As used in the Bible, what does the term “eunuch” mean?
At times, the word may refer to a man who was castrated. In Bible times, some men were castrated as punishment or on being captured or enslaved. Trusted men who had been castrated oversaw the women’s quarters, or harems, in royal households. For example, the eunuchs Hegai and Shaashgaz served as guardians of the wives and concubines of Persian King Ahasuerus, who is thought to be Xerxes I.
However, not all whom the Bible calls eunuchs were actually castrated. Some scholars say that the term was also used in a broader sense to refer to an official assigned to duties in the court of the king. This appears to be the sense in which the term is applied to Ebed-melech, the associate of Jeremiah, and to the unnamed Ethiopian to whom the evangelizer Philip preached. Ebed-melech evidently was a high-ranking official, for he had direct access to King Zedekiah. (Jeremiah 38:7, 8) And the Ethiopian is described as a royal treasurer who “had gone to Jerusalem to worship.”
Why did shepherds in Bible times separate sheep from goats?
When describing a future time of judgment, Jesus said: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, . . . he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31, 32) Why would literal shepherds separate these animals?
Normally, sheep and goats were herded and allowed to graze together during the day. At night they would be gathered into enclosures that protected them from wild animals, thieves, and the cold. (Genesis 30:32, 33; 31:38-40) The two types of animals would be placed in separate enclosures to protect the relatively docile sheep, particularly the ewes and the lambs, from harm that could be inflicted on them by the more aggressive goats. The shepherd also separated the sheep from the goats when “breeding, milking, and shearing,” says the book All Things in the Bible. Jesus’ illustration thus drew on practices and imagery that would be familiar to listeners in a pastoral environment like that of ancient Israel.