To emasculate means to make something weaker, less vigorous, or less effective. More literally, emasculate means “to make a man feel less masculine.” In some instances in the Bible, the word implies surgical castration.
Paul used the word emasculate in anger against false teachers who were infiltrating the churches of Galatia. Legalistic Jewish troublemakers had begun teaching that a man must be circumcised to be saved, and the new believers were frightened that they had missed some important teaching. Paul wrote in Galatians 5:12, “As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” Paul is most likely alluding to an action, well-known to the Galatians, performed by the pagan priests of Cybele. Those cultists, in honor of the goddess, literally castrated themselves; Paul thus associates legalism with paganism and says the legalists’ teaching of the necessity of circumcision was tantamount to idolatry and ritualistic mutilation.
The world’s attack on masculinity is doing much to emasculate boys and men. Some push the idea that masculinity is to be equated with violence, insensitivity, and sexual aggressiveness. The solution often put forward is to emasculate males to make them more like females. Society may celebrate a unisex, gender-fluid, emasculated ideology, but it is abhorrent to God, who created male and female (Genesis 1:27). Masculinity was so important to God that, when He gave the law to the Israelites, He included references to men with disfigured genitals. Deuteronomy 23:1 says, “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.” While this seems harsh to us, the command demonstrates how seriously God takes masculinity and femininity.
The castration of male slaves was common in ancient civilizations because emasculation made slaves more passive and less likely to revolt, as well as keeping them away from the master’s wives and concubines. Surgically emasculated men were called eunuchs and are mentioned frequently in the Bible (e.g., Esther 2:3; Jeremiah 38:7; Acts 8:32, 39). Jesus referred to three different types of eunuchs in His teaching about divorce (Matthew 19:12). While there is no sin in being a eunuch, it is a sin to intentionally emasculate oneself in denial of God-given masculinity.