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eunuchs

EUNUCH (Gk. eunouchos; Heb. saris).

The Gk. word means literally "bed keeper," i.e., one who has charge of beds and bedchambers.

The original Heb. word clearly implies the incapacity that mutilation involves.

Castration, according to Josephus (Ant. 4.8.40), was not practiced by the Jews upon either man or animals; and the law (Deut 23:1; Lev 22:24> dealt severely with this kind of treatment of any Israelite. But the Israelites did adopt this as other pagan practices when in rebellion.

It was a barbarous custom of the East to treat captives thus (Herodotus History 3. 49; 6. 32), not only those of tender age, but, it should seem, when past puberty.

The "officer" Potiphar (<Gen. 37:36; 39:1>, KJV marg., "Eunuch") was an Egyptian, married, and the "captain of the bodyguard."

In the Assyrian monuments a eunuch often appears, sometimes armed and in a warlike capacity or as a scribe noting the number of heads and amounts of spoil, as receiving the prisoners, and even as officiating in religious ceremonies.

The origination of the practice is ascribed to Semiramis (of Babel).

They mostly appear in one of two relations, either in the military as those set over "the men of war," greater trustworthiness possibly counterbalancing inferior courage and military vigor, or associated, as we mostly recognize them, with women and children.

We find the Assyrian Rab-saris, or chief eunuch (2 Kin. 18:17) employed together with other high officials as ambassador. Some think that Daniel and his companions were Eunochs (2 Ki 20:17-18; Is 39:7; Dan. 1:3,7).

The court of Herod had its eunuchs (Josephus Ant. 15.7.4; 16.8.1), as did that of Queen Candace (Acts 8:27). It is important to remember that both the Heb. and Gk. terms were sometimes applied to those filling important posts, without regard to bodily mutilation.