“The disciples said to Jesus.
‘If such is the case
Of a man
With his wife,
It is better not to marry.’”
λέγουσιν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταί Εἰ οὕτως ἐστὶν ἡ αἰτία τοῦ ἀνθρώπου μετὰ τῆς γυναικός, οὐ συμφέρει γαμῆσαι.
This section about eunuchs, celibacy, and marriage is unique to Matthew. The disciples raised the question (λέγουσιν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταί) about a man with his wife (Εἰ οὕτως ἐστὶν ἡ αἰτία τοῦ ἀνθρώπου μετὰ τῆς γυναικός), no divorce in marriage, would it not be better to not marry at all (οὐ συμφέρει γαμῆσαι). They though that this restriction about marriage and divorce was too harsh or difficult.
The son of Kareah,
With all the leaders
Of the forces with him,
Took all the rest
Of the people
The son of Nethaniah,
Had carried away captive
This was after
He had slain Gedaliah,
The son of Ahikam.
Whom Johanan brought back
They set out.
They stopped at
To go to Egypt
Because of the Chaldeans.
They were afraid of them.
The son of Nethaniah,
Had killed Gedaliah,
The son of Ahikam,
Whom the king of Babylon
Had made governor
Over the land.”
Johanan and his forces, along with the now freed captives of Mizpah that included soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs, were going to go to Egypt. They set out on their way in a reverse kind of Exodus. However, they stopped at Geruth Chimham, near Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem. They were afraid that the Chaldeans would be mad at them, because of the death of Governor Gedaliah, who had been appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.
“Then Isaiah said to King Hezekiah.
‘Hear the word of Yahweh of hosts.
Days are coming
When all that is in your house,
As well as that which your ancestors
Have stored up
Until this day,
Shall be carried to Babylon.
Nothing shall be left.’
‘Some of your own sons,
Who are born to you,
Shall be taken away.
They shall be eunuchs
In the palace of the king of Babylon.’
Then King Hezekiah said to Isaiah.
‘The word of Yahweh
That you have spoken is good.’
‘There will be peace
There will be security
In my days’”
Once again, this is almost word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 20. The prophet Isaiah warned King Hezekiah that the day was coming when all these things would belong to the king of Babylon. Nothing will be left in Jerusalem. His sons would be eunuchs in the Babylonian palace. King Hezekiah assumed that Isaiah was talking about a time when there would be peace and security between these two countries, so that they would exchange gifts.
“When the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman had thrown himself on the couch where Esther was reclining. The king said.
‘Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?’
As the words left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said.
The very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai,
Whose word saved the king,
This is standing in Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.’
The king said.
‘Hang him on that.’
So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.”
When the king returned from the garden, Haman was still pleading with Queen Esther. In fact, it looked like he was attacking her. The king became angrier since he thought that Haman was assaulting his wife in his own house. One of the eunuchs popped in with the remark that Haman had a gallows built at his house in order to hang Mordecai. Then the king said that Haman should be hung on his own gallows. They did that so that the king was less angry. He may have been disappointed also since he had made Mordecai the second in command in his kingdom.
“On that night the king could not sleep. He gave orders to bring the book of records, the annals of memorable deeds. They were read before the king. It was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold. They had conspired to assassinate King Artaxerxes. The king said.
‘What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?’
The king’s servants who attended him said.
‘Nothing has been done for him.’”
Interesting enough the Greek text said that the Lord took sleep from the king. Here there is no explanation of why the king was not sleeping. He had the records read to him. This sounds strange that in the middle of the night that someone would read the annals of his kingdom to him. Perhaps, he wanted to hear good things about himself. Here there is a mention of the 2 eunuchs who had tried to kill the king, Bigthana and Teresh, but in the beginning Greek text of this book they were called Gabatha and Tharra. Mordecai had saved the king, so that he was concerned about what the king or the kingdom had done for Mordecai. The servant responded that nothing was done for Mordecai.
“Meanwhile, Queen Vashti also gave a drinking party for the women in the palace of King Artaxerxes. On the seventh day, when the king was in good humor, probably due to the wine, he told Haman, Bazan, Tharra, Boraze, Zastholtha, Abataza, and Tharaba, the seven eunuchs who served King Artaxerxes, to escort the queen to him in order to proclaim her as queen. He wanted to place the diadem on her head. He wanted to have her display her beauty to all the governors and the people of the various nations. She was indeed a beautiful woman.”
Apparently, there were separate drinking parties for men and women. Queen Vashti was giving a party for the women in another part of the palace. On the last day of the drinking festival, the king feeling his wine asked his 7 eunuchs to escort his queen to their party. She would be proclaimed queen with a tiara on her head. He wanted to show her off to the all the governors of the various countries that were there. After all, she was a very beautiful woman. The 7 eunuchs have different names in the Greek and Hebrew texts. Haman may be wrong since he was an official and not a eunuch. Once again, eunuchs were castrated men who were the personal servants of the king and his female companions.
“Now Mordecai took his rest in the courtyard with Gabatha and Tharra, the two eunuchs of the king who kept watch in the courtyard. He overheard their conversation. He inquired into their purposes. He learned that they were preparing to lay hands upon King Artaxerxes. He informed the king concerning them. Then the king examined the two eunuchs. After they had confessed it, they were led away to execution. The king made a permanent record of these things. Mordecai also wrote an account of them. The king ordered Mordecai to serve in the court. He rewarded him for these things. However, Haman, son of Hammedatha, a Bougaean, was in great honor with the king. He sought to injure Mordecai and his people because of the two eunuchs of the king.”
Once again, a eunuch was a castrated man who personally served the king. It is not clear why Mordecai was sleeping with these 2 men in the courtyard. Nevertheless, Mordecai heard their conversation where they were plotting to overthrow and kill the king. He turned on the 2 eunuchs and told the Persian King Artaxerxes what he had heard. The king examined the situation, as the 2 eunuchs confessed their plot. Then the king had them executed. He ordered Mordecai to write an account of the affair, and serve in his court. All looks well for Mordecai. However, Haman comes on the scene. He may have been behind the plot of the 2 eunuchs because he does not seem happy that Mordecai uncovered it. He was a man of high honor but he was also against Mordecai’s people, the Jews.