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Tears in God's Wineskin: A Theology of Hospitality

Part 2: Eunuchs


Eunuchs in the Old Testament

 In the Old Testament, the Hebrew (and Aramaic [1]) word saris, derived from the Akkadian sha reshi (pl. shut reshi), literally means ‘he who is head’ or ‘chief,’ referring to court officials who served the king. [2] Eventually, however, sha reshi became an expression meaning ‘to turn into a eunuch,’ particularly occurring after 1000 BC when both the Akkadian and Hebrew words were used more often specifically in reference to castrated officials. [3] Saris appears forty-seven times in the Old Testament with rab-saris, four times [4] and sar-hassarisim, six times. [5] Both words mean ‘chief eunuch’ [6] but because they may refer either to an intact official or a castrated official, many Bible interpreters are hesitant to identify eunuchs in Old Testament narrative, particularly regarding Jews taken captive and exiled to foreign capitals and their courts. [7] To emphasise this quandary, a range of English translations, for example, the New English Bible (1970), translates saris/sarisim as ‘eunuch(s)’ every time, while the Contemporary English Version (1995), avoids using ‘eunuch(s)’ entirely, preferring more general terms like ‘officer(s)’ and ‘official(s).’ In a variety of English translations I have found that many rarely translate saris/sarisim as eunuch(s), although the presence of eunuchs in the harem of Queen Jezebel (2 Kings 9:32), in the Babylonian court (Dan. 1), Persian court (Est. 1–7) and in Isaiah’s two significant prophecies concerning sarisim (Isa 39:7; 56:3–5) are generally acknowledged. [8]    

Assyriologist, Kirk Grayson, observes that castration has been “virtually taboo in modern scholarship,” eliciting “very few serious studies,” despite the frequent documentation of eunuchs as an important institution in Turkey, China, Byzantium, Greece, the Hellenistic world, Roman antiquity, Mediaeval Islam, Assyria, Babylonia and Achaemenid Persia. [9] Among the Medes, the Urartus, and the Hittites and in many of these civilizations the number of eunuch officials was found to be proportionally high. [10] Some biblical scholars believe that because genitally defective males were forbidden from taking part in Israel’s worshipping community (Deut. 23:1) castrated males would simply never have been found in Israel, [11] but while such an assessment might be logically supposed, we should not forget the many references to Israel’s ignoring God’s instructions and laws, as revealed for example in Jeremiah’s condemnation of the Israelites for forsaking the Lord in favour of serving foreign gods, “therefore they shall go to serve strangers in a foreign land” (Jer. 5:19). Israel had stolen, murdered, committed adultery, practiced perjury (7:9), brought detestable idols into Yahweh’s Temple and had sacrificed her children on pagan altars (7:30–31); the Sabbath had not been kept and the Lord declares that he will therefore “set Jerusalem on fire” (17:27). With this in mind, it is not difficult to imagine apostate Israel disregarding Deuteronomy 23:1. David Payne, similarly commenting on 1 Samuel 8, points out how Israel’s early desire to copy powerful foreign nations and their customs was a clear sign of her apostasy. [12]

John Taylor and Norman Snaith have found that while there is no evidence that Israel castrated her own people, it is extremely likely that Israel’s rulers began at some point to import eunuchs, imitating her rich and powerful neighbours. This is an attitude that frequently characterizes Israel (1 Sam. 8:5; Deut. 17:14–17; Judg. 2:10–12; 1 Kings 11:1–3), [13] beginning with the northern kingdom and Jezebel and reaching across the southern kingdom of Judah into Samaria and Jerusalem. [14] Considering Jews captured by their enemies, Grayson reminds us that castrating captives for royal court service was all but standard practice for conquering enemies and most eunuchs brought to kings as tribute were either war captives or young men kidnapped in raids to obtain slaves; the prophet Joel records that Jews were captured and sold to the Greeks (Joel 3:4 - 6). [15]  

The Neo-Assyrian (883–609 BC), Neo-Babylonian (626–539 BC) and Achaemenid Persian (559–330 BC) empires dominated the ancient Near East during the time of the divided Israelite and Judean monarchies and there is substantial historical evidence, as Burke for example observes, for the common and extensive use of eunuchs in the supervision of women’s quarters and harems and the performance of other royal duties including acting as personal aides to the king, or filling positions such as guards, generals, and governors. [16] In the light of this and the references to saris/sarisim in the Old Testament, certain findings may be affirmed: 

It is likely that eunuchs as women’s supervisors and other royal servants were introduced by Jezebel, the Sidonian princess whom King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom took as his queen in the ninth century BC. We know that Sidonia and Tyre were cosmopolitan cities with merchant links and trading agreements with Assyria, [17] (cf. 2 Kings 9:32; 18:17). 

When saris appears as a title in the Jerusalem entourages of Jehoiachin (Jer. 29:2 “eunuchs” New King James Version and Revised Standard Version, “court officials” New International Version) and Zedekiah (Jer. 39:1–2; 41:16–17, “Rab-saris” New King James Version and Revised Standard Version, “chief officer” New International Version) towards the end of the Southern Kingdom (circa 608–586 B.C.), the term specifically refers to eunuchs rather than simply ‘royal officials,’ for which other Hebrew terms were available that did not imply castration.

It is generally agreed that the sarisim mentioned in Nebuchnezzar’s Babylonian court (Dan 1:3, 7, 11, 18; “chief of the eunuchs” New King James Version and Revised Standard Version, or “chief official” in the New International Version) and in Xerxes II’s Persian court (Est. 1:10, 15; 2:3, 14-15; 6:14; 7:9), were certainly eunuchs.  Similarly, referring to the numerous historical examples of eunuchs serving as military officers, foreign emissaries and aides to the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian courts, the sarisim accompanying Nebuchadnezzar II to Judah between 604 and 586 B.C. were unquestionably eunuchs (2 Kings 18:17 and Jer. 39:3, 13 “Rab-saris” New King James Version and Revised Standard Version, “chief officer” New International Version). 

