by Josh Gould
Who exactly said homosexuality is a sin? We learned in Part 1 that Moses didn’t and we found out in Part 2 that Paul didn’t either. I think the big question on everybody’s mind is what did Jesus say about it? Well, if you were to read through the English Gospels it would appear that he said nothing about it. There are however, a couple passages I want to dig through a little more thoroughly and see what we can uncover. What better place to start then the Old Testament?
We’ll start in the Book of Ester chapter 2. We pick up in the story of King Xerses, the king of Persia (who is called Ahasuerus in Hebrew) Xerses has suffered two defeats against the Greek army and is returning home to continue the building of his palaces in the cities of Persepolis and Susa. While this was underway his servants noticed he was sad and lonely so they suggested a new queen, who would end up being Ester. His servants went through all the provinces to find young woman to be gathered to the king’s harem and placed under custody of the king’s eunuch, Hegai, who was in charge of the woman.
Here we find the word “eunuch.” The word in Hebrew is “cariyc.” In English we would say “saris,” and it will be spelled this way from here on out. Saris is an interesting word and is has caused quite a bit of confusion over the years. “Saris” is not a Hebrew original. In fact it comes from Assyria as what they call a “loan word” and has several different meanings. It is often used as a title for the king’s royal palace officials ranging from chamberlains all the way to governors of province. It also is a word used for men who have been castrated. It is true that most of the king’s servants were castrated men.
Castration in Assyria was almost certainly done by the crushing of a boy’s testicles before he reached puberty. While this seems barbaric, it was much less risky and painful than cutting off the testicles. The Assyrian word “marruru” (to castrate) is thought to relate to “maraqu” (to crush) and “marasu” (to squash.) An ancient historian documented that the tradition of using eunuchs for royal service passed down from Assyria to Babylon and to Persia. It’s likely that the majority of eunuchs were foreign captives but it is also possible that some of the high-ranking officers were from Assyrian families, who would have one of the younger boys castrated to serve the king for financial compensation. It is also important to note that eunuchs weren’t necessarily effeminate, as some would become military generals. Eunuchs were also social outcasts, and so their loyalty could easily be bought in exchange for food, shelter and the King’s protection. Eunuchs played many roles within the palace, one in particular we see illustrated in Ester chapter 2.