Is a eunuch a creation of God? What does the Bible say about eunuchs?
The most significant passage in the Bible about eunuchs is Matthew 19:10-12. We will examine that passage. It may be a surprise to some that the words eunuch and eunuchs occur in the Bible in the Old and New Testaments. The terms occur most often, eleven times, in the book of Esther (Esther 1:10, 12, 15; 2:3, 14, 15; 4:4, 5; 6:2, 14; 7:9). The most common word for eunuch is saris. Some Bibles translate this word as “official.” The ESV translates this word as eunuch and eunuchs in the book of Daniel. Daniel 1:11 suggests that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were eunuchs. Matthew 19 and Acts 8 are the only chapters in the New Testament that mention eunuch and eunuchs. Now we will examine Matthew 19:10-12.
What Is a Eunuch?
The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines eunuch as “a castrated man” and “a person or thing with some kind of incapacity.” The word castrated means that a man’s testicles were removed or crushed so that they could not function. Consequently, castrated males lose their sexual drive and cannot procreate. Such men were commonly used to guard a king’s harem in ancient times (see the book of Esther). Acts 8:27 is the only time the New Testament mentions an individual who is a eunuch. He is an “Ethiopian eunuch, court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians.”
Eunuchs In the Bible — Created By God
The most significant passage in the Bible about eunuchs occurs in Matthew 19. Verses 10-12 capture an important statement made by Christ.
The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “ Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.” Matthew 19:10-12 (NASB)
Here Jesus states there are three types of eunuchs. The first type of eunuch is a man who is a eunuch at birth. That is, he does not have any testicles at birth. Medical authorities refer to this as cryptorchidism. Technically, cryptorchidism can refer to a man who is missing one or both testicles.
Since some men are born without testicles, these men were made eunuchs by God. For in Exodus 4:11-12 God declares that He makes the mute, deaf and the blind.
The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” Exodus 4:11-12 (NASB)
He determines our physical condition. God permits many things to occur in a believer’s life but it is always for our good (Romans 8:28). He also allows physical variations to occur to draw men and women to Himself. In John 9:1-3 we are told that God allowed a man to be born blind in order to give God glory. God was then glorified when Jesus healed Him. God was also glorified when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:40-45; 12:9, 17). We have discovered that sometimes men are born as eunuchs because God decided that they would be eunuchs. Only God knows the purpose (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Eunuchs In the Bible — Made By Men
The second type of eunuch is a man who was castrated (see previous section). Either his testicles were cut off or crushed so that they ceased to function. This is the type of eunuch we usually think about. Historically men were made eunuchs in the ancient world by castration. The testicles were removed or crushed; sometimes the entire penis and scrotum were removed. These men were made eunuchs by men.
Does this mean that vasectomies are unbiblical since the Bible gives us warnings in Leviticus 21:17–21; 22:22–24 that men who have had crushed testicles could not serve as a priest in Israel? The warning does not appear to apply to the inability to procreate but to a man whose testicles had been intentionally crushed. Also, Deuteronomy 23:1 prohibits a castrated man from entering the Lord’s house. But most likely this was due to the pagan practice of castration for religious purposes in the Canaanite religion.[2, 3]
Eunuchs In the Bible — Made By Oneself
The third type of eunuch is a man who decided to not marry in order to be fully committed in service to God. This context helps us understand this statement because Jesus was just asked by the disciples, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” That is, some men may choose to not marry “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Paul the apostle states that he lived without a wife in order to serve the Lord. Notice his comment in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8.
Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 (NASB)
In these two verses Paul reveals that he was not married. Since these two verses follow verses 5-6, which discuss the need for regular sexual activity, we must understand that some men do not need regular sexual activity. The ability to be happy without being married is a gift from God. Thus the third type of eunuch is a man who has genitals but does not need to be married. He does not have a sexual drive.
In 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 Paul teaches us that we do not have to be physical eunuchs. We can choose to be highly devoted to the Lord Jesus and serve Him. It is a personal decision between an individual and the Lord.
But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. . . . This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:32, 35 (NASB)
One can be completely devoted to the Lord while married. Paul’s point is that if one is not married, one can give more time to the Lord.
1. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2007, vol. 1, p. 873.
2. J. A. Thompson. Deuteronomy. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Inter-Varsity Press. 1974. p. 239.
3. Peter Craigie. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans Publishing. 1976. p. 297.