Biblical translators certainly agree that Isaiah’s two prophecies concerning sarisim both refer to eunuchs: firstly, a divine prediction that particular descendants of Hezekiah would one day serve as eunuchs in Babylon (Isa. 39:7) and the second, a divine command ending the Temple ban on eunuchs (Deut. 23:1) and instead calling those eunuchs who love God to join his community of outcasts (Isa. 56:3–5), significantly reversing God’s original forbiddance. Disappointingly, it is not generally recognised that the Isaiah passages significantly recognise those Jews taken into exile and castrated in preparation to serve their captives’ kings. However, we can be sure that Ahikar was a eunuch, being the Jewish chief cupbearer to the Assyrian kings Sennacherib and Esarhaddon (Tobit 1:21-22), as was Nehemiah, serving as a cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes I (Neh. 2).

Daniel was very likely a eunuch as were any other handsome, high-born young men Nebuchadnezzar took from Jerusalem for service in his Babylonian court (Dan. 1). Similarly, it is possible that Mordecai, in the Book of Esther, was also a eunuch since he had access to the women’s quarters (2:11) and the text implies he served as a palace doorkeeper (2:21, 6:10) for Ahasuerus (Xerxes I). Saris(im) was also a term applied to Potiphar, and to Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and chief baker (Gen. 37:36; 40:2, 7); as for Joseph, Theodore Jennings notes that although he may not have been a literal eunuch, he certainly functioned as one. [18]

While little hard evidence exists to confirm eunuch court officials served the Egyptian court, Old Testament use of this particular term seems to identify them with the later Assyrian eunuchs by the term itself and by the specific job titles mentioned. Egyptologists are generally sceptical about a significant presence of eunuchs in Egypt, but some, like Kathryn Ringrose are convinced that, “there were certainly eunuchs in ancient Egypt” [19] and Piotr Scholz contends that hundreds of eunuchs served the court of Pharaoh, just as they did in Assyria, Babylon and Persia. [20] Similarly, Assyriologist Kirk Grayson astutely comments that the use of eunuchs was so prevalent across the ancient Near East that if the ancient Egyptians did not employ them in positions of importance, it would mean they were exceptional in the ancient world. [21] Following Genesis, Saris(im) does not appear in the Bible until First Samuel (1 Sam. 8:15, generally translated “officers” or “attendants”; “eunuchs” in Douay Rheims 1899) where the prophet describes what customs a king would establish if Israel chose one by which to be ruled.

The events of the Book of Esther are set in Susa, one of the four Persian capitals, the other three being Ecbatana, Babylon and Persepolis, [22] during the reign of Xerxes I (486–465 B.C.), the son of Darius I and grandson of Cyrus the Great.[23] Sarisim appear repeatedly throughout the pages of Esther (1:10–12, 15; 2:3, 14–15, 21; 4:4–5; 6:2, 14; 7:9) and their importance is emphasized by how many are mentioned by their given or taken Persian name in the royal court, such as Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, Carkas, Hegai, Shaashgaz, Bigthan, Teresh and Hathach (Est. 1:10; 2:3, 14, 21; 4:5); [24] Esther is of course the Persian name for Hadassah. We further learn that seven particular eunuchs attended Xerxes (Est. 1:10), although interestingly, not mentioned in the Bible is Xerxes’ chief eunuch, Hermotimos: the eunuch who, according to Herodotus (Persian Wars 8.105-106) exacted revenge on the slave-dealer who had castrated him, by turning both him and his sons into eunuchs. [25]

Esther and the other virgins were placed under the care of Hegai, the saris or king’s eunuch, who was in charge of these women in a special harem, but once a virgin had slept with the king, she was transferred to the main harem, under the supervision of Shaashgaz, the saris or king’s eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. After Esther was selected to replace Queen Vashti and become the new queen (2:17), she received her own maids and eunuchs (4:4) and the eunuch, Hathach, carried messages between Esther and Mordecai (4:5–17). Eunuchs brought Haman to the banquet that Esther had prepared for the king and for him (6:14) and after Haman’s genocide plot was exposed, Harbona, one of the king’s eunuchs (Est. 1:10), suggested that Haman be impaled on the very pole he had prepared for Mordecai.

Most later English translations render sarisim in Esther as “eunuchs,” although some refer to “servants” or “chamberlains” (New King James Version, New Life Version ), “personal aides” (Living Bible), or “attendants” (New Jerusalem Bible). Some eunuchs exerted great influence in political and administrative affairs. [26] However, some could prove a danger to the king, even plotting to kill him, as revealed when Mordecai overhears eunuch guards planning to assassinate Xerxes and reports the conspiracy to Esther, who passes the information on to the king (2:21–23). Such plans against the king were not uncommon, according to F.B. Huey, [27] and in 465 B.C. Xerxes was indeed assassinated in his bedchamber by the commander of his palace guard and the eunuch chamberlain, Aspamitres, in order to crown and control Artaxerxes, Xerxes’ 15 year old son. [28]

A. Sinker,[29] J. Stafford Wright [30] and F.B. Huey [31] each assert that Mordecai was probably a eunuch, since there is no mention of Mordacai’s wife or family (Est. 2:7), he also had easy access to the women’s quarters (Est. 2:11) and we are further told that he sat “at the king’s gate” (Est. 2:19, 21; 3:2–3; 4:2, 6; 5:9, 13; 6:10, 12) and was known by the king himself as the one “who sits at the king’s gate” (6:10). The gate probably led to the main entrance of the royal inner court or the king’s residence, so as Frederic Bush points out, it’s being vigilantly watched was an important job. [32] Two others guarding the gate are specifically called “eunuchs” (2:21) and eunuchs had, according to Gera referring to Xenophon, routinely been keepers of “the door” or “the keys” for the king since the time of Cyrus. [33] The most influential eunuch under Cyrus was Petisakas, who was sent to bring back the former Median ruler Astyages to the Persian king. [34] After the death of Petisakas his place at court was taken by Bagapates, who was charged with taking Cyrus’s body back to Persia. [35]

