This concept or observation is not new to 'our' generation. Back in Isaiah's day it was apparently the same as today. Seeing as how neither of my computer dictionaries have the word, the Bible is once again shown to be more "with the times" than modern man's academic publications.
In these days the term seems to be used more in political contexts: somebody comes along, boasting great things, promising change; and without investigating the person's background or the truth of what he is promising, they swallow his rhetoric hook-line-and-sinker, and vote for him. And then as he pushes through his agenda, little by little buyer's remorse starts to set it. Rousing, stirring speeches with stadiums full of cheering fans, and the sheeple follow the excitement, emotions and (as the one definiton says) groupthink.
The same excuse for why sinful behavior is condoned... Everybody's Doing It! And also why the apostasy is so popular these days: -everybody- is joining together... "unity in diversity".
So the question is asked: If everybody was jumping off a cliff, would you also jump off a cliff? You might be surprised at the truth.
The accounts are told of the cattle or herd of buffalo who, being spooked, had been set to stampede for whatever reason, where, because everybody was following the herd, when the lead animals ran over the edge of the cliff, and fell to their deaths, the entire herd was wiped out. They speak of being "dumb like cattle". The "herd mentality".
But surely, -people- are not like that?
Currently, as this is being written, one of the main arterials that goes past my work place is undergoing a 'rebuild' project. Grinding/digging up the top asphalt surface, and then digging down into the ground to remove old railroad ties and other stuff from many years ago, where in the past newer layers were just built upon older layers, to build a new solid foundation for a completely new road surface. Since it is a 4-lane street, with middle turn-lane, and it is a main arterial with heavy traffic flow, they are doing one side first, and then the other. They cone off 2 lanes for 2-way traffic, putting up cones to block off the three lanes being worked on. It is the intention that traffic does NOT drive through the cones over on the side being worked on. Of course, as the grinding began way down at the other end, my end had no construction activity. My end is right next to a major intersection with another primary arterial, all with right-turn lane, etc. And of course, until the grinding starts, cars can turn off, through the coned-off space to go onto side streets.
But they were not content with that. For an entire day the three lanes near the intersection became a 'speed-way', as cars would duck through the cones and 'race' each other to the right-turn lane. Mind you, as they ducked through the cones, they would be faced with this 'wall' of cones directly across their path; which they would 'squeeze' through. As the day began, as my work was right next to the plate glass windows, I was observing their behavior, and yelling at them (as if they could hear me!), "Idiots!" Then, after a bit, one of the construction worker cone ladies came along replacing cones that had been knocked over, and re-positioning them to try to stop their activity. And even with her BEING RIGHT THERE, -wearing- the 'bright' (safety) clothing that they do, the cars would swerve over into no-go-zone. She would yell at them, waving her arms, pointing over to the 2-lane area where they were 'supposed' to drive; and as they would come racing past her, she would raise her shoulders, making hand gestures, yell at them through their open windows, shaking her head. After a bit, I went out and chatted with her. If the city traffic cops had setup an observation post there, they could have hauled in a bunch of money for the city treasuries in the tickets they could have written! After all, in construction zones, fines are 'double'...for speeding, reckless driving, not observing posted directions.
The pattern was always the same: traffic might go along in the 2-lane lanes for awhile. But then, get -one- person veering through the cones, and then a whole -dozen- (at least) vehicles would follow... a mad dash for the right-turn lane, through no-go-zone.
Later on, some cones were again 'down'. I'm the sort of person, see a need, I do something about it. At McDonalds if the trays at the garbage bin are stacked all willy nilly because people just 'tossed' their trays there, I will take a few seconds to straighten out the pile first, and then put my tray on top. If there is a larger piece of debris out on the street, a hazzard to traffic, I will go out and pick it up. So, seeing some cones knocked over and driven over, I went out into (what was supposed to be) the no-go-zone, to replace some cones. As I'm out there, thusly-engaged, somebody decided to veer off again, followed by a handful of others. Mind you... this is a 'wall' of cones, right in their path! 'Can't miss them! As they are coming right for me, I point over to the 2-lane lanes. They are suddenly 'confused' by my presence, and my waving arms. They don't know 'what' to do. (Well Duh!! ... drive where you're supposed to... where you -were- UNTIL YOU VEERED AWAY! Just go back where you were!)
But here's where it got interesting. Most of them 'sputtered' and figured their way back. But this one driver was quite 'comical' to observe. He's coming right at me, looking right at me, and DOESN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO. Wide-eyed terror, and moving the steering wheel wildly back and forth, left and right. The man's expression and behavior reminded me -exactly- of SHEEP! (Thus this commentary, "sheeple")
Last place I remember seeing such an expression was many years ago, when I was a youth, on my uncle's farm. What I saw all day in traffic out my window was -exactly- like sheep!
Sheep generally are -peaceful- sort of creatures. They will stay penned up in the fenced pasture or corral. They don't go up to the fence trying to climb over it, or to knock it down. They don't do like some animals, when put in a cage, searching every last millimeter for a path to escape. As I recall, they don't 'patrol' the fence, like some of my neighbors' dogs.
-BUT-, if one sheep happens upon a 'hole' in the fence, and butts its head through and goes out, -immediately- a whole hord more sheep will follow suit and go through the hole, and they are out -running- 'wild'.
And if you go out there, open the gate, and start chasing them back in....you might get the bunch to go in a general direction toward the gate, but then a stray wanders off, so you go over to "head them off" back towards the pack, they are -just- like that driver. They are suddenly 'confused'. They dart back and forth wildly (like the driver and his steering wheel). They have it stubbornly in their head the direction they want to go, and refuse to be diverted back on course.
This right-turn lane is -one- lane. But the way things were going, with so many veering off-course, it was like the right-turn lane had suddenly become three lanes...a -wide- 'broad' path. Combine Isaiah with Jesus' words...
Mankind originally was created -perfect- and sinless. But as Paul says...
You face any individual sheep, wave your arms and hollar, its tendency is to go ANYWHERE -BUT- where you are trying to direct it. It might even try to run you over to get past you, than to turn the right way. When a handful of cars were barrelling down the no-go-zone, and the cone lady would try to wave them off, pointing to the 2-lane lanes, they would all dart back and forth, 'confused', but NOT going back to the 2-lanes. They, all, -each-, 'individual' drivers, making their -own- choices in how to drive; refusing the right, and insisting on the wrong way.
Sure, Adam planted the sin gene into the human race. And certainly the Dragon (serpent, devil, satan) has been -leading- the nations 'astray' (Re20:3) But when we sin, the Devil did -NOT- "MAKE me do it"! We sin of our own free choice. We cannot "NOT help it" when we sin. We do so because we -want- to sin. And when we study the behavior of sheep and these drivers, it is like the prophet says,
Answer/Question: What is... UNLESS HE IS -INVITED-.
The same passage that explains the condition, also proclaims the cure.
The "wages of sin is death" (Rom6:23a), the "soul who sins shall die" (Ezk18:4) -BUT- "the gift of God is Eternal Life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom6:23b)
And when a person has received Jesus Christ and His Salvation, it is hearing God's voice....
"But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep..." (Jn10:26)
"Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to hear My Word. You are of the devil as your father, and the lusts of your father you purpose to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own, for he is a liar and the father of it. And because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me." (Jn8:43-45)
Related article: "Church Scholarship"