[Heb., sa·risʹ, eunuch, courtier, royal minister; Gr., eu·nouʹkhos, bed keeper, keeper of the bedchamber, eunuch].
Translators render sa·risʹ “eunuch,” “court official,” “officer,” “commissioner,” “chamberlain,” and by related terms, according to the meaning indicated by the context. At Genesis 37:36 (AV) it is translated “officer” and a marginal note states: “But the word doth signify not only eunuchs, but also chamberlains, courtiers, and officers.”
It is generally thought that court officials were the men in charge of the private chambers or apartments of a palace or mansion, as was Blastus, chamberlain of King Herod. (Acts 12:20) (However, the Greek expression epi tou koi·toʹnos, the one “over the bedchamber,” is used here.) But the duties of officials of the king’s court varied greatly. Bigthan and Teresh were Medo-Persian court officials who were trusted servants, their duty seemingly being to guard the door of King Ahasuerus’ private apartment. (Esther 2:21) Others ministered to the person of the king. (Esther 1:10, 11) The Bible identifies some court officials as being men who held military offices. (2 Ki. 25:19) A “principal court-official” in Babylon had the responsibility to appoint a guardian over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah after they arrived in Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar took King Jehoiachin and certain of the Jews to Babylon in 617 B.C.E.—Dan. 1:3, 7, 11.
It appears that not all court officials were eunuchs in the literal sense, that is, emasculated men. Literal eunuchs were often in charge of the women’s quarters, or harem of a king. But the duties of officers such as chief cupbearer (a high position) and baker would not necessarily give rise to the requirement of emasculation for that office, although they could have been eunuchs who rose to those positions. (Gen. 40:2) In Pharaoh’s court, Potiphar, a court official and chief of the bodyguard, was a married man. (Gen. 39:1) The Ethiopian “eunuch” baptized by Philip the evangelizer was a man in power, over all the treasure of Queen Candace. He was a proselyte of the Jewish religion, a worshiper of Jehovah, under the Law. He could not have been a literal eunuch, for no castrated man could come into the congregation of Israel and no others aside from Jews and proselytes were baptized prior to Cornelius’ conversion. (Acts 8:26-38; 10:24, 34, 35, 44-47; Deut 23:1) David called together his court officials (who would logically not be literal eunuchs in view of the Jewish attitude and the Law), along with the princes and mighty men, to inform them that his son Solomon was designated to build the temple of Jehovah.—1 Chron. 28:1-6; see CUPBEARER; STEWARD.