Robert Gordis has suggested that Esther had the king appoint Mordecai to the gate keeper position so that he could be near her, but the biblical text implies that Mordecai was attending the gate long before Esther was installed as queen (2:17–19). [36] Gordis further proposes that Mordecai may have been appointed as a judge to dispense the king’s justice at the royal gate, [37] but this is speculation at most. We are simply told, several times, that Mordechai sat with other guards at the King’s Gate, without any reference to him as either a “guard” or a “eunuch.” However, based on Deut. 21:1 and the importance placed on having offspring, castration would have been deeply repugnant to the Jews. Consequently, the author of Esther may have simply been unable to say that Mordecai was a eunuch, or give him the title of gate keeper which would be tantamount to calling him a eunuch. Nevertheless, it would have appeared exceptionally strange for a bearded man to be in regular close proximity to the royal quarters and harem, so this alone would strongly indicate that Mordachai was both beardless and a eunuch.


Eunuchs and the Deuteronomy Temple Ban

Moses Law specifies, “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the LORD” (Deut. 23:1). According to the Nelson Study Bible, “the word [for assembly] often refers to those gathered at Sinai (Deut. 5:22; 9:10; 18:16) [and] exclusion from the assembly would mean restriction from full participation in religious rites.” [38] In fact it appears to solely address the religious community gathered at Mount Sinai, as opposed to all Israelites or every gathering and clearly specific types of people who were disqualified from being present. Leviticus similarly states that, “No descendants of Aaron . . . who has a blemish may approach to offer sacrifices to his God” (Lev. 21:16-21) and since a blemish was also regarded as a physical defect the list includes, among other things, crushed or damaged testicles; even animals with damaged or removed testicles were rejected as sacrifices (Lev. 22:24-25). The underlying principle of Deut. 23:1 and Lev. 21:20 appears multifaceted and as David Burke suggests, its purpose was to signify that genital wounding was contrary to divine order in creation and represented the non-acceptance of foreign influence and customs because such things posed a threat to Israel’s purity; in the same way blemished priests could not serve a God who created the world without blemish. [39] Lynn Roller points to the significant roles Eunuch priests had in the cults of Innana (Ishtar) during the second millennium B.C.; [40] the Mosaic Law was likely intended to prevent such cult practices entering Israel’s worship.

Interestingly, while the laws given to Israel called for various punishments, including the death penalty, castration is not listed as a punishment despite being a widespread penalty across the ancient Near East. [41] If anything, the Mosaic Law is protective of male genitalia referring, for example, to how if a woman takes hold of the genitals of a man fighting with her husband it is she who is in the wrong and should have her hand cut off (Deut. 25:11-12). It is possible that the eunuch, together with the son born out of wedlock (Deut.23:2) were viewed as not appropriately related to the all-important family unit, as William Countryman suggests [42] and thus were isolated from the worshipping assembly; this is probably exactly what is being echoed by Isaiah when the eunuch is referred to as a “dry” or “barren” tree (Isa.56:3). Scholars such as Richard Patterson, argue that because of the rule in Deut. 23:1, Israel would never have instituted the employment of eunuchs. [43] However, the Old Testament is littered with instances of Israel failing to keep the commandments of God in her social practices, even forgetting the Passover (2 King 23:22) and ignoring the Sabbath (Ezek. 20:12-13, 16, 21, 24; Neh. 13:17-18), so it is fair to conclude, as Henry Gehman does, that Israelites probably did not castrate their own sons, but they certainly adopted the foreign practice of using eunuchs, particularly in the royal court. [44]


Isaiah’s Prophecy of Castration

During the reign of Hezekiah (727-698 B.C.), Isaiah predicted that royal Jewish youths would one day be taken into exile and castrated (Isa 39:7; 2 Kings 20:18).  Hezekiah “did what was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Kings 18:3, 5) and as a result was considered one of the most conscientious kings of Judah’s southern kingdom. [45] Despite this, during his early reign he watched the Assyrians under Shalmaneser V (726–722 B.C.) invade the northern kingdom, capturing Samaria in 722, imprisoning King Hoshea, and taking away many northern Israelites as captives (2 Kings 17:1–6). 

Isaiah’s prophetic ministry coincided with Hezekiah’s entire reign, beginning with God’s call the year King Uzziah died (733, Isa. 6:1–8) and continuing into the reign of King Manasseh (698–642 B.C.), when Jewish tradition holds that Isaiah was martyred. [46] At one point, envoys from Merodach-baladan II, an insurgent king in Babylon, arrive in Jerusalem and Hezekiah, with more enthusiasm than good sense, welcomes them and shows them the extensive treasures of his kingdom (2 Kings 20:12–13).  When Isaiah learns of this, he reproaches Hezekiah and prophesies that “Days are coming when all that is in your house . . . shall be carried to Babylon, nothing shall be left, says the LORD.  Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs [sarisim] in the palace of the king of Babylon” (2 Kings 20:17–18).  It is possible that Hezekiah saw in Merodach-baladan a credible ally against the Assyrian threat and so committed friendship to this foreign leader in the hope that, rather than trust Israel’s protection to God, Babylon would protect Israel, or perhaps he was overwhelmed at being so well known even in distant Babylon. Whatever the reason, Hezekiah foolishly reveals to the foreign dignitaries Jerusalem’s entire wealth which, as Richard Patterson and Hermann Austel note, Babylonian leaders later desire and carry off for their own advantage along with captives from Judah. [47] Other historical records show that while Sargon II (721–705) was king over the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Merodach-Baladan II, a minor southern ruler, seized the throne in Babylon and ruled for twelve years before being disposed and fleeing the land.  After Sargon’s death, Merodach-Baladan II continued to disturb the status quo and attempted to retake Babylon; it is not difficult to see how Hezekiah might have been impressed with his impudence and spirit.

