I was preparing for a small group study on ‘The Ethiopian Eunuch’ and as I read the background information on eunuchs my heart was moved. I have wrestled with the laws regarding those with deformities in God’s law because it seems unjust to exclude people from fellowship simply because they are deformed. What can they do to change it? For example, eunuchs were considered to be in a constant state of ritual impurity.
Deut 23:1 - No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.
On the one hand, there were Pharisaic Jews who did treat these men in a way that was unjust and unrighteous.
Let those that have made themselves eunuchs be had in detestation; and do you avoid any conversation with them who have deprived thsemlves of their manhood, and of that fruit of generation which God has given to men for the increase of their kind…
Josephus, Attitude of Pharisaic Jews to Eunuchs
But, on the other hand, even in the OT we see that being ritually unclean did not mean that a person was unloved. Through Isaiah God specifically says that eunuchs can have a name ‘better than sons and daughters’ in His house. What a contrast to an attitude of legalism! It is easy to understand why Jesus was so upset by the fact that goods were being sold in the court of the Gentiles.
Isaiah 56:3-8 - 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.”
What then was the purpose of these laws regarding ritual cleanness? I believe to help people understand that sin within us is a deformity that cannot be dealt with easily - it would require a spotless sacrifice, God’s Son. And also to help the people understand that they could not live like the nations that surrounded them.
For me this was a powerful reminder that when people judge God’s characters based on the laws regarding ritual uncleanness of women after menstruation or eunuchs, they judge too quickly and do not take time to truly consider God’s purposes and His boundless mercy to the outcast and the broken.
What are your thoughts? How have you made sense of the laws regarding ritual cleanness? How do the words of Isaiah move your heart?