What does the Bible say about eunuchs?

A eunuch is a man who has been castrated. A broader definition includes men who are impotent or who are voluntarily celibate. It was common in Bible times for the rulers of conquering nations to take pre-pubescent boys from among the new subjects and castrate them. The boys would be used for duties close to the king, sometimes important political roles; since eunuchs would be unable to leave a genetic legacy, it was thought they would be more loyal to their monarch. Because of their physical limitations, they were also used for harem guards and body servants of the king. It is possible, although the Bible doesn't say, that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were eunuchs in Nebuchadnezzar's court (Isaiah 39:5-7; Daniel 1:3-7).

Eunuchs feature heavily in the story of Esther. Hegai, who was in charge of the harem, helped Esther gain the attention of King Ahasuerus. Hathach was Esther's personal servant and the lifeline between her and her cousin Mordecai (Esther 4:5). Bigthana and Teresh were close enough to Ahasuerus to threaten his life (Esther 6:2), and Harbonah was quick with a suggestion for the dispatch of Haman (Esther 7:9).

Eunuchs have vital and honored roles in other stories, as well. It was a eunuch who rescued Jeremiah from the well (Jeremiah 38:1-13). And an Ethiopian eunuch, courtier to Queen Candace, was one of the first Gentiles to follow Christ (Acts 8:25-40).

Jesus also mentions the unique place of eunuchs in His kingdom in Matthew 19. He had just explained the biblical grounds for divorce—which were far stricter than Jewish society allowed for. The disciples responded, basically saying that if it was so hard to divorce, it would be easier to never marry at all. Jesus responded, "For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it" (Matthew 19:12).

Paul elaborated in 1 Corinthians 7, saying that singleness and celibacy are a gift for those who can accept them (verse 8). Especially in times of political danger (verse 26) or for those who wish to completely dedicate their lives to the Lord with no distraction (verses 32-34).

Nowhere does God condemn or deride a man for being a eunuch. In Isaiah 56:3-5, God says:

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely separate me from his people"; and let not the eunuch say, "Behold, I am a dry tree."

For thus says the LORD: "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off."


God will provide a legacy for those who are physically unable to do so if they make Him their priority. When Hannah was infertile, her husband Elkanah told her "Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?" (1 Samuel 1:8). God says the same to eunuchs of all eras. The forfeiture of fertility, a fulfilling marriage, and children can be deeply felt. This didn't stop eunuchs in the Bible from reaching high positions of great influence. Eunuch or no, our eternal inheritance is from the Lord, and those who serve Him unencumbered by earthly responsibilities will hold honored places in His kingdom.


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