Almost every biblical translation renders sarisim in Isaiah’s prophecy (2 Kings 20:18) as “eunuchs,” while a few refer vaguely to the young men being “disgraced” or “shamed.”  The significance of the prophecy and its accompanying story (2 Kings 20:12–19) is that it is repeated by Isaiah (39:1–8) where it connects imperatively with Isaiah’s second prophesy relating to the Lord’s acceptance of all sarisim who worship him (56:3–5). Without dispute Scholars interpret sarisim here as “eunuchs.”  Hezekiah accepts Isaiah’s terrifying prophecy, finding comfort in appreciating that the predicted invasion, castration and enslavement would not occur until after his death. Derek Kidner perceptively suggests that the prophet Isaiah carried this awful knowledge with him, living under its oppressive truth until God gave him another, unexpectedly comforting word for these future Jewish eunuchs (56:3–5). [48]

The Book of Tobit describes how Tobit (probably a version of the Hebrew Tobiah) was taken with other Israelites into exile to Nineveh after Shalmaneser V (726–722 B.C.) conquered Samaria and Israel’s northern kingdom in 722 B.C. His nephew, Ahikar, later served Sennacherib (704–681 B.C.) as “chief cupbearer, keeper of the signet, and was in charge of administrations of the accounts” (1:22, NRSV). [49]  Unfortunately, Tobit fell afoul of Sennacherib and had to flee for his life (1:19-20) after being reported as secretly collecting the bodies of his slain compatriots and burying them (1:18), in accordance with Jewish tradition. [50] However, after Sennacherib was murdered, his son Esarhaddon (680–669 B.C.) ascended to the throne and Ahikar interceded for his uncle, enabling Tobit to come out of hiding and return to Nineveh (1:22).  Grayson notes that the source for most boys turned into eunuchs in Assyria were foreign captives, [51] so Ahikar was no doubt castrated for court service during the reign of Shalmaneser V, before Sennacherib’s rise to power (1:1–2), although according to Reade, Sennacherib seems not to have fully trusted eunuchs and removed many of them from high positions at the beginning of his reign. [52] If Ahikar was not castrated, there is no plausible explanation for how a captive from a small, subjugated nation gained such a high position. Most likely, his experience was similar to Daniel’s, having been chosen as a handsome young man he was castrated, trained in court language, literature and protocol and presented for the king’s service, where his outstanding abilities and faithful devotion were noted and he advanced to become second in power in the empire, as cupbearer, seal-bearer, treasurer, and palace administrator. 

The Book of Daniel begins with a description of Nebuchadnezzar’s conquering of Jerusalem and how “the king commanded his palace master (rab-saris; ‘chief eunuch’ RSV) Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and nobility, young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans” (Dan. 1:3–4, NRSV).  The youths were to be educated for three years and then stationed in the king’s court” (1:5).  Daniel and his three close friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, were given new Chaldean (or Akkadian [53]) names of Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (1:6–7).  As gifted and well-born, devout Jewish teenagers, Daniel and his friends found themselves torn away from their families, taken to a strange land and then purposefully castrated. They had good reason to feel confused and angry, yet they remained determined to keep their faith and remain committed to the God of Israel.

Arthur Jeffrey comments that it is not imperative to hold that Isaiah’s prophecy in Isa. 39:7 ever occurred or that Dan. 1 is a fulfilment of it. [54] Similarly Patterson notes that evidence for Daniel and his three friends being made eunuchs is not certain, [55] while Alexander Di Lella writes of how the text in Dan. 1 does not imply that the Israelite youths in the care of Ashpenaz were made eunuchs and he avoids mentioning Isa. 39:7 completely. [56] It is unfortunate that writers, even of lengthy commentaries, tend to ignore the question of whether or not the prophecy in Isa. 39:7 ever actually happened or how historically likely it might have been that Daniel and his companions were castrated for court service in Babylon. Certainly, the Bible does not state outright that Daniel and his companions were castrated and as Samuel Driver notes, castration should not be inferred from the statement that they were under the charge of the master of the king’s eunuchs. [57]

Various reasons exist as to why Daniel might avoid mentioning what was, in effect, a defilement and disgrace for a male Jew and many scholars, including rabbis according to Collins, [58] do believe that Daniel and his friends were castrated in Babylon. The Jewish historian, Josephus (37–100 C.E.) wrote of Jewish exiles who were made eunuchs, although he does not specify who they were [59] and Jerome (342–420 C.E., translator of the Latin Vulgate Bible) commented, “From this passage (Dan. 1) the Hebrews think that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were eunuchs, thus fulfilling the prophecy which is spoken by the prophet Isaiah to Hezekiah. . .” [60] The Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin, 93b sees Daniel and his friends fulfilling Isa. 56:4-5, while Origen, referring to Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer in his commentary ties them to both Isa. 39:7 and 56:4–5, as Collins notes. [61] Other scholars affirming the castration of Daniel and his friends as a fulfilment of Isa 39:7 include: Theodoret of Cyrus in Syria (393 – 466 C.E.), [62] Robert Culver, [63] R.J.A. Sheriffs [64] and James Coffman. [65] John Burton and Thelma Coffman comment, “It was usually true in that era [in Daniel’s time] ‘eunuchs’ were men who had been emasculated, although it was also true that ‘eunuchs’ were sometimes non-castrated ‘officers of the king.’  This was by no means true of the princes of Judah in Babylon.”  Daniel and his friends were not officers of the king, but captives and if Isaiah’s prophecy (39:7) was fulfilled in Dan. 1 then castration is the “only proper understanding of the fate of those princes of the royal household of Judah.” [66]  

