it was surely the nation of Israel. But in an end-time context, Jesus was almost certainly alluding to Micah 2:12-13 which says,

"I will certainly gather all of you, O Jacob,
I will certainly assemble those Israelites who remain.
I will bring them together like sheep in a fold,
like a flock in the middle of a pasture;
they will be so numerous that they will make a lot of noise.
The one who can break through barriers will lead them out
they will break out, pass through the gate, and leave.
Their king will advance before them,
The Lord himself will lead them"

The Hebrew word for 'sheep in a fold' in this passage is the word 'Bozrah', which was also the name of a city in Edom. This passage is sometimes referred to as 'The Bozrah Breakout'. When Jesus arrives at the battle of Armageddon, his clothes are already splattered with blood (Revelation 19:13). This is because he has come from the Battle of Bozrah, as described in Isaiah 63:1-6, where he tramples the nations in his anger and splatters their blood. The reason he fights the Battle of Bozrah is to rescue the Jewish exiles who are held there as captives.

My understanding is that the Bozrah sheepfold of Micah 2:12 is the same as the wilderness location of Revelation 12:6. After the fall of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:2) at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Luke 21:20), Jesus briefly steps in to divide the Mount of Olives and opens up an escape route for the Jewish refugees (Zechariah 14:3-5). He is then caught back up to heaven, and the Jews make it to a place of safety in the wilderness, where God takes care of them for the next 1,260 days of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 12:5-6). For those Jews in the sheepfold, the Great Tribulation ends when Jesus breaks them out and rescues them. The doorkeeper opens the door for him and the sheep recognise his voice (v3-4). This implies that the Jews and their leaders will recognise and welcome Jesus. They will recognise him because he divided the Mount of Olives for them at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. So he will no longer be a stranger to them (v5). Jesus says that when he has brought out all his own sheep, he will go ahead of them (v4). This corresponds to the statement in Micah, "Their king will advance before them, the Lord himself will lead them". The implication is that the Jews become part of his army which he leads to the battle of Armageddon to liberate Jerusalem.

In verses 12 to 13, Jesus adds details of a wolf coming to attack the flock, and of a hired hand abandoning them. The wolf represents the Antichrist and his armies. The hired hand represents Israel's allies. This attack by the wolf may represent Antichrist's invasion of Israel at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. More likely, it represents a counter-attack in Edom as Jesus leads them out. It is clear from Isaiah 63:1-6 that Jesus tramples enemy nations in Edom at that time, and he is shocked that he has to fight the battle alone without anyone offering support. Unlike the hired hand (Israel's allies) who abandon them, Jesus is the one who has laid down his life for the sheep (v15). Having done so at Calvary (Isaiah 53), he will not abandon them at Bozrah.

Where does all of this take place? Bozrah represents a location in Edom, which is an Old Testament name for Arabia. Arabia is called Babylon in Isaiah 21, and Mystery Babylon in Revelation 17-18. In context to the fall of end-time Jerusalem, Micah 4:10 says, "Twist and strain, Daughter Zion, as if you were in labor! For you will leave the city and live in the open field. You will go to Babylon, but there you will be rescued. There the Lord will deliver you from the power of your enemies".

For further understanding, see my commentaries on Micah 2:12-12, Isaiah 63:1-6, and Jeremiah 49:7-22.
Places: Bozrah, Edom, Arabia, Mystery Babylon
Symbols: Sheep, Sheepfold, Door, Shepherds, Wolf, Hired hand
Tags: Battle of Bozrah, Jesus as the Good Shepherd, Salvation, Jesus delivers Israel, Restoration of Israel and Judah, Gospel to the Gentiles, Lost tribes of Israel, End-time exile
Jesus as the Good Shepherd
10 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber.
2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
4 When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.
5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice.”
6 Jesus told them this parable, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the solemn truth, I am the door for the sheep.
8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.
9 I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture.
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
12 The hired hand, who is not a shepherd and does not own sheep, sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and runs away. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them.
13 Because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep, he runs away.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me –
15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 I have other sheep that do not come from this sheepfold. I must bring them too, and they will listen to my voice, so that there will be one flock and one shepherd.
17 This is why the Father loves me – because I lay down my life, so that I may take it back again.
18 No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down of my own free will. I have the authority to lay it down, and I have the authority to take it back again. This commandment I received from my Father.”