What a Eunuch Teaches Us About Manliness

The Biblical Daniel was castrated and enslaved, but remained steadfast in his faith.

What makes a man? Aside from conjuring up the hilarious theme song from the movie Orgazmo, it’s a question that nags at me from time to time, especially after the recent birth of my son.

To aid me in my grappling with what it means to be a good man, I’ve been reading the Bible. I figured that if the Bible is a divinely inspired handbook for surviving life on Earth and understanding the metaphysical, it should have some answers for what it means to be a man.

Daniel’s story
One of my favorite books in the Bible (and characters) is Daniel. Daniel is a young Israelite forced into training as a court servant to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. (Basically, the king picks out the youngest, brightest slaves from Judah to be trained.)

It’s not hard to be on Daniel’s side from the onset. The poor guy is captured and enslaved by a corrupt, foreign nation. The Bible gives little insight into what level of persecution and abuse he receives at the hand of soldiers and court officials, but we can assume the experience was anything but uplifting.

However, Daniel’s faith propels him to stardom before long. First, Daniel chooses to abstain from the meat that is being provided to all the court servants and instead asks for vegetables, to not violate Jewish dietary restrictions. This move could’ve cost him his head, but his resolve earns the favor of the court.

Next, Nebuchadnezzar has a disturbing dream and flies off the handle when nobody can interpret it, and sentences all of the Israelites to death. Daniel requests time to pray for a revelation to the dream, which the king grants, and God gives him a revelation of the dream. After Daniel successfully interprets the dream, the king applauds him, but Daniel is quick to deflect the accolades as a result of God and not his own wisdom.

Several other major trials are documented in the lives of Daniel and his three companions, climaxing to the famous story where Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den for choosing to pray to God even after the king (now King Darius) issues an edict forbidding the worship of any other god. Amazingly, Daniel is left unharmed, much to the king’s joy. (The king was actually quite distraught to throw Daniel into the den, but had to follow his edict.)

What the story teaches us
I understand that most people don’t believe these events literally happened. So, rather than debate that, I want to look at what the story means for us today as men (and women).

To me, the most powerful message of the story is to do what you think is right, even if the consequences to yourself can be negative. If you have specific ethical convictions, you should stand up for them, even if it could cause strife at your workplace, in your marriage, or with friends or family. (Obviously, there is tact and using discernment with how you bring up these situations.)

There’s also a message that we can’t bend and sway at the fancies of whomever, even if that person is in a powerful position. There’s a recent article on this site on approval addiction and the dangers of compromising your own convictions to go along with what others are saying. Being open-minded is absolutely critical, but I believe that resolve is a mark of courage and goodness.

Lastly, Daniel’s life suggests that we should aspire to a cause greater than ourselves. I got in trouble with some readers when I made the same point in this post, but I see the desire to some significance beyond oneself a trademark of the heroes of history as well. I think it’s dangerous to lose sight of that ideal.

“It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.” —Dalai Lama

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” —Theodore Roosevelt

One final thought from Daniel’s life: being a man isn’t about having balls.

One of the manliest characters in the Bible was castrated and enslaved by the king of a corrupt nation. And yet, it was under these very circumstances that he was able to show unbelievable courage, perseverance, and faith.

 

—Photo credit: allspice1/Flickr

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About Brian Reinholz

Brian Reinholz is a husband and the father of a shiny new baby. He believes the Bible is the inspired word of God and is relevant today, as opposed to a dusty old book of fairy tales. He works as a client services manager and likes playing tennis and strategy games.

Comments

  1. There’s no mention of Daniel actually being castrated in the Bible, so you have to jump through some scriptural hoops in order to assume that he was. Not everyone’s willing to jump through those hoops. Perhaps nitpicky, but there it is.

    • Brian Reinholz says:

      Good point – the term eunuch doesn’t necessarily mean that he was castrated. But as a slave he was stripped of many of our stereotypical definitions of ‘manhood’ – he didn’t have the freedom to be fruitful and multiply whether for a physiological reason, or because of his circumstance. Thanks for keeping me honest.

  2. wellokaythen says:

    No need to read between the lines of biblical stories.

    There are lots of better-documented historical examples of eunuchs being powerful, brilliantly successful men and well-respected leaders of other men. The great Chinese admiral Zheng He (aka Cheng Ho), for example, led the largest navy in the history of the world up to that point (1400’s). A better leader and better navigator than Columbus ever was. He was nicknamed “three treasures” because he carried with him a pouch containing the preserved remains of his two testicles and part of his penis. That’s pretty badass, in my estimation.

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