Further telling is the Babylonian name Daniel receives.  New names for eunuchs were frequently along the lines of “god so-and-so, protect the king” since safeguarding the king’s life was a eunuch’s paramount duty. [67]  Daniel’s new name was Belteshazzar (Dan 1:7) or Balat-su-usur (Akkadian), probably a shortened form of Nabu-balatsu-usur, which meant “Nebo, protect his (that is the king’s) life,” according to Archer. [68] Deller notes that in receiving the new name the young eunuch relinquished his identification with his father and family; also, the re-naming was probably part of an initiation ceremony, during which the eunuch was given a particular garment and other possessions, including a dagger, earrings, and bracelets.  Formal training then began and eventually a eunuch could advance from a place of subordination to become “chief cook,” “quartermaster,” “chief officer of the royal tombs,” “palace overseer,” “provincial governor,” or some similarly commanding position. [69]

Ultimately, it is more likely than not that Daniel and his friends were eunuchs. It was the custom of Mesopotamian kings in the first millennium BC to surround themselves with eunuchs as servants and aids and Daniel and the other youthful male Israelite captives were entrusted to the “chief eunuch,” strongly implying that they were to become young eunuchs. Boys intended to be made into eunuchs were usually selected for their beauty, which is mentioned at the top of the list of selecting criteria in Dan. 1:4; there is no mention of Daniel or his companions ever marrying or having children and Daniel shows no interest in returning to Jerusalem after Cyrus the Great came to the throne (Cyrus allowed exiles to return to their homelands) perhaps reflecting his sense of disgrace and the Deut 23:1 forbiddance. Add to this Isaiah’s prophecy (39:7) that youths of royal blood would be taken away from Judah and made into eunuchs to serve the king of Babylon and a compelling case is made for Daniel and his companions being eunuchs. 


Isaiah’s Prophecy of God’s Reception of the Eunuch

Following exile, Israel faced the question of how to reconstitute herself. With their pre-exilic institutions shattered, what would mark the Israelites’ way forward and their future? Should their position be one of defence in a climate of chaotic conditions resulting from being a province of Persia and so vulnerable to dangerous foreign influences? Some thought so and found biblical strength and solace in the numerous laws of God that called for purity, holiness and separation from the world. Others believed this to be a time to welcome the stranger and be open to new possibilities. Those taking the former stance pointed to the need to be recognisable as the people of Yahweh and be detached from ungodly foreign influence, while those taking the latter position referred to God’s call to be a city on the hill and a blessing to the nations. Both sides had cause to claim loyalty to God and God’s holy word.

At this point the prophet Isaiah arrives, speaking for God and announcing to the people:

“Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.’ And let no eunuch complain, ‘I am only a dry tree.’ For this is what the Lord says: ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant— to them I will give within my Temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever. And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.’ The Sovereign Lord declares— he who gathers the exiles of Israel: ‘I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.’” (Isa 56:3-8)

Isaiah tells his people to open wide their doors, embrace the stranger and, shockingly to the Hebrew ear, also embrace the eunuch, setting his words in diametric opposition to the biblical legislation in Deuteronomy:

“No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.”    (Deut. 23:1).

and Leviticus:

“. . . none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God . . . no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the Lord. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary.” (Lev. 21:17-23)

The prophecies of grace extended in the final chapters of Isaiah (56–66) and in particular to eunuchs (56:3-5), are addressed to those returning to Israel following exile.  The Temple was a ruin (63:18; 64:11) but its rebuilding was considered important and even foreseen (56:6–7); yet the restored community now faced the question of who should be admitted to the worshipping assembly and in this regard, Isaiah 56:3–8 reads startlingly as a divine promise that completely reverses a recognised and established forbiddance of eunuchs from communal worship. God tells Isaiah to declare to every ear that he embraces both the foreigner and the Israelites; and eunuchs who love him, hold to the covenant and keep the Sabbath will be remembered by him in the Temple forever (56:3–5, NRSV).  After welcoming foreigners who also have ‘joined themselves to the Lord’ (vv. 6–7), the prophecy concludes with “. . . for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.  Thus says the LORD God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered” (Isa 56:7c–8, NRSV). 

Most English translations render the promised gifts in Isa 56:5 as “a monument and a name,” although a few specify “a place and a name” or “your name;” by extension, “name” could also refer to “reputation,” as Brown, Driver and Briggs mention. [70] Such a monument would be like a memorial inscription, preventing extinction for the one who had no children as with David’s son, Absalom, who before he was killed “took a pillar and erected it for himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, ‘I have no son to perpetuate my name’” (2 Sam 18:18). Intriguingly, Blenkinsopp notes that the word yad was sometimes used as a sexual euphemism meaning “penis,” [71] as in Isa 57:8b where Israelite men are referred to as having sex with pagan sacred prostitutes, “you have loved their bed, you have gazed on their nakedness [yad translated as nakedness; footnote: ‘phallus’]” (NRSV). [72] Hayim Tadmor further notes the use of shem ‘name’ in Isa. 56:5, which in Akkadian meant “male successor,” [73] allowing for a possible hidden allusion to the loss of part or all of a eunuch’s genitalia as well as his inability to produce seed and therefore heirs.  This serves to emphasize God’s intention to replace a Jewish eunuch’s physical loss and impotency with something far more significant and eternal. 

Family and descendants were crucial to Israel for their continued identity as the unique people of God, but now in the restored Temple, God commands the doors to be opened to Gentile followers and both Jewish and Gentile castrates if they are devoted to the Lord and worship him.  Eunuchs faithful to Yahweh could be granted access to the Temple and, according to John Watts, have status within the Jewish community. [74] Such a move would have been highly controversial and, as asserted by Blenkinsopp, probably utterly refused by post-exilic Temple authorities, once religious ritual and worship in Jerusalem was restored. [75] However, what it reveals is nothing less than the universal, boundless nature of Yahweh’s love. Appropriately, Geoffrey Grogan suggests that such a wide invitation to everyone who loves the Lord, regardless of sexual state or racial background, cannot realistically be realized until Christ’s return and reign, when “all nations shall stream” into Jerusalem and “nation shall . . .[no longer] lift up sword against nation” (Isa 2:1–4). [76] One might wonder where castrates, in Grogan’s mind, would come from during this future period of Christ’s reign, but with an appreciation of the differentiation in Rabbinical literature between the man-made eunuch (castrated male) and the natural eunuch (homosexual) and today’s ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ gay sentiment in the church, it becomes clear. [77]

