International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(1) yatsur; melos;
(2) shaphekhah, "membrum virile" (Deuteronomy 23:1)):
The first Hebrew word is derived from a root meaning "to knead," "to mold in clay," "to create." It therefore denotes any feature or part of the body. "So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things" (James 3:5). "The members" is equivalent with "the body" (which see; compare Psalm 139:16 the King James Version). The members are not self-governing, but execute the orders of the mind, obeying either the lower nature in the commission of sin or iniquity, unrighteousness and uncleanness (Romans 6:13, 19), or following the higher nature, the Divine impulses in the fulfilling of the law of Christ (6:19).
By nature, the "law in my members" (Romans 7:23) is opposed to the better nature (James 4:1) until by "regeneration" (which see) this condition is changed, when the Spirit of Christ becomes the governing power, using our members, i.e. all our abilities, in the execution of His plans. This is not done while we remain passive, but only when we have actively presented or yielded our members to His service (Romans 6:19). Therefore our bodies must not be desecrated by baser uses (1 Corinthians 6:15, 19, 20). The Lord Jesus illustrates the severe discipline which is needed to subdue the members of even the regenerate to perfect submission under the higher law of the Spirit by the simile of the right eye, which is to be plucked out, and the right hand, which is to be cut off (Matthew 5:29, 30), and Paul speaks of putting to death (the King James Version "mortifying") the "members which are upon the earth" (Colossians 3:5).
It is the difference in character and gifts of individual Christians which leads Paul to speak of the variety of members, which, though of manifold functions, are equally important to the completeness of the body. It is thus in the manifold variety of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27 Ephesians 4:16), and Christians being members of Christ, who is the head (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 5:23), are members one of another (Romans 12:5 Ephesians 4:25).
In Deuteronomy 23:1 the Israelite Law against emasculation is referred to, and a religious disability is stated for the eunuch. Heathen Semites and other neighbors of Israel often castrated for religious purposes in the temple service of various divinities and for functions in princely palaces and harems. Heathen monarchs almost invariably had large numbers of these unfortunates, who frequently attained to positions of high power and responsibility. Herodotus states their frequent occurrence among the Persians (Hist. vi.32), and in the light of 2 Kings 20:18 and Daniel 1:3 it appears as not impossible that Daniel and his friends belonged to this class. In later years their existence is certain in Israel (1 Samuel 8:15 the Revised Version margin; Jeremiah 38:7 Matthew 19:12).
See also CONCISION; EUNUCH.
H. L. E. Luering