harlot Summary and Overview
harlot in Easton's Bible Dictionary
(1.) Heb. zonah (Gen. 34:31; 38:15). In verses 21, 22 the Hebrew word used in "kedeshah", i.e., a woman consecrated or devoted to prostitution in connection with the abominable worship of Asherah or Astarte, the Syrian Venus. This word is also used in Deut. 23:17; Hos. 4:14. Thus Tamar sat by the wayside as a consecrated kedeshah. It has been attempted to show that Rahab, usually called a "harlot" (Josh. 2:1; 6:17; Heb. 11:31; James 2:25), was only an innkeeper. This interpretation, however, cannot be maintained. Jephthah's mother is called a "strange woman" (Judg. 11:2). This, however, merely denotes that she was of foreign extraction. In the time of Solomon harlots appeared openly in the streets, and he solemnly warns against association with them (Prov. 7:12; 9:14. See also Jer. 3:2; Ezek. 16:24, 25, 31). The Revised Version, following the LXX., has "and the harlots washed," etc., instead of the rendering of the Authorized Version, "now they washed," of 1 Kings 22:38. To commit fornication is metaphorically used for to practice idolatry (Jer. 3:1; Ezek. 16:15; Hos. throughout); hence Jerusalem is spoken of as a harlot (Isa. 1:21). (2.) Heb. nokriyah, the "strange woman" (1 Kings 11:1; Prov. 5:20; 7:5; 23:27). Those so designated were Canaanites and other Gentiles (Josh. 23:13). To the same class belonged the "foolish", i.e., the sinful, "woman." In the New Testament the Greek pornai, plural, "harlots," occurs in Matt. 21:31,32, where they are classed with publicans; Luke 15:30; 1 Cor. 6:15,16; Heb. 11:31; James 2:25. It is used symbolically in Rev. 17:1, 5, 15, 16; 19:2.
harlot in Smith's Bible Dictionary
That this class of persons existed in the earliest states of society is clear from #Ge 38:15| Rahab, #Jos 2:1| is said by the Chald. Paraphr. to have been an innkeeper; but if there were such persons, considering what we know of Canaanitish morals, #Le 18:27| we may conclude that they would, if women, have been of this class. The "harlots" are classed with "publicans," as those who lay under the ban of society, in the New Testament. #Mt 21:32|
harlot in Schaff's Bible Dictionary
HAR'LOT . The first mention of harlots is in the case of Tamar, Gen 38:15, but we frequently meet with them later in the books of the Bible. The Mosaic Hare of Mt. Sinai. Law forbade fathers to hire out their daughters as harlots, Lev 19:29, and the severe punishment by burning was ordained for the priest's daughter guilty of fornication, Lev 21:9. The harlot was regarded as unclean, and is mentioned in the same breath with the dog, Deut 23:18. The book of Proverbs compares the harlot to a deep ditch and a narrow pit, Prov 23:27, and represents in strong language the perils attending an association with her, Prov 7:10-27. The term is also used of wicked cities; as Nineveh, Nah 3:4, and Jerusalem, Isa 1:21; of Israel, to represent her alienation from God. The marriage relation is looked upon as subsisting between it and God, The nation became a harlot when she practised idolatry. Jer 2:20; Dan 3:1; Eze 16:15; Hos 2:2; Gal 4:15. In the N.T. harlots are classed with publicans. Matt 21:32, and Paul admonishes against the sin of fornication, especially in his Epistle to the Corinthians. 1 Cor 5:1; 2 Cor 12:21. In the book of Revelation, (heathen) Rome, under the mystic name of Babylon, is called "the mother of harlots," Rev 17:5.
harlot in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
(On the spiritual "harlot" (See ANTICHRIST and Isaiah 1:21; Revelation 17; contrast Revelation 12 and BEAST.) Fornication was regarded by the unconverted Gentiles as a thing indifferent in itself, having no moral guilt intrinsically; hence in the Jerusalem decree (Acts 15) it is classed with things which Gentile usage allowed but Jewish law forbade. The moral abomination of it is elsewhere condemned as excluding from heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-20). The general Hebrew term zownah expresses any licentiousness in the married or unmarried; so the Greek porneia in Matthew 5:32. Zarah and nokriyah, "the strange woman," implies that foreign women were those often found among the harlot class. In Proverbs 5:17-20 "strange" seemingly contrasts with one's own rightful wife; another term, qudeeshaah, "consecrated woman" (in Genesis 38:21-22; Deuteronomy 23:17; Hosea 4:14), refers to the abominable worship of the Syrian Astarte or Venus by prostitution. By divine retribution in kind Israel's sin was made its punishment: "My people have gone a whoring (spiritually as well as literally) from under their God ... therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery." What ye do of your own will, desert your divine Father and Husband, your daughters and wives shall do against your will, desert you and Him. The people's idolatry became the source of dishonour to those to whom their honour was dearest, their wives and daughters. "The men of Babylon made Saccoth Benoth" their idol in Samaria (2 Kings 17:30); the idol's name means "booths for their daughters," referring to their prostitution in this detestable worship. The masculine qadesh, "Sodomites," implies male prostitution in the same vile worship (Deuteronomy 23:17; 1 Kings 14:24; 1 Kings 15:12; 1 Kings 22:46; 2 Kings 23:7; Job 36:14). Tamar veiled herself and sat by the wayside as a consecrated harlot (qedeesh) under a vow, and was so regarded by Judah. Herodotus (1:199) mentions the impure custom in the Babylonian worship of Mylitta, so that of the Dea Syra at Byblos very anciently. Singing and harping about a city was the badge of a harlot (Isaiah 23:16). Male relatives exercised unlimited power in punishing unchaste women for the family dishonour (Genesis 38:24). A priest's daughter playing the whore was burnt to death (Leviticus 21:9). The children of a harlot could not inherit with legitimate children (John 8:41; Deuteronomy 23:2), but "bastard" means probably one born of incest or adultery; so the rabbis explain Judges 11:1-2.