John Oswalt proposes that the passage establishes for the believing foreigner and eunuch awareness of their self-worth and dignity, “They are told not to depreciate themselves.  Others might do it, but they are not to acquiesce in it.  God will not cut them off; they are not lifeless or fruitless.  These words are a concrete expression of the limitless grace of God.” [78] He further points out that the text reiterates that those who sincerely seek the Lord and turn from their sins find his grace and mercy (Isa. 55:6–7), regardless of their background, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways, says the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8–9). [79] 

In Isaiah’s earlier prophecies, God tells the Israelites that if they keep his commandments, “their name would never be cut off . . . from before me” (Isa 48:18–19, italics mine).  Yet they had turned away from God, and Isaiah pronounces that Israel would become “desolate,” and “few survivors” would be left in the land (Isa 1:4, 7, 9).  In stark contrast, Jewish eunuchs faithful to worshipping God and keeping the Sabbath, despite their physical sufferance and ‘cutting off’ as part of God’s overall punishment of Israel, would be remembered forever.  The prophecy brings to mind the reference in a vision of Daniel, regarding the righteous person whose name “is written in the book” at the end of time (Dan. 12:1) and similarly John’s reference to the “book of life” with the same meaning (Rev. 20:15).

Isaiah 56:3–8 emphatically contradicts Deuteronomy 23:1–8, foreshadowing the interpretative method Jesus uses when questioning what the true point of the Law is for God’s people at any given time. This development in Isaiah might be viewed as the Old Testament equivalent of the radical reinterpretation or even abrogation of previously understood divine ordinance that significantly marks the teaching ministry of Jesus, “You have heard . . . but l say to you. . .” [80] Like Jesus, the prophet claims to speak as the mouthpiece of God and as ‘one with authority’, bringing a new and life-giving word to the people of God. Yet the previous words, preventing eunuchs from entering the place of worship and limiting the access of foreigners, claimed authority too. Does the prophet intend to promote chaos by urging people to do something contrary to what they know and understand as God’s word? Of course not. In its fundamentality, this new promise remains fully within God’s established covenant with Israel.

What Isaiah was not saying was that the Mosaic Law ‘exiling’ castrated males and foreigners was wrong.  The point was a theological one that emphasized the goodness of nature as created by God and the Law, although godly people were not called to worship nature or to use the Law to crush people beneath its weight.  The initial theological point once made, allows for a greater point to now take priority, specifically, that it is God’s intention to draw all peoples inclusively to himself in celebration and worship, as he declares: “On this mountain [in the new Jerusalem] the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food . . . [and] the LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces” (Isa 25:6, 8, NRSV; cf. Rev 19:6–9, 21:4).  It is not important that eunuchs cannot be fathers if they love the things that God loves and desire what God desires, since neither having or not having family affect God’s acceptance of a human being who wants to worship him.  Such eunuchs will be given by God “an everlasting name,” which is nothing less than “eternal life” in the presence of God.  Isaiah’s position is kinder, gentler than the Law regarding eunuchs and certainly those Israelites hauled off to various foreign lands, castrated and forced into servitude would find tremendous comfort in this astonishing prophecy. As Derek Kidner concludes, Deut. 23:1 was given in love, to make the cruel mutilation of castration abhorrent in Israel, if nowhere else; now however in Isa. 56:3–8 it is replaced with God’s love sensitively matching the Jewish eunuchs’ physical disability with something immeasurably better. [81]

Isaiah is not declaring that the Deuteronomy ruling was in error and is now overruled. The Temple ban was to prohibit fertility cult priests, who were frequently eunuchs, from entering into the worship of Yahweh. Jews may have used eunuchs, copying their powerful neighbours, but did not castrate their own and had only repulsion for castration, not least of all because of the Deuteronomic text. Now, as a conquered people, the Israelites had to face the harsh reality that many Jewish men had been castrated against their will and the question had to be asked of whether the Temple ban applied to them after they were allowed to return home after their captivity. God’s answer comes through his prophet as a caring and wholly shocking, “No!” Just as significantly, incorporating ‘the foreigner’ who worships God in Isaiah’s prophecy, further confronts Israel with just how outrageous the grace of God may be at times. Not only is the Temple ban lifted for Jewish castrates, but it lifted for any and all eunuchs who want to worship God and keep his Sabbath, indeed any non-Israelite who would love and serve Yahweh.

“Maintain justice and do what is right . . . Blessed is the one . . . who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps their hands from doing any evil,” says Isaiah (56:1-2). Foreigners and eunuchs alike are called to Torah observance and to act faithfully as are all Israelites; the inclusive nature of Isaiah 56:1-8 is not an ideology that calls for acceptance and the dismissal of previous claims to truth and differentiation. The Eunuchs and foreigners welcomed are those who confess Yahweh as their God and commit themselves to the demands of the covenant, and the promise comes not by right but as gift from God. An issue of human rights may always be worth a conversation, including where issues of human sexuality are concerned but here, Isaiah is speaking of the infinite generosity of God, who “will give an everlasting name” to the eunuchs, precisely those unable to establish a name for themselves via procreation. The text moves beyond legality and ordinance and speaks instead from the perspective of divine grace that overrules all else and it does this by looking at the present in the light of a future under God’s authority.

This vision holds a new salvation that, just like the old one, brings with it a call to, “proclaim good news to the poor. . . proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isa 61:1). New life will be possible even in the centre of unfulfilled political hopes and shattered communal dreams. For the prophet, God is telling his people, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isa 43:19). In his understanding it is not a case of eunuchs and foreigners simply being ‘allowed’ into a community that is in itself whole and is condescending to let in some of those who, regrettably, are not like them. Instead, God is gathering other outcasts to the outcasts he has already gathered in Israel, “The Sovereign Lord declares - he who gathers the exiles of Israel: ‘I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered.’” (Isa. 56:8). Israel can accept the inclusion of others because they understand that they themselves are outcasts and sinners; others are welcome in God’s house because of who God is and what God has done, not because of any righteousness of their own. Israel is not a benevolent ‘we’ magnanimously admitting ‘them’; Israel is a community of outcasts recognizing together their common need of undeserved grace.

