“As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and he met the treasurer of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under the Kandake, the queen of Ethiopia. The eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship…” Acts 8:26-27 NLT.
The Scripture says this man was the treasurer of Ethiopia, (Minister of Finance?), had great authority, and worked under the Kandake (Candace), the queen of Ethiopia. The name “Candace” may have been the queen’s name, or it may have been a title for “queen’, similar to “Pharaoh”. It also says he was a eunuch.
What exactly is a eunuch? Eunuchs in Bible times were usually castrated before puberty, sometimes with their permission, but more often not. Their voices did not change and remained high. They did not develop bodily or facial hair like other men. They looked and sounded different from the men and women who surrounded them. They were most often single and had no children. They were loners. In addition to being a eunuch, he was a foreigner, an African, a member of a royal court with great authority, a literate person, and a man of faith. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was sitting in his chariot reading from the fifty-third chapter of the Book of Isaiah.
I have been to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the only remains of the retaining wall surrounding the Temple Mount, site of the First and Second Temples. In order to see it, I had to separate from my husband. He went with the men and I went with the women. It was the same at the time of Jesus. Men went to one side, women and children to the other. There was an area for foreigners and for gentiles. Everyone had their place. I’m sure the eunuch wondered where he belonged. He most likely wondered that most of his life.
This man had probably been taken from his home and parents as a child to another country. There, he was operated on, as men held him down, frozen in fear. He endured the pain of castration and suffered a long recovery. As he grew up, he never experienced puberty and did not change as other boys did. He began his work in the royal court. I’m sure he often felt lonely and longed to be in a family again. Even to have his own family. But he was unable.
In the royal court, non-eunuchs respected and mocked him, often at the same time. On the one hand, they envied his elevated status. On the other hand, they rejected him for being less than a man. And because of a lack of testosterone in his body, he was often sick and fragile, his bones growing more brittle with each passing day.
As this man sat in his chariot, suddenly Philip joined him. God’s angel had told Philip to go and Philip had obeyed. God moved Heaven (the angel) and earth (Philip) for one lone man. He was reading from Isaiah 53, verses 32 and 33 (NLT)
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter. And as a lamb is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. He was humiliated and received no justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”
He felt the weight of those words. The person in the passage had suffered. He asked Philip who it was. Philip told him the passage was talking about Jesus and shared the Gospel with him. The man believed and when they came to some water, Philip baptized him, the very first baptized believer in the early church. When they came out of the water, Philip was snatched away by the Holy Spirit. The account says, “…The eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing.” (verse 39 NLT).
We know the eunuch rejoiced because he had responded to God’s great gift of salvation through Jesus. But I like to think he rejoiced for an additional reason – that after Philip left, he kept reading Isaiah and came to an extraordinary promise for foreigners and eunuchs.
“Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.” And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” 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.” (Isaiah 56:3-5 NIV).
God cared about that eunuch. He cared about what had happened to him in his life. God moved Heaven and earth to reach him with the Gospel. And God gave him a promise from His Word. Thousands of years later, we’re still reading about this man. My friend, the God who created the universe cares about You. When you cry out to Him, He will move Heaven and earth to meet the deepest longings of your heart.