The Hebrew word sa·risʹ and the Greek word eu·nouʹkhos apply, when used in a literal sense, to a human male who has been castrated. Such were appointed in royal courts as attendants, or caretakers, of the queen, the harem, and the women. (Es 2:3, 12-15; 4:4-6, 9) Because of their closeness to the king’s household, eunuchs of ability often rose to high rank. In a broad sense the term also denoted any official assigned to duties in the court of the king, not indicating that these men were literal eunuchs.
Under the Law covenant, a eunuch was not allowed to become part of the congregation of God’s people. (De 23:1) There is, accordingly, no indication that any of the Israelites or alien residents among them were made eunuchs for service in the palace of Israelite kings. Under the Law, slaves were to be circumcised, not castrated. However, it was the custom of Eastern pagan nations to make eunuchs out of some of the children taken captive in war.
The court official who was in charge of the treasury of the queen of Ethiopia and to whom Philip preached is called a eunuch. He was a proselyte to the Jewish religion who had come to Jerusalem to worship God. But since a castrated person was not accepted into the congregation of Israel under the Law, the term eu·nouʹkhos would apply here not literally but in its sense of “court official.” (Ac 8:26-39; De 23:1) Ebed-melech, the Ethiopian who rescued the prophet Jeremiah from imprisonment in a cistern, was a eunuch in the court of King Zedekiah. It would appear that the term here, too, applies in the frequent sense of officer. Ebed-melech seems to have been a man of authority. He appealed directly to King Zedekiah in Jeremiah’s behalf and was given command over 30 men for the rescue operation.—Jer 38:7-13.
Jehovah comfortingly foretold the time when eunuchs would be accepted by him as his servants and, if obedient, would have a name better than sons and daughters. With the abolition of the Law by Jesus Christ, all persons exercising faith, regardless of their former status or condition, could become spiritual sons of God. Fleshly distinctions were removed.—Isa 56:4, 5; Joh 1:12; 1Co 7:24; 2Co 5:16.
Jesus Christ spoke of three classes of eunuchs at Matthew 19:12, saying: “For there are eunuchs that were born such from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs that were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs that have made themselves eunuchs on account of the kingdom of the heavens. Let him that can make room for it make room for it.” Those who are said to have “made themselves eunuchs” because of the kingdom are those who exercise self-control so as to apply themselves to the service of God. The apostle Paul recommends this as the “better” course for Christians who do not become “inflamed with passion.” These, he said, could serve the Lord more constantly “without distraction.” (1Co 7:9, 29-38) Such “eunuchs” are not persons who have physically castrated themselves or have been emasculated; instead, these persons voluntarily remain in a state of singleness. No vow of celibacy is recommended by the Bible, and “forbidding to marry” is condemned as one of the marks of the apostasy. In fact, some of the apostles were married men.—1Ti 4:1-3; 1Co 9:5; Mt 8:14; Mr 1:30; Lu 4:38; see COURT OFFICIAL.