What then might this mean for the present discussion concerning the church and the place of homosexually oriented Christian believers? Is it possible for the church to hear its life and faith addressed by a surprising but timely prophetic word that, in the name of God, calls previous words of God - as have been understood by the conservative church - into question? Is it not time to understand that God is calling the church to a ‘new thing’ in which not even the earlier words of God (as translated and understood negatively regarding homosexuality), however right and proper they seemed for their own time, can stand in the way of the broader community God now has in mind? Like Israel, the church is a community of outcasts and sinners that needs to inclusively welcome other outcasts and sinners – today’s eunuchs and foreigners.

An assenting response will not be universal, any more than it was in the time of the prophet. However, if the prophet’s new word could be viewed as being from Yahweh, could not the people of God today similarly see God producing something new? Concurrently, any conversation about the inclusion of others might also enable the discovery of a way to uphold the prophet’s insistence that everyone, insiders and former outsiders alike, is called to “maintain justice and do what is right,” to “keep the Sabbath” and “hold fast to the covenant.” The concept of inclusion for Isaiah incorporates freedom within holy and disciplined living, it is not simply an ‘anything goes’ theme, but rather a universal welcome with an understood submission to the rule of God, for all the people of God.

What might it mean for same-sex unions or same-sex marriage (or heterosexual ones for that matter) to “keep the Sabbath”? What might it mean for both sides of this debate, inasmuch as it takes place among believers in the church, to move beyond political ideologies and cultural battles and stand together under God’s Torah and Gospel? It cannot be presumed that the church as a whole is capable of such a move, but we can allow that it is God’s prerogative do again what is surprising among those who give themselves to his will and living word. Patience in this regard will not satisfy those who stand and argue for ‘justice now!’ nor will it satisfy those who are deeply homophobic and believe the faith itself is at stake over this issue; and such people on either side of the debate will, by their own necessity, continue their protestations and arguments. However, waiting prayerfully and patiently together on this issue, however difficult, will prevent a very human rending of the body of Christ, allow for the possibility of richer and healthier fellowship, and may finally allow a contemporary appreciation for biblical text that, as with Isaiah, retains a place for both tradition and renewal, the old and the new.



[1] Karlheinz Deller confirms the translation of sha reshi into both Hebrew and Aramaic in his work, The Assyrian Eunuch and Their Predecessors, in Kazuko Watanabe [ed.], Priests and Officials in the Ancient Near East (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1999), p.304.

[2] Francis Brown, with Samuel R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown–Driver–Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon [coded with the numbering from Strong’s Concordance] (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001), H5631, p.710; see also Strong, H5631, plural: sarisim.

[3] David G. Burke, Eunuch, in Geoffrey W. Bromiley, [ed.], International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia Vol.2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), p.201.

[4] James Strong, Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Revised and corrected by John R. Kohlenberger III and James A. Swanson, With Hebrew–Aramic Dictionary–Index to the Old Testament and Greek Dictionary–Index to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), H7249 and H5631.

[5] Strong, Exhaustive Concordance, H8269 and H5631.


[6] Burke, in Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia Vol.2, p.201.

[7] Robert North, Palestine, Administration of: Postexilic Judean Officials, in David Noel Freedman [ed.], Anchor Bible Dictionary Vol.5 (New York and London: Doubleday, 1992), p.87.

[8] King James Version, New King James Version, Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, New American Bible, Jerusalem Bible, New Jerusalem Bible, New English Bible, Living Bible, New International Version, Good News Bible, Revised English Bible, Contemporary English Version.

[9] ‘Achaemenid’ was a dynastic family name.

[10] Grayson, in Dietrich and Loretz, Vom Alten Orient zum Alten Testament, p.97.

[11] Richard D. Patterson, סריס (sārîs), ‘official,’ ‘eunuch,’ in R. Laird Harris, [ed.], Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament Vol.2 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), p.635.  

[12] David F. Payne, 1 and 2 Samuel, in Donald Guthrie and J. A. Motyer [eds.], New Bible Commentary: Revised (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), p.290.

[13] John Taylor and Norman H. Snaith, Eunuch, in James Hastings [ed.], Dictionary of the Bible (New York: Charles Scribner’s and Sons, 1963), p.276.

[14] Patterson, in Harris, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament Vol.2, p.635.

[15] Grayson, in Dietrich and Loretz, Vom Alten Orient zum Alten Testament, p.95.

[16] Burke, in Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia Vol.2, p.200.

[17] Marc Van De Mieroop, A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000–323 B.C. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004) p.207.

[18] Theodore Jennings Jnr, Jacob’s Wound: Homoerotic Narrative in the Literature of Ancient Israel (New York and London: Continuum, 2005), p.190.

[19] Ringrose, Eunuchs in Historical Perspective, p. 499.

[20] Scholz, Eunuchs and Castrati, p.74.

[21] Grayson, in Dietrich and Loretz, Vom Alten Orient zum Alten Testament, p.89.

[22] Roy E. Hayden, Persia, in Geoffrey W. Bromiley [ed.], International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia Vol.3 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), p.779.

[23] Roy E. Hayden, Xerxes, in Geoffrey W. Bromiley [ed.], International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia Vol.3 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), p.1161.

[24] F.B. Huey, Jr., Esther, in Frank E. Gaebelein [ed.], Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), p.800.

[25] See T. Rood, Herodotus, in Irene J.F. De Jong [ed.], Time in ancient Greek Literature Vol.2. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007), p.127.

[26] Huey, in Gaebelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. 4, p.800.

[27] Huey, in Gaebelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. 4 p.810.

