RABSARIS (răb’sa-rĭs, Heb. rav-sārîs). The title of an Assyrian and Babylonian official usually taken to be “chief eunuch,” though Assyriologists have produced evidence for the reading “chief of the ‘heads’ [leaders, leading men].” The title appears in the Bible only in 2Kgs.18.17 (kjv; niv “chief officer”), where it is related that Sennacherib “sent his supreme commander, his chief officer and his field commander with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem” to effect the capitulation of that city to the Assyrians. The mission was unsuccessful but was followed by another, which also conveyed a letter to Hezekiah. Hezekiah took the matter to God in prayer and was encouraged by the word of the Lord as spoken by Isaiah. The angel of the Lord struck the Assyrian forces, and Sennacherib returned to Nineveh (2Kgs.19.35-2Kgs.19.36).
RABSARIS răb’ sə rīs (רַב־סָרִ֗יס). Assyrian loan word in Heb. Title for eunuch who performed various services for the king, including charge of the royal harem. According to 2 Kings 18:17 the Assyrian King Sennacherib sent a Tartan, a Rabsaris, and a Rabshakeh to force the capitulation of Jerusalem. The term is found also in Jeremiah 39:3, 13.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
As with Rab-mag, which is not regarded as a name, but a title, so this is to be regarded as a descriptive title for the person whose name precedes it (see Rab-mag). The first part, rabh, signifies "great" or "chief," the second, caric, is the title for eunuch or chamberlain. The translation then would be chief eunuch or the chief of the eunuchs (or chamberlains).
The oriental custom was for the king to surround himself with a number of eunuchs, who performed varied kinds of services, both menial and dignified. They usually had charge of his harem; sometimes they occupied court positions. Frequently they superintended the education of the youth. The term itself was sometimes used to designate persons in places of trust who were not emasculated. The above title describes the highest or chief in rank of these eunuchs.
The full title is used 3 times, once in connection with the titles of other important officers who were sent by the king of Assyria with a large army to demand the surrender of Jerusalem. The passage would be translated properly, `And the king of Assyria sent the Tartan and the Rab-saris (the chief eunuch) and the Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah’ (2Ki 18:17). Again, it refers to a Babylonian whose real name was Sarsechim, who with the other Babylonian princes sat in the middle gate during the capture of Jerusalem. This event is described as having occurred in the 11th year of Zedekiah, king of Judah (Jer 39:3). The third use is in connection with the name Nebushazban, who, with the other chief officers of the king of Babylon, sent and took Jeremiah out of the court of the guard and committed him to Gedaliah, who was to take him home to dwell with his own people (Jer 39:13).
Thus, it is seen that based upon this accepted theory the three titles would be in their connections as follows:
(1) simply "the chief eunuch,"
(2) Sarsechim, the Rab-saris (or chief eunuch), and
(3) Nebushazban, the Rab-saris (or chief eunuch).
See also ASSYRIA, sec. X.
Walter G. Clippinger