Reading Note – Isaiah 56 – To Daughters, Foreigners and Eunuchs

The status of women in the Bible is often a discussion topic, so I make a note of relevant points related to the issue whenever I find them.

  • Isaiah 56 begins with a common admonition: Keep Justice, Do Righteousness, Keep the Sabbath, Don’t do evil. If you got all the way to Isaiah and hadn’t figured any of those things out, you’re probably a normal human being.
  • Next comes a promise to foreigners. Not just foreign people living in Israel, but Foreigners who have “joined themselves to the Lord”; who minister to him, love his name, serve him, keep the Sabbath, and the covenant. The promise is that God will accept their worship, even in his temple.
  • “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” – Isaiah 56:7
  • Next comes the promise to Eunuchs. Those eunuchs who choose to serve God get a promise of recognition, “a name better better than sons and daughters”, “an everlasting name”.
  • This is important in light of the command in Deuteronomy 23:1, “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.” That God promises them “a monument and a name” “in his house and within his walls” is a curious thing, then.
  • These two promises suggests that God cares for eunuchs and foreigners, and herald a change in the temple policies (although not too explicitly). The passage is a message of hope to those who feel like outcasts.
  • Notice that the promises are made to those who keep God’s law, not those who deep down, in their hearts, care about God and maintain that only God can judge their actions. It’s a reminder that despite all our talk about being saved by grace through faith and not by works, actions are important to God. Our actions reveal the desire of our hearts. As Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me” (John 14:21). Or as James more succinctly put it, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).
  • Finally, the promise to eunuchs is a name better than “sons and daughters”, not better than sons. The comparison is to the value of children, not to the value of sons. As a hint about the cultural attitudes, it says that Hebrew culture at that time did value female children. In contrast to the “maybe we should drown them” attitude of some cultures.