[28] Peter L. Alexander, Nehemiah: A Study in Leadership—Part 1, February 25, 2001, Available online at: http://biblestory.net/wfth/nehemiah/wfth2-25-01.htm

[29] Rev. R. Sinker, Esther, in An Old Testament Commentary for English Readers, Vol. 3, Charles John Ellicot [ed.], (London: Cassell and Company Ltd., 1883) p.517.

[30] J. Stafford-Wright, referred to by Huey, in Gaebelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. 4, p.805.

[31] Huey, in Gaebelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. 4, p.805.

[32] Frederick W. Bush, Mordecai, in Geoffrey William Bromiley [ed.], International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia Vol.3 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), p.412.

[33] Gera, Xenophon’s Cyropaedia: Style, Genre, and Literary Technique: Oxford Classical Monographies (NewYork: Clarendon Press Oxford, 1993) p.254, referring to Xenophon’s Cryopaedia VII:5, 60-65.

[34] F. W. König, Die Persika des Ktesias von Knidos, Archiv für Orientforschung (Beiheft 18, Graz, 1972, G. Meier, Eunuch, RIA 2, 1938), p.3.

[35] König, Die Persika des Ktesias von Knidos, p.5.

[36] Robert Gordis referred to by Huey, in Gaebelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. 4, p.810.

[37] Gordis referred to by Bush, in Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia Vol.3, p.412.

[38] Nelson’s New King James Version Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p.281.

[39] Burke, in Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Vol.2, p.200.

[40] Lynn E. Roller, The Ideology of the Eunuch Priest, in Gender & History Vol. 9 No.3 (November, 1997), Reproduced in Maria Wyke [ed.], Gender and the Body in the Ancient Mediterranean (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), p.119.

[41] See Theophile J. Meek [trans.], Middle Assyrian Laws, in James B. Pritchard [ed.], Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), p.181.

[42] L. William Countryman, Dirt, Greed and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and their Implications for Today (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), p.150.

[43] Richard D. Patterson, סריס (sārîs), Official, Eunuch,” in R. Laird Harris [ed.], Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament Vol. 2 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), p.275.

[44] Henry S. Gehman, Eunuch, in Henry S. Gehman [ed.], New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1970), p.282.

[45] The biblical record of Hezekiah’s reign is found in 2 Kings 18:1–20:21; 2 Chron. 29:1–32:33; and Isa. 36–39.

[46] See George L. Robinson and Roland K. Harrison, Isaiah, in Geoffrey W. Bromiley [ed.], International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), p.885.

[47] Richard D. Patterson and Hermann J. Austel, 1, 2 Kings, in Frank E. Gaebelein [ed.], Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol.4 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), p.275.

[48] Derek Kidner, Isaiah, in Donald Guthrie and J. A. Motyer [eds.], New Bible Commentary: Revised (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), p.611.

[49] The signet seal authenticated official documents.

[50] Jews considered that an unburied corpse brought a curse, preventing the dead from resting peacefully.

[51] Grayson, in Dietrich and Loretz, Vom Alten Orient zum Alten Testament, p.95.

[52] Reade, Assyrian Sculpture, pp.36-37.

[53] See John J. Collins, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel: Hermeneia – A Critical Exegetical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), p.138.

[54] Arthur Jeffrey, Book of Daniel: Exegesis, in George Arthur Buttrick [ed.], Interpreter’s Bible, Vol.6 (New York and Nashville: Abingdon, 1956) p.365.

[55] Patterson, סריס (sārîs), p.635.

[56] Alexander A. Di Lella, Book of Daniel: Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978), p.129.

[57] Samuel R. Driver, Book of Daniel (Cambridge: University Press, 1900, reprinted 1905), p.4.

[58] Collins, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p.135.

[59] Paul L. Maier, Josephus, The Essential Writings (Grand Rapids: Kregal Publications, 1988), pp.169-179, referring to Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 10.10.1.

[60] Collins, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p.135.

[61] Collins, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, p. 135, referring to Origen’s Commentary on Matthew 15.5.

[62] Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on Daniel. Robert C. Hill [trans.], (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2006), p.23.

[63] Robert D. Culver, Daniel, in Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison [eds.], Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p.773.

[64] R.J.A. Sheriffs, Eunuch, in James D. Douglas [ed.], Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Vol.1 (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1980), p.485.

[65] James B. Coffman, Commentary on Daniel (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 1989), p.20.

[66] John Burton and Thelma B. Coffman, Commentary on Isaiah (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University, 1990), pp.359-60.

[67] Deller, in Watanabe, Priests and Officials in the Ancient Near East, p.306.

[68] Gleason L. Archer Jr., Daniel, in Frank E. Gaebelein [ed.], Expositor’s Bible Commentary,Vol.7 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), p.35.

[69] Deller, in Watanabe, Priests and Officials in the Ancient Near East, p.306.

[70] Francis Brown, Samuel R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown–Driver–Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon [coded with the numbering from Strong’s Concordance] (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001), H8034, pp.1027-28.

[71] Joseph, Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 56–66: Anchor Bible (New York and London: Doubleday, 2003), p.139.

[72] See also Brown, Driver and Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon, H3027, p.390.

[73] Hayim Tadmor, Was the Biblical sārîs a Eunuch?, in Ziony Zevit [ed.], Solving Riddles and Untying Knots: Biblical, Epigraphic, and Semitic Studies in Honor of Jonas C. Greenfield (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995), p.321.

[74] John D.W. Watts, Isaiah 34–66: Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987) p.249.

[75] Blenkinsopp, Isaiah 56–66, p.140.

[76] Geoffrey W. Grogan, Isaiah, in Frank E. Gaebelein [ed.], Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol.6 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), pp.315-16.

[77] See in particular Babylonian Talmud, Mishnah Tractate Yebamoth 8:4

[78] John N. Oswalt, Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40–66 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), p.457.

[79] Oswalt, Book of Isaiah, pp.457-458.

[80] See for example, Mt. 5:21, 27, 33, 38, 43.

[81] Kidner, in Guthrie and Motyer, New Bible Commentary, p.620.