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WHO ARE THE EUNUCHS? 

Some have taken Jesus’ statements in Matthew 19:9-12 about divorce and remarriage as an indication that he condemned homosexuality by omission, confirming that heterosexuality is the only “normal” relationship possible.  On closer examination, it would seem that just the opposite is true.  Jesus is talking about eunuchs and defines them as those who are unable (or unfit) to function in marriage for one of three reasons: 

  • They were born that way and so are intrinsically eunuchs.
  • They were made to be eunuchs by other men.
  • They made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

In our culture, the word eunuch is commonly understood to be a reference to castrated males.  The Hebrew word saris (#5631) often translated to the English word eunuch, is used to refer to men, who sometimes for political reasons in some eastern cultures, were castrated to insure no threat through procreation.  But this condition was not synonymous with eunuchry in general.  Eunuchs were often trusted officials with great responsibility and political power.  The Old Testament often uses the word chamberlains, court officials or officers when translating the word saris and can easily be missed when reading the English versions.  This same meaning belongs to the Greek word eunukos (#2135).  Eunuchs were often in charge of harems; responsible for the protection and care of the wives of the king because they posed no threat sexually.  They were overseers of the beauty treatments for the women to make them presentable to the king (Esther 2:3, 12-13).  The Ethiopian Eunuch was the treasure keeper (Acts 8:27) for Queen Candace.  Often Eunuchs were recognized for their spiritual sensitivity and wisdom and were chosen to advise the king.  Daniel and the Hebrew children were eunuchs in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar. 

Isaiah prophesied that Hezekiah’s children would become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon (2 Kings 20:16-18).  This was fulfilled when Daniel and the three Hebrew children (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) who were described as “beautiful men” (Daniel 1:4), were presented as eunuchs to King Nebuchadnezzar’s court.  The chief of the king’s eunuchs, Ashpenaz, gave “tender love” (Daniel 1:9) to Daniel.  The Hebrew word used here is checed (#2617), meaning affectionate love.  The modern translations have watered this down significantly.  Checed is used 250 times in the Old Testament and translated 174 times to “love”, but for some reason when referring to Ashpenaz’s relationship to Daniel, the New International Version says “favor and sympathy”. 

It is important to note and clarify that eunuchs and homosexuals are not synonymous terms.  However, in Matthew 19:11, Jesus indicates that whoever the eunuchs are, they are that way because of the gift of God given to them.  J. H. Thayer identifies them as being “(b) naturally incapacitated for marriage or begetting children.”  Sterility can certainly incapacitate a man from begetting children, but what can incapacitate one from marriage? Tom Horner in his book Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality In Biblical Times indicates from his research that wherever eunuchs were present, there is the presence of overt homosexual activity, or at least a very strong possibility of it.  James Tinny, the late founder of Faith Temple in Washington, D.C. taught that eunuchs who served as royal chamberlains must of necessity be emotionally or psychologically homosexual or they would not be trustworthy.  A heterosexual man, even though he may be physically emasculated, would still have a heterosexual drive to caress and kiss. 

Because of their incapacitation toward marriage for whatever reason, the Jews regarded eunuchs as cut-off from their heritage since children were seen as the only way of extending yourself passed this life.  Isaiah 53:1-8 is the passage the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading when Philip joined him by direction of the Holy Spirit to explain how he (the Messiah) could be cut-off with no descendants (verse 8).  Jesus, therefore, was also a eunuch. 

Eunuchs, however, who choose what pleases God and keep His covenant, have a promise from God, that He will give them a “name better than sons and daughters…an everlasting name that will not be cut-off” (Isaiah 56:4-5).  This promise is for us who are set apart for God’s service as eunuchs ministering to the bride of Christ, His church.  In this function, we are working toward readying the bride for the return of the bridegroom in order to present her spotless and without blemish, purified to love without hypocrisy. 
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