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NAVE: Eunuch
EBD: Eunuch
SMITH: EUNUCH
ISBE: EUNUCH
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Eunuch


NET Glossary: either (1) a castrated male placed in charge of a harem or employed as a chamberlain in a royal palace, or (2) a relatively highly-placed administrative official (who may or may not have been castrated)

Eunuch [EBD]

literally bed-keeper or chamberlain, and not necessarily in all cases one who was mutilated, although the practice of employing such mutilated persons in Oriental courts was common (2 Kings 9:32; Esther 2:3). The law of Moses excluded them from the congregation (Deut. 23:1). They were common also among the Greeks and Romans. It is said that even to-day there are some in Rome who are employed in singing soprano in the Sistine Chapel. Three classes of eunuchs are mentioned in Matt. 19:12.

Eunuch [NAVE]

EUNUCH.
Matt. 19:12.
Prohibited from certain privileges of the congregation, Deut. 23:1; Isa. 56:3-5.
Influential court officials, Jer. 38:7-13; 52:25; Dan. 1:3.
Those who voluntarily became for the kingdom of heaven's sake, Matt. 19:12.
Baptism of the Ethiopian, Acts 8:26-29.

EUNUCH [SMITH]

"The English form of the Greek word which means bed-keeper . In the strict and proper sense they were the persons who had charge of the bed-chambers in palaces and larger houses. But as the jealous and dissolute temperament of the East required this charge to be in the hands of persons who had been deprived of their virility, the word eunuch came naturally to denote persons in that condition. But as some of these rose to be confidential advisers of their royal master or mistresses, the word was occasionally employed to denote persons in such a position, without indicating anything of their proper manhood." -Abbott.

EUNUCH [ISBE]

EUNUCH - u'-nuk (caric; spadon; eunouchos): Primarily and literally, a eunuch is an emasculated man (Dt 23:1). The Hebrew word caric seems, however, to have acquired a figurative meaning, which is reflected in English Versions of the Bible where "officer" and "chamberlain" are found as renderings (compare Gen 37:36; 39:1, where caric is applied to married men; Est 4:4). The barbarous practice of self-mutilation and the mutilation of others in this way was prevalent throughout the Orient. The religious disabilities under which men thus deformed labored under the Mosaic law had the effect of making the practice abominable to the Jews as a people (Dt 23:1; Lev 22:23-25). The law excluded eunuchs from public worship, partly because self-mutilation was often performed in honor of a heathen god, and partly because a maimed creature of any sort was deemed unfit for the service of Yahweh (Lev 21:16 ff; 22:24). That ban, however, was later removed (Isa 56:4,5). On the other hand, the kings of Israel and Judah followed their royal neighbors in employing eunuchs (1) as guardians of the harem (2 Ki 9:32; Jer 41:16), and (2) in military and other official posts (1 Sam 8:15 margin; 1 Ki 22:9 margin; 2 Ki 8:6 margin; 23:11 the King James Version margin; 2 Ki 24:12,13 margin; 25:19 margin; 1 Ch 28:1 margin; 2 Ch 18:8 margin; Jer 29:2; 34:19; 38:7; compare Gen 37:36; 40:2,7; Acts 8:27). Josephus informs us that eunuchs were a normal feature of the courts of the Herods (Ant., XV, vii, 4; XVI, viii, 1). From the single reference to the practice in the Gospels (Mt 19:12), we infer that the existence and purpose of eunuchs as a class were known to the Jews of Jesus' time. There is no question with Jesus as to the law of Nature: the married life is the norm of man's condition, and the union thereby effected transcends every other natural bond, even that of filial affection (Mt 19:5,6). But He would have His hearers recognize that there are exceptional cases where the rule does not hold. In speaking of the three classes of eunuchs (Mt 19:12), He made a distinction which was evidently well known to those whom He addressed, as was the metaphorical use of the word in application to the third class well understood by them (compare Lightfoot, Horae Hebrew et Talmud; Schottgen, Horae Hebrew, in the place cited.).

How Origen misunderstood and abused the teaching of this passage is well known (Euseb., HE, VI, 8), and his own pathetic comment on the passage shows that later he regretted having taken it thus literally and acted on it. His is not the only example of such a perverted interpretation (see Talmud, Shabbath 152a, and compare Midrash on Eccl 10:7). The Council of Nicea, therefore, felt called on to deal with the danger as did the 2nd Council of Aries and the Apos Canons (circa 21). (Compare Bingham's Ant, IV, 9.)

It is significant that Jesus expresses no condemnation of this horrible practice. It was in keeping with His far-reaching plan of instilling principles rather than dealing in denunciations (Jn 3:17; 8:11). It was by His positive teaching concerning purity that we are shown the lines along which we must move to reach the goal. There is a more excellent way of achieving mastery of the sexual passion. It is possible for men to attain as complete control of this strong instinct as if they were physically sexless, and the resultant victory is of infinitely more value than the negative, unmoral condition produced by self-emasculation. These "make themselves eunuchs" with a high and holy purpose, "for the kingdom of heaven's sake"; and the interests created by that purpose are so absorbing that neither time nor opportunity is afforded to the "fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Pet 2:11). They voluntarily forego marriage even, undertake virtual "eunuchism" because they are completely immersed in and engrossed by "the kingdom of heaven" (compare Jn 17:4; 1 Cor 7:29,33 f; 9:5 and see Bengel, Gnomon Novi Test. in the place cited and Clement of Alexandria., Strom., iii.1 ff).

See MARRIAGE.

LITERATURE.

Driver," Deuteronomy," ICC, Dt 23:1; Commentary on Mt, in the place cited. by Morison and Broadus; Neander, Ch. Hist, II, 493; Wendt, The Teaching of Jesus, 72 ff; The Expositor, IV, vii (1893), 294 ff; Encyclopedia Brit, article "Eunuch."

George B. Eager


Also see definition of "Eunuch" in Word Study


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