All believers have tales of heartbreak and loss. Our faith does not protect us from the catastrophes and difficulties of life. Some people find their faith deepened by the experience of trials while others become bitter and turn away from God. For examples of faithful responses in the face of devastating circumstances, we need look no further than the eunuchs in the Bible—men who experienced tremendous loss and yet chose to love God and obey His Word.
Eunuchs were men who had undergone ritual castration, a common practice in ancient Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Rome. The procedure was used to eliminate the potential for court officials to consort with rulers or harems or to be seduced into sharing confidential information.
The Hebrew word saris is translated as “eunuch” and “court official.” It does not always refer to one who has been made a eunuch. Potiphar is called an Egyptian saris in Gen 39:1, yet he was married. It is unclear whether he was also a eunuch.
Daniel: An Old Testament Eunuch
The Old Testament tells us that Isaiah prophesied to king Hezekiah about a day when the Babylonians would attack and capture Jerusalem, taking some of the sons of Israel to be made saris in the royal courts (2 Kgs 20:16–18). That prophecy was fulfilled in Daniel’s day.
Daniel was likely betrothed to a woman, but before he became eligible for marriage, he was castrated. In Dan 1:3, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (known by the Babylonian names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were put under the care of Ashpenaz, the chief of the saris. Despite this devastating turn of events, Daniel possessed an unwavering faith in God. In Ezek 14:14–16, he stands with Noah and Job as the three men God commended for their righteousness. Daniel obeyed God in matters from dietary cleanliness to daily worship, and he proclaimed to everyone—at great peril—that God is above all.