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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Eunuch

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EUNUCH . In the proper sense of the word a eunuch is an emasculated human being ( Deuteronomy 23:1 ), but it is not absolutely certain that the Heb. sârîs always has this signification, and the uncertainty is reflected in our Eng. tr. [Note: translate or translation.] , where ‘ officer ’ and ‘ chamberlain ’ are frequently found. It is interesting to note that the group of scholars who rendered Jeremiah for the AV [Note: Authorized Version.] adhered to ‘eunuch’ throughout: unhappily the Revisers have spoiled the symmetry by conforming Jeremiah 52:25 to 2 Kings 25:19 . The following reasons, none of which is decisive, have been advanced in favour of some such rendering of sârîs as ‘officer’ or ‘chamberlain.’ 1 . That Potiphar ( Genesis 37:36 ) was married. But actual eunuchs were not precluded from this (see Ter. Eun . 4, 3, 24; Juv. vi. 366; Sir 20:4 ; Sir 30:20 etc.). And the words in Genesis 39:1 which identify Joseph’s first master with the husband of his temptress are an Interpolation. 2 . That in 2 Kings 25:19 etc. ‘eunuchs’ hold military commands, whereas they are generally unwarlike ( imbelles , Juv. l.c .). But there have been competent commanders amongst them. 3 . That the strict meaning cannot be insisted on at Genesis 40:2 ; Genesis 40:7 . Yet even here it is admissible.

The kings of Israel and Judah imitated their powerful neighbours in employing eunuchs (1) as guardians of the harem (2 Kings 9:32 , Jeremiah 41:16 ); Esther 1:12 ; Esther 4:4 are instances of Persian usage; (2) in military and other important posts ( 1Sa 8:15 , 1 Kings 22:9 , 2Ki 8:6 ; 2 Kings 23:11 ; 2 Kings 24:12 ; 2Ki 24:15 ; 2 Kings 25:19 , 1 Chronicles 28:1 , 2 Chronicles 18:8 , Jeremiah 29:2 ; Jeremiah 34:19 ; Jeremiah 38:7 ; cf. Genesis 37:36 ; Genesis 40:2 ; Genesis 40:7 , Acts 8:27 , Daniel 1:3 does not of necessity imply that the captives were made eunuchs). For the services rendered at court by persons of this class and the power which they often acquired, see Jos. [Note: Josephus.] Ant . XVI. viii. 1. But their acquisitions could not remove the sense of degradation and loss ( 2 Kings 20:18 , Isaiah 39:7 ). Deuteronomy 23:1 excluded them from public worship, partly because self-mutilation was often performed in honour of a heathen deity, and partly because a maimed creature was judged unfit for the service of Jahweh ( Leviticus 21:20 ; Leviticus 22:24 ). That ban is, however, removed by Isaiah 56:4-5 . Euseb. ( HE vi. 8) relates how Origen misunderstood the figurative language of Matthew 19:12 ; Origen’s own comment on the passage shows that he afterwards regretted having taken it literally and acted on it. See also Ethiopian Eunuch.

J. Taylor.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Eunuch'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/e/eunuch.html. 1909.


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Sunday, June 25th, 2017
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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