Comfort for the Foreigner and the Eunuch
6. What two groups now receive attention?
6 Jehovah now addresses two groups who want to serve him but who under the Mosaic Law are disqualified from coming into the Jewish congregation. We read: “Let not the foreigner that has joined himself to Jehovah say, ‘Without doubt Jehovah will divide me off from his people.’ Neither let the eunuch say, ‘Look! I am a dry tree.’” (Isaiah 56:3) The foreigner’s fear is that he will be cut off from Israel. The eunuch’s concern is that he will never have children to preserve his name. Both groups should take courage. Before we see why, let us consider what standing they have under the Law in relation to the nation of Israel.
7. What limits does the Law put on foreigners in Israel?
7 Uncircumcised foreigners are excluded from sharing in worship with Israel. For example, they are not allowed to partake of the Passover. (Exodus 12:43) Foreigners who do not flagrantly break the laws of the land enjoy justice and hospitality, but they have no permanent ties with the nation. Of course, some fully embrace the Law, and as a sign of this, the men get circumcised. Then they are proselytes, privileged to worship in the courtyard of Jehovah’s house and considered a part of the congregation of Israel. (Leviticus 17:10-14; 20:2; 24:22) However, even proselytes are not full participants in Jehovah’s covenant with Israel, and they have no land inheritance in the Promised Land. Other foreigners may turn to the temple in prayer, and evidently they may offer sacrifices through the priesthood as long as the sacrifices conform to the Law. (Leviticus 22:25; 1 Kings 8:41-43) But Israelites are not to associate closely with them.
Eunuchs Receive a Name to Time Indefinite
8. (a) Under the Law, how were eunuchs viewed? (b) How were eunuchs used in pagan nations, and to what can the term “eunuch” sometimes refer?
8 Eunuchs, even if they are born of Jewish parents, are denied full membership of the nation of Israel.* (Deuteronomy 23:1) Among some pagan nations of Bible times, eunuchs had a special place and it was the custom to castrate some of the children taken captive in war. Eunuchs were appointed as officials in the royal courts. A eunuch might be a “guardian of the women,” a “guardian of the concubines,” or an attendant of the queen. (Esther 2:3, 12-15; 4:4-6, 9) There is no evidence that the Israelites followed such practices or that eunuchs were specially sought out for employment in the service of Israelite kings.*
9. What consoling words does Jehovah address to physical eunuchs?
9 In addition to being able to share in only a limited way in the worship of the true God, physical eunuchs in Israel suffer the great humiliation of being unable to father children to carry on their family name.
The term “eunuch” also came to refer to a court official, without reference to sexual mutilation. Since the Ethiopian baptized by Philip appears to have been a proselyte—he was baptized before the way was opened to uncircumcised non-Jews—he must have been a eunuch in this sense.—Acts 8:27-39.
Ebed-melech, who came to Jeremiah’s aid and who had direct access to King Zedekiah, is called a eunuch. This would appear to have reference to his being a court official rather than his being physically mutilated.—Jeremiah